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Shortage of dispatchers tests Frontier Regional 911

Front-line emergency staff pushed to the limit and looking to fill ranks

CONDON, OR – When a man stole a rifle and began threatening people at the Jefferson County Fair in Madras on July 23, a 911 call was made.

Inside the Frontier Regional 911 Dispatch Center in Condon, some 85 miles away, a dispatch operator took the call and within 21 seconds, informed law enforcement personnel. The suspect tried to evade the police and aimed the rifle at bystanders, motorists and law enforcement officers before being shot and taken into custody.

Few know the demands that are put on 911 dispatchers, who are on the front lines of emergency response. Even fewer understand the challenges of doing the job in frontier communities – where unreliable cell phone service and distant trauma hospitals make every second count.

Now, those demands are compounded as there is a shortage of dispatchers in the area and existing staff are working around the clock.

Staffing shortages

The Frontier Regional 911 center in Condon was formed in 2002 to serve Gilliam, Wheeler, and Sherman counties. In 2012, Jefferson County joined Frontier Regional 911.

Located inside the ESD building on Condon’s Main Street, twelve people are needed to fully staff the center. Currently, there are just four.

Around the country, there is a shortage of 911 dispatch operators. Before the COVID pandemic, approximately 15% of 911 operator positions were vacant according to the Emergency Number Association, a nonprofit that advocates for 911 operators. Today, the association estimates that 30% of 911 operator positions are unfilled and in some places, like Frontier Regional 911, it is much more.

The signs of a growing problem have been clear over the past year.

In August, a rural emergency dispatch center in Washington state closed due to a shortage of 911 dispatch operators. In Austin, Texas several deaths have been blamed on long wait times for reaching emergency dispatchers.

Across the country, 911 dispatch centers are understaffed and those that remain are working unsustainable hours.

In Condon, the four remaining 911 dispatch operators are working twelve-hours on, twelve hours off, seven days a week.

According to supervisor Laura Smith, staff at the Frontier Regional 911 center typically work 170 hours a month. Recently, they have been adding up to 130 hours of overtime.

In an effort to recruit more 911 dispatchers, the 911 Frontier Regional Board of Directors agreed to raise pay rates and to institute a signing bonus. They also bumped pay for those in higher tiers who have been with the agency for several years.

The good news: there are two new-hires in training and a few applications have been turned in. The bad news: training takes up to eight months, including a three week requirement at the academy. There are currently six open positions unfilled at the agency.

A tight-knit team

Unlike businesses that close when there is a shortage of workers, 911 dispatch doesn’t have that option. Calls must be answered, and staff must work through long shifts despite being shorthanded.

The Frontier Regional 911 command center is a dimly lit room with arrays of computer monitors and a large map projected on the wall. 911 dispatcher Carol Greenfield and supervisors Laura Smith and Nicole Lathrop work in lockstep. Being in sync is crucial as each dispatcher depends on support from their coworkers.

Greenfield, who has been a dispatcher for twenty years, says that working closely together is crucial in this job.

Frontier Regional 911 Supervisor Nicole Lathrop has worked twelve on – twelve off seven days a week at times to keep the 911 lines open. (Stephen Allen/The Times-Journal)

“When something happens, you don’t just get one person calling 911,” Greenfield says. “Everybody calls and everybody has a different story.”

Listening to conversations that other dispatchers are having and working closely together helps to sort through the chaos and to identify the need.

“We’re in the trenches together,” says Nicole Lathrop. “We’re like a family, and in close quarters we spend a lot of time together.”

The next generation of dispatch

Wheeler County Sheriff Mike Smith says that the dispatcher job has about a fifty percent washout rate and that it takes a special individual to do the work.

“In some ways, it’s easier to train someone to be a sheriff’s deputy than to be a dispatcher,” Sheriff Smith says. “To work in law enforcement, you need to be able to think on your feet and to use good common-sense judgement. But for dispatchers, you have to be thinking about three things at the same time and juggling tasks with other dispatchers. It is tough work.”

Gilliam Co. Sheriff Gary Bettencourt says that people who have worked jobs that require quick reactions and can multi-task are well suited for 911 dispatch.

“People that have worked in the restaurant industry often do well,” Sheriff Bettencourt says. “They have to remember a lot, juggle demands that come up and then return to previous tasks. That isn’t easy.”

Gilliam Co. Sheriff Gary Bettencourt inside the agency’s server room. Sheriff Bettencourt chairs the Frontier Regional 911 board of directors. (Stephen Allen/The Times-Journal)

As Sheriffs Bettencourt and Smith were giving the interview, Andrew Seale was completing his test to join the team. Seale has worked as a cook and has experience juggling jobs and tasks in several restaurants in Condon.

Restaurant workers are also accustomed to working late nights and shift work. But in addition to these skills, the job also requires the right kind of temperament and commitment.

Carol Greenfield says that for the right person, it is an excellent career.

“It’s a career, not a job,” says Greenfield. “For a woman in this area, there are few careers to get into with good pay, excellent benefits, life insurance, retirement. It’s an excellent opportunity – but you have to have the right personality. It’s not for everybody.”

For sheriffs in Gilliam, Wheeler, Sherman and Jefferson counties, the push to find more staff is at full throttle. Sheriffs Bettencourt and Smith have spoken at county court and are sharing job descriptions on law enforcement job pages and on social media. Supervisors Nicole Lathrop and Laura Smith are also doing interviews and looking for the right candidates.

Their hope is to not just fill the positions, but to recruit team members that have some longevity in the field.

“We’re looking for the next generation of dispatch,” says Sheriff Mike Smith.

Having support from Sheriff Bettencourt and Smith, who are both board members of Frontier Regional 911, is significant. Both have pushed to upgrade the computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems which can save dispatchers time and improve records. The current system at Frontier Regional 911 is twenty years old and is becoming outdated, says Sheriff Bettencourt.

“The new system will give us more capabilities and improve operability between agencies,” Sheriff Bettencourt said.

The Frontier Regional 911 board also believes that the new, upgraded system will streamline tasks and help with retention.

“We have mapping for every area,” says Sheriff Bettencourt. “People coming into the center now are impressed with our new system.”

The buildout of the system has taken a lot of time and staff have been cautious in each phase.

“We’re going to have this CAD system for the next 20 years,” says Sheriff Smith. “We got one chance to do it right.”

Local Influence

While experienced 911 dispatchers would be welcomed to join the team at Frontier Regional 911, having local knowledge of the area is an even bigger asset, say staff members. Sheriffs Bettencourt and Smith agree.

“Local influence is important,” says Sheriff Smith. “In Wheeler County, we’re sitting on 1,700 square miles. Emergency responders are dodging deer, elk, rocks, and trees.”

It is also common that a local resident that calls 911 doesn’t know the name of a road or a mile marker on the highway. They often give descriptions based off of landmarks or the name of a family that owned a property for many years.

A caller might say “there is an accident by the red barn at the old Potter place.” A local has a keen understanding of what that might mean whereas someone from outside of the area would naturally struggle.

Having such local input creates quicker response times and can save lives.

“It is essential, especially when it is volunteers who are jumping into ambulance to go help meet that need,” says Sheriff Smith.

While locals are sought after and encouraged to consider the position, Frontier Regional 911 is also looking outside of the area and to welcome staff to come to Condon. One challenge that the agency has faced is the availability of housing.

Limited housing options means limited applicants, says Laura Smith. “It’s a real struggle.”

Laura Smith, Frontier Regional 911 Supervisor, says limited housing is limiting new recruits to the 911 dispatch center in Condon. (Stephen Allen/The Times-Journal)

Sheriff Bettencourt says that the board is trying to think outside of the box and to be creative with housing solutions for new staff.

“We’re looking at the center owning a house at the upcoming workforce housing,” at the Condon Golf Course, Sheriff Bettencourt says. “We’re trying to be creative in our solutions.”

Jefferson County’s investment

When Jefferson County joined Frontier Regional 911 in 2012, the agency was significantly altered.

Although Frontier Regional 911 did get a big bump in its annual budget, there were also very different emergencies and new demands for 911 dispatchers.

“We went from having 5,000 calls a year to 50,000 calls a year,” when Jefferson County joined, says Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt.

The number of calls and the severity of incidents have increased considerably in recent years, says Frontier 911 supervisor Nicole Lathrop.

“Every summer we get busier and busier, with more traumatic calls,” Lathrop says. “There are more chases and violent confrontations between police and suspects. Last week there were three shootings in Jefferson County.”

This year, Frontier Regional 911 is averaging 6,394 calls per month. A staggering 87% of 911 calls are from Jefferson County.

Jefferson County joined Frontier Regional 911 in 2012 and now accounts for 87% of all 911 calls. With territory into the Cascades, the Warm Springs Reservation and Madras – the territory has a higher crime rate and different emergency needs than the frontier counties of Gilliam, Wheeler and Sherman. (map from crimegrade.org)

Recently, the Frontier Regional 911 board hired a consultant to go over their data and to assess the demands of each county. The data showed that calls from Jefferson County made up a vast majority of the calls to the center and that the time required for each call was significant.

“Having the consultant information and large amount of calls from Jefferson County warrants a discussion,” says Sheriff Bettencourt. “We have to talk about managing expectations of Jefferson County,” under the current agreement he said.

Dispatcher Carol Greenfield said that a deputy from Jefferson County offered to take staff on a ride-along to better understand the territory.

“Jefferson County’s territory goes to the Cascades,” says Greenfield. “It’s hard to get a handle on that amount of territory.”

By and large, Jefferson County has not actively supported recruiting staff for the 911 call center. Sheriffs Bettencourt and Smith say that the current model is not sustainable.

“Our next board meeting is not until January,” Sheriff Bettencourt says. “We need solutions now.”

Supporting staff

Despite the challenges that staff have endured, moral remains high at the Frontier Regional 911 dispatch center in Condon, says Sheriff Bettencourt.

The stress that staff endure is evident but so too is their resiliency and desire to help each other.

Staff do have access to counseling as part of their benefit package. Former Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys is offering specialized counseling services for dispatchers and law enforcement personnel as part of his job with Community Counseling Solutions. Staff also said that in-person counseling is available after an especially traumatic event, such as the death of someone in the community that they know.

They are also thankful to have supportive families.

“A shoutout to my family,” says Nicole Lathrop. “We couldn’t do this without their support.”

Sheriff Bettencourt says that dispatchers have found ways to bring their family members into the 911 facility to have quality time together.

Over Halloween, Nicole’s daughter came to the dispatch center with breakfast for her mom. As Nicole returned to work, her daughter went to a table and began carving a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern.

Wheeler County Rattlers win first Championship, cap undefeated season

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Rattlers down Triangle Lake Lakers 30-0, cement place in history

SISTERS – The Wheeler County Rattlers are the top 6-Man team in the state. The team hoisted the Oregon Six-Man Football trophy after holding Triangle Lake scoreless and controlling the championship game on Saturday at Sisters High School.

In front of an adoring crowd, the Rattlers again displayed a stingy defense – the Triangle Lake Lakers could not find paydirt, despite having several possessions inside the red zone.

The win in the championship game showcased Wheeler County’s toughness and endurance.

Spray Senior Thomas Chase said that after hard fought possessions at the beginning of the game, the Rattlers were able to wear down the Lakers. “We wanted it more,” Chase said after the game as the celebration broke out. “We’ve been at this for four years – if you would have told me a year ago that we would win the championship, I might not have believed it,” Chase said. “This is amazing.”

The 2021 season has been an historic one for the Wheeler County Rattlers. The team sensed that they were on the verge of being great in the abbreviated 2020 season played last spring. Once all of the pieces were put together, the team proved to be formidable.

As the team celebrated on the field with bubbles of Martinelli’s – fans posed for photos and gathered on the field and in the stands. Wheeler County residents past and present shared the victory with the team.

Soaking it all up was Rattler Head Coach Jerry Anderson and assistants Jon McMurray and Darrell Yount.

Pointing to the crowd, coach Anderson held the trophy and said “this is for you!”

First COVID vaccination in Wheeler Co.

Dr. Robert Boss of Asher Community Health Center is the first person in Wheeler County to receive the vaccine for COVID-19. Dr. Boss received the vaccination on January 4th. Residents at Haven House were also offered the vaccine today.

Ten vials, containing a total of 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine were delivered to the Wheeler Co. Public Health Department last week. The Moderna vaccine is a two-part vaccine, so a second inoculation will be required after 28 days.

Healthcare workers around the country are the first to receive the Moderna vaccine, which has shown a 94% effectivity rate. Emergency responders and staff at the Asher Clinic have been offered the inoculation.

After finishing with vaccinations at the clinic, staff from the Asher Clinic went to Haven House and offered the vaccine to residents of the facility.

BLM Acquires 4,000 Acres along the Lower John Day River

Prineville, Ore. — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently completed the acquisition of approximately 4,000 acres of property along the lower John Day Wild and Scenic River from the Western Rivers Conservancy. This strategic acquisition marks a significant milestone in enhancing recreational access along the river.

This newly acquired property, commonly known as McDonald’s Ferry, is situated approximately 14 miles east of Wasco, on the western bank of the John Day River near McDonald’s Crossing. McDonald’s Crossing is a historically significant site where countless emigrants traveling west on the Oregon Trail once traversed the Lower John Day River.

Kyle Hensley, BLM Central Oregon Field Manager, expressed enthusiasm about this development, stating, “This acquisition opens doors to expand recreation and hunting access along the John Day River. It will also provide BLM and our partners with the opportunity to restore rangeland and riparian health throughout the property.”

Funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this acquisition represents the latest addition to the public lands along the John Day River. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1964, is dedicated to the preservation of natural areas, water resources, cultural heritage, and the provision of recreational opportunities for all Americans. For more information, please visit https://www.doi.gov/lwcf.

Public access to the McDonald’s Ferry property is available via McDonald’s Ferry Lane. For river use, permits can be obtained through www.Recreation.gov. The area is open to dispersed camping, but it’s important to note that restroom facilities and potable water are currently unavailable. To prevent wildfires, we encourage responsible practices, such as staying on the main county road, avoiding parking on dry grass, and refraining from using off-highway vehicles in the area.

K’Lynn Lane to start new chapter with Ford Family Foundation

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Oregon Frontier Chamber to start new chapter

The Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce announces a significant transition as K’Lynn Lane, the dedicated and accomplished Executive Director, prepares to step into a new professional role after nearly 11 years of service.

Lane has accepted a position at The Ford Family Foundation, marking an exciting new chapter in her career journey.

During Lane’s tenure as Executive Director, the Chamber has played a pivotal role in driving positive change and progress across the tri-county region, leaving a profound impact on communities and businesses alike.

Under Lane’s leadership, the Condon Chamber evolved into a tri-county chamber for communities in Gilliam, Wheeler, and Sherman County. Rebranded as the Oregon Frontier Chamber, the organization has thrived as a beacon of collaboration, innovation, and growth.

“It is with a mix of gratitude and excitement that I share this news with our valued members and friends,” Lane stated. “My time as Executive Director has been a remarkable journey of growth and partnership. I am truly honored to have witnessed the incredible achievements we’ve accomplished together, and I am thrilled to continue serving our communities in my new capacity at The Ford Family Foundation.”

While Lane will be stepping away from the role of Executive Director, she remains deeply committed to the mission of the Chamber and the prosperity of the Oregon Frontier region. She will continue to live in Condon and to advocate for small and rural communities in Eastern Oregon.

The Board of Directors extends their gratitude to K’Lynn Lane for her unwavering dedication and transformative leadership. “We have been privileged to work alongside K’Lynn and we are excited to see her take on new challenges while maintaining her commitment to the Chamber’s vision,” shared Stephen Allen, Board President.

Reflecting on her time with the Chamber, Lane expressed, “I am incredibly proud of the progress we have achieved together, particularly in fostering growth within our rural communities, piloting a successful rural regional main street approach, and creating a team of community ambassadors that are driving local initiatives and making a difference! The Chamber’s dedication to our region’s prosperity has been the driving force of my career, and I am confident that this organization will continue its impactful journey under new leadership.”

The Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce remains grateful for the unforgettable memories, valuable experiences, and enduring friendships K’Lynn has contributed to the organization. The Chamber looks forward to continuing its legacy of progress and prosperity for the Oregon Frontier region.

For further information, please contact: K’Lynn Lane, Executive Director [(541) 384-7777]

About the Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce: The Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce is a dynamic organization committed to fostering growth, collaboration, and innovation within the tri-county region. Through its dedicated members and visionary leadership, the Chamber strives to create lasting positive impacts on local communities and businesses. For more information, please visit [https://oregonfrontierchamber.com/].

Groundbreaking toolkit boosts Alzheimer’s awareness in Moro

The Sherman Co. Medical Clinic in Moro is one of four in the nation taking part in a study aimed at early detection and prevention

MORO, Ore. – Anyone who has cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia knows of its sorrows. Watching loved ones slip away as they struggle to recognize friends and relatives is a cruel final chapter that many families must confront.

But while there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, efforts to identify warning signs and to delay its progression are taking shape.

The Sherman County Medical Clinic in Moro is involved in a groundbreaking study that aims to provide early detection for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and to raise awareness among its patients.

The Sherman Co. Medical Clinic and four other clinics around the country are using a special toolkit, which was developed by the prestigious Cleveland Clinic and the American Academy of Physician Associates. The toolkit was designed to identify cognitive decline and to use routine visits to the clinic as an opportunity for intervention.

Landing a place in the three-month study is a big deal and the Sherman Co. Medical Clinic was identified to participate due to its rural focus and on the aging population it serves.

Erin Haines, the physician assistant at the Sherman Co. Medical Clinic, has been using the toolkit for the past two months. Now in the final month of the pilot project, Haines says that she has found the toolkit to be incredibly helpful, and she sees a clear need for its application in rural areas with predominately aging populations.

“Dementia is obviously going to affect our seniors, 65 and above – but other forms of dementia can affect us earlier, in the 50s and even younger ages,” Haines says. “We know that age is related to cognition but some of that is mild cognitive impairment and one of the pieces of the toolkit was giving providers the ability to differentiate between age related cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and full dementia.”

The toolkit has offered Haines additional resources to support patients and their families when cognition begins to slip.

“You have steps that you can take to intervene and to slow down the progression of dementia,” she says.

In Oregon, an estimated 69,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, a county-by-county study found that Sherman County has the highest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in Oregon. The data also shows that Sherman County has the highest estimated prevalence among Oregonians 65 and older, at 11.7%. Oregon’s most populous counties – Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas are around 10%.

In the coming years, rates of dementia are expected to grow significantly. By 2050, the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative, which is funding the Cleveland Clinic study, estimates that the number of people with dementia worldwide will triple.

By those estimates, Erin Haines says that 12.7 million people in the United States will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Currently, only one out of every four people that have dementia will receive a diagnosis, according to the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative. And often, there are missed opportunities to assess cognitive decline and to address it before it progresses.

For people in rural areas, the local clinic is usually the place to visit for check-ups and for treating the common cold or flu. But the local clinic can also be the place where conversations about cognitive health can begin and where patients can receive guidance.

Haines says that many people are reluctant to talk about memory loss or cognitive decline, often out of worry that they will be forced to move out of their home.

“We have to be very respectful of our patients’ desire to live in a rural community that is two and a half hours from a major medical center,” Haines says. “They like an independent lifestyle, and they worry that if they’re diagnosed with dementia, it means they can’t take care of themselves anymore. Now you’re talking about taking away their livelihood and there is absolutely a stigma with that.”

Haines says that she is working to help people avoid these outcomes and to maintain their independence.

“My practice is based a lot around prevention and steps that we can take in order to make us as healthy as possible, to keep our longevity, and our quality of life,” she says.

Haines, who was raised in Montana and finished her Physician Assistant schooling in Maine, is at home in rural areas and understands that independent living is important to people in rural areas.

Earlier this year, Haines received training on how to utilize the toolkit through a series of lectures and training modules. The study began in June and will conclude at the end of the month. Findings will be made available in November.

Haines says that the training and toolkit have been useful.

“They taught us how to recognize the difference in the conditions and how to use their screening tools,” Haines says. “Based on those screening tools, people might need an early intervention or a referral to a higher level of care.”

The most impactful part of the toolkit, Haines says, is giving her patients the opportunities to make specific changes that can potentially delay progression of dementia.

“For my practice, that means that I have a consistent conversation with people at their annual preventative visit and absolutely when they get to their Medicare visit.”

But those conversations are also happening for patients that voice concerns about their memory.

Haines also says that other medical conditions could be hidden that mimic dementia or cognitive decline.

“Normalizing the conversation allows me to identify depression more readily, or thyroid conditions,” Haines says. “Those things can often manifest that way,” in the form of cognitive decline.

Haines also points to sleep patterns, diet and exercise as key factors in prevention and maintenance of memory loss.

But while the opportunity to engage in these discussions is encouraged by Haines, they are in no way mandatory when seeking care.

“People always can say, ‘I don’t want to do your screening, I don’t want to know’ and that’s okay,” Haines says.

But for those that are open to having a cognitive assessment, there are often valuable insights that are waiting to be uncovered.

One patient that Haines has been seeing for two years recently told her that she was having memory problems. Looking back, Haines says that if she had the toolkit and done assessments at their first appointments, she would have done things differently.

Haines also says that even when the boxes are checked on the toolkit’s assessment, there could still be additional follow-up questions to better address cognitive health.

“We’re treating an individual,” Haines says. “I can see her pattern, I can see where she’s at, and I can say – I think I have something I can do for you.”

Obituary: Jan Schott

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Janet “Jan” Marilyn (Shular) Schott was born February 3, 1945, to Clifford and Marge Weddell Shular. Their first home on Minnesota Ave in North Portland was razed during I-5 construction in the mid 1950’s. They moved several blocks away, and then to the Bull Mountain area of Tigard in the mid 1960’s. As a young man, Cliff helped build Kinzua, Oregon in the late 1920’s and took the “Goose “along Thirty-Mile Creek where his daughter would later reside.

Jan’s parents taught her the values of hard work which she displayed throughout her life. In high school, she worked after school and during summers as a clerk at JC Penney’s at Lloyd Center. She graduated from Jefferson High School in 1963 and represented JHS on the Rose Festival Court her senior year.

Jan worked her way through Portland State University as a telephone operator at Pacific Northwest Bell, earning a degree in Education. She met the love of her life, Tom Schott of Condon-Fossil after he made a long cattle hauling trip to Portland with post-Christmas flood detours in early 1965. They married on June 15, 1968, shortly after her graduation from PSU.

Tom and Jan made their home on a ranch east of Fossil (The Rettie place) where they lived for 55 years, except for three years when they lived in Fossil late 1969 through early 1973. During their first year of marriage they lived in a camp trailer and old cabin with no electricity or telephone.

Mom substituted at Fossil Schools in 1968- 69 and the following year taught high school English and was volleyball coach and cheerleader advisor. A devoted mother, she quit teaching full time after one year to raise her sons Jeff and Grant, although still worked as a substitute teacher.

 In 1978, Jan returned to the Fossil schools part time as a Title 1 aide, while also typically teaching a class at the high school. She stepped up to take over 5th /6th grade in 1986/87 when the newly hired teacher withdrew the job offer the day before school started, and filled in for a 2nd grade teacher on maternity leave for half a year in 1981.

Jan returned to summer school every few summers to enhance her teacher credentials, and in the 1990’s became a Special Ed and then kindergarten teacher. Rheumatoid arthritis forced an early retirement in 2004, but after successful treatments brought RA into remission, she worked almost full time as a subsite until 2008.

That year she started her favorite job as childcare provider for granddaughter Quinlan Schott, joined two years later by grandson Thomas Schott. She took care of Quinlan and Tommy weekly through early grade school and whenever she had the chance afterwards. She enjoyed attending all their activities through the Spring of 2023 and was thrilled to watch a video of Quinlan competing in the 800-meter race at State track in May.

Jan was a tremendous community activist and her most prominent role in “retirement” was as an active member of the Condon Garden Club, which for her meant the Condon and Fossil Garden Club. She planted and maintained flower beds on Main Street in both communities. Jam was a member of the Wheeler County Asher Community board until recently, and, in earlier years, was on the boards of Oregon Paleo Lands Institute and Haven House Retirement Center in Fossil.

Having worked paycheck to paycheck in her younger years, Jan worked hard and saved and invested for the benefit of her family. She was immensely generous at holidays, birthdays, or any or no special occasion. Her vision of replacing the 100-year-old “Camp Ruffit” cabin at Lost Valley became reality in 2017-18 when she spearheaded the design, building and funding of a beautiful new log cabin for her family to enjoy.

A decline in health following a seemingly successful spinal fusion surgery this spring was eventually diagnosed as terminal cancer in late June. Jan spent her final several weeks surrounded by caring family, friends and staff at Columbia Basin Care in the Dalles, Oregon where she died on July 11, 2023.

Jan will be remembered for her generous and energetic spirit and her eternal optimism, warmth, and smile. Her life will be missed but her spirit will live on.

She is survived by husband Tom of Fossil, son Jeff and daughter-in-law Nichole and grandkids Quinlan and Thomas of Mayville, son Grant of Portland, and brother Rick and wife Cynthia of Portland.

A Celebration of life will be hosted at Isobel Edwards Hall in Fossil at noon on Friday July 21, 2023. Memorial donations can be made to Haven House Retirement Center, P.O. Box 386, Fossil, Oregon 97830, or a charity of your choice.

Sweeney Mortuary in Condon is in care of funeral arrangements. Visit sweeneymortuary.com.

Small town track and field athletes shine on big stage at State Championships

Fossil native, legendary coach and shoe innovator Bill Bowerman, helped to put Oregon track and field on the map and made Hayward Field a destination for sneakerheads and athletes alike.

Remodeled in 2021, Hayward Field is akin to holy ground for lovers of track and field. Hayward hosted the 2022 World Athletics Championships last year, bringing the best athletes in the world to compete in Eugene.

But last week, athletes from Oregon’s smallest schools got to have their shot at glory in Hayward.

For many athletes from small schools, competing at a larger school or university can be a thrill. But stepping onto the track at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field is another realm completely.

Condon High School sophomore Kaden Hall at the OSAA 1A State Championships in Eugene. (Kristian Takagi)

The OSAA Track and Field Championships for 1A schools were held there on Thursday and Friday of last week.

The Sherman County Women’s team had a strong day, finishing 11th overall, with 21 points. Mitchell-Spray finished 25th with six points, respectfully.

The Condon Mens team finished 15th with 18 points, Mitchell-Spray finished 20th with 11 points and Sherman County and Arlington tied for 26th place with 8 points.

Condon High School junior Grady Greenwood had a sensational day and broke two school records. Grady won the 1500 meter with a personal best time of 4:03.19, and set a new school record that had been held by Pat Campbell since 1973. Greenwood also had a personal best in the 3000 meter (9:02.41), finishing second in a thrilling finish with Joseph’s Jett Leavitt. Greenwood finished just one-one-hundredth of a second behind Leavitt. Greenwood’s time in the 3000 meter is a new Condon High School record by nearly ten seconds, which was held by Jeff Harris since 1977.

Condon High School junior Grady Greenwood (right) set school records in the 1500 meter and 3000 meter. He also competed in the 4×400 relay and helped the Condon Men’s Team to finish 15th overall. (Kristian Takagi)

Greenwood also helped his team finish 10th in the 4×400 meter relay, running with his brother Carson Greenwood, Kaden Hall, and freshman Walker Lathrop.

Sherman County’s Sophie Hulke also laser focused and propelled her team. The standout junior won the Discus with a throw of 34.49 meters, nearly six feet further than her nearest competitor. Hulke also took fourth in the Shot Put (9.90 meters) and tenth in the Javelin (31.95 meters). Teammate Morgan Geary took third in the Javelin, with a throw of 35.34 in her final track meet as a senior at Sherman County High School.

Arlington High School senior Kellen Gronquist also had a very strong meet. Gronquist set a personal record and took second place in the Shot Put with a throw of 14.53 meters. Gronquist also took 14th place in the Javelin, with a throw of 38.98 meters.

Arlington High School senior Kellen Gronquist took second in Shot Put with a personal record at the OSAA State Track and Field Championships in Eugene. (Kristian Takagi)

Other athletes that had strong performances were Carter Boise from Spray High School, who finished 8th in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints, as well as in the 4×100 meter relay with teammates Nate Clark, Oran Davis, and Mai Wattanathanachote. The Sherman County 4×100 men’s team took sixth place, with Michael Blagg, Kole Martin, Eduardo Rubio, and Josiah Carlson on the team.

Spray High School senior Nate Clark took fourth in the Discus with a throw of 42.07 meters, and sixth in the Triple Jump, leaping 12.50 meters, a new season record.

Other notable scores: Men’s 100 Meter – Carter Boise (Spray)- 11.77 (8th); 200 Meter – Carter Boise (Spray) 25.03 (8th); Men’s 4 x 400 Meter Relay – Sherman County (Michael Blagg, Kole Martin, Eduardo Rubio, Josiah Carlson); Shotput – Henry Poirier (Sherman County) 12.86 meters (8th); Discus – Luke Fritts (Sherman County) 32.08 meters (10th); Long Jump – Eduardo Rubio (Sherman County) 5.91 meters (6th). WOMEN: 1500 meter Taylor Payne (Sherman County) 5:32.91 (PR) (11th place); 3000 meter – Addison Smith (Sherman County) 15:30.03 (12th place); 100 Meter Hurdles – Carmen Balaguer (Spray-Mitchell) 17.31 seconds (5th place); 300 Meter Hurdles – Carmen Balaguer (Spray Mitchell) 51.31 seconds (7th place). Javelin – Morgan Geary (Sherman County) 35.34 meters (3rd place), Jozee Jacobs (Spray High School) 31.49 meters (11th place); Long Jump – Caitlyn Jauken (Sherman County) 4.16 meters (12th place); Triple Jump – Morgan Geary (Sherman County) 8.95 meters (12th place).

U.S. Wheat Associates Hires Luke Muller as Assistant Director in West Coast Office

ARLINGTON, Virginia — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has hired Luke Muller as Assistant Director of its West Coast Office in Portland, Ore.

Muller, who began his new role on May 30, comes to USW with a broad set of skills and experience in agricultural research and economics. 

Raised on his family’s wheat, cotton, sorghum, canola, soybean and alfalfa farm in southwestern Oklahoma, Muller has a bachelor’s degree in Plant and Soil Sciences and Agribusiness from Oklahoma State University (OSU). He earned a master’s degree in Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (MSU).

Muller worked as a Research Assistant in MSU’s Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics, where his duties included investigating fungal and insect effect on crops in the Midwest. He also served as a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. His work and study abroad offered an opportunity to see firsthand how other countries develop sustainable food chains through technology, research, and policy. “Luke’s expertise in agricultural economics, coupled with his understanding of wheat farming and his excellent communication skills, will undoubtedly strengthen our efforts to support and promote the U.S. wheat in the overseas market,” said Steve Wirsching, Vice President and Director of USW’s West Coast Office. 

Muller has been active on the local, state and international levels, serving in leadership roles focused on food security and sustainability. “I really look forward to helping U.S. Wheat Associates in a variety of ways, and I think my educational background in agriculture and experience in research and farming will help me excel in the role,” said Muller. “My knowledge of agriculture has been shaped by different countries and through peer-reviewed research. But I also have a personal connection to farming.”

Salmon and steelhead fishing closed as of June 1 on Columbia River; reopens June 16 

CLACKAMAS, Ore.—Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington closed recreational Chinook and steelhead fishing on the Columbia River during a joint state hearing today effective June 1 through the remainder of the spring fishing season.  

The action was taken after the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) advised them to close the season immediately as any salmon and steelhead fishing that occurred beyond today (May 31) would be out of legal compliance with the Endangered Species Act.  

Effective Thursday, June 1 through Thursday, June 15, angling for and retention of all salmon and steelhead is prohibited in the mainstem Columbia River from Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam. (The fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the OR/WA border was closed on May 25.) Shad fishing remains open. 

Yesterday afternoon, the expected return of upriver adult spring Chinook to the Columbia River mouth was downgraded from the 153,000 fish predicted on May 24 to 143,000 fish, based on passage at Bonneville Dam. Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington were also provided treaty catches through May 18, which were higher than expected.  

After reviewing these key pieces of information, it became clear that combined in-river fisheries were over the allowed impact rate on ESA-listed spring/summer Snake River Chinook and Upper Columbia spring Chinook. NMFS advised the states that action would need to be taken immediately to close the fishery. (Recreational fishing for Chinook and steelhead had been scheduled to continue in the area downstream of Bonneville Dam through June 4.) 

“It’s hard to have to close these fisheries when we have managed them conservatively while facing run-size uncertainty this year, but we need to be responsive,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW Columbia River Program Manager. “Fisheries are the only impact source that is scaled to actual abundance, unlike hydrosystem or predation impacts, and are the only impact that we can manage in real time.  

“Rather than pointing fingers at a particular fishery, it’s important to acknowledge the real problem, that there are way too few wild Snake River spring/summer Chinook coming back,” Jones continued. “NOAA’s recent “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead” report acknowledges this, and notes that without aggressive, urgent actions, including restoration of the lower Snake River for Snake River spring/summer Chinook, achieving healthy and abundant populations won’t be possible. While fisheries are playing their critical role in the conservation and recovery story, it’s important that the region continue to push other sectors to do the same.” 

A NMFS representative on the call during the joint state hearing today thanked fishery managers for their swift action, responsiveness, and for working within ESA limitations.  

Columbia River spring Chinook salmon seasons are driven by balancing opportunity with Endangered Species Act limitations, provisions in the management agreement between the states, Columbia River tribes, and the federal government that specify the total harvest guideline of upriver-origin spring Chinook, and guidance from the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife commissions regarding allocations among the non-treaty fisheries. 

The spring fishing season on the Columbia River ends June 15. Columbia River salmon fishing will reopen for the summer season on June 16 with Chinook and steelhead retention allowed both upstream and downstream of Bonneville Dam. See details of summer and fall seasons at the Columbia River Zone Fishing Report page under Regulation updates (click 2023 summer and fall Columbia River fishery regulations)   

Annual campfire restrictions to start on BLM rivers in Central Oregon 

Prineville, Ore. — Annual campfire restrictions will go into effect June 1, 2023, on portions of the Crooked, Deschutes, John Day and White Rivers, as well as on BLM-administered lands along Lake Billy Chinook and Lake Simtustus.  

The river canyons present a combination of limited access, grassy fuels that dry out quickly and steep slopes that allow wildfires to spread rapidly. The number one goal of the BLM is promoting employee and public safety. Reducing the risk of wildfire helps BLM be a good neighbor in the river canyons, while facilitating commercial recreation and multiple-use opportunities.  

Under these restrictions, commercially manufactured lanterns and metal camp stoves used for cooking are allowed, when fueled with bottled propane or liquid fuel and operated in a responsible manner. The river fire closures prohibit building, igniting, maintaining, attending, using, tending or being within 20 feet of a campfire, charcoal fire or any other type of open flame.  

This closure also bans the use of portable propane campfires and wood pellet burning devices and restricts areas where visitors can smoke to non-public buildings, inside vehicles, in boats on the water or while standing in the water.  

The specific campfire closure locations apply to BLM-administered lands in the following areas:  

  • Within ½ mile of the Crooked River’s edge from the Bowman Dam to Lake Billy Chinook, excluding campfire rings established by the BLM at the following posted, developed and designated campgrounds: Castle Rock, Still Water, Lone Pine, Palisades, Chimney Rock, Cobble Rock, Post Pile and Poison Butte.  
  • Within ½ mile of the Deschutes River’s edge from the Highway 20 bridge to the Columbia River, including Lake Billy Chinook and Lake Simtustus.  
  • Within ½ mile of Lake Billy Chinook’s edge, including BLM Beach dispersed recreation site located approximately ½ mile east of the Three Rivers Recreation Area on the south shore of the Metolius River arm of the lake.  
  • Within ½ mile of the Lower White River’s edge from its confluence with the Deschutes River upstream to the eastern boundary of the Mount Hood National Forest.  
  • Within ¼ mile of the John Day River’s edge in the following locations:
    • The Mainstem John Day River from Tumwater Falls (River Mile 10) upstream to Kimberly (River Mile 185).  
    • The North Fork John Day River, from the confluence with the mainstem at Kimberly (River Mile 0) upstream to the Umatilla National Forest boundary (River Mile 62).  
    • The South Fork John Day River from Smokey Creek (River Mile 6) upstream to the Malheur National Forest boundary (River Mile 47). 

Closures are in effect until October 15, 2023. Except in emergency conditions or with permission by an agency authorized officer, there are no exceptions to this closure. A violation of this closure is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than 12 months, or both.  

Sherman superintendent search ends quickly

Julia Fall appointed to fill position; search begins for new principal or dean of students

By Jessica R. Wheeler

The Sherman County School Board of Directors met in a special session Thursday, April 27, and ended the meeting with a new superintendent for the 2023-24 academic year.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Sherman Principal Julia Fall to the superintendent role as of this summer. The board will work with legal counsel on contract negotiations.

The district soon will begin posting for either a K-12 principal or dean of students position.

“I have full confidence that Julia can do it, and I think that’s what is right for our district at this point,” board member Kristie Coelsch said. “I don’t say this because I want to get this process done with — I think it’s the right fit for right now.”

Additionally, Superintendent Wes Owens likely will remain involved in some capacity, acting in a consulting or mentorship role for Fall.

Owens will retire this summer at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, the school board told the community Friday, April 21. He officially will step down from his role as superintendent after honoring his contract, which expires Aug. 31.

The news came as a surprise to community members. Last summer, following the departure of several Sherman teachers and staff, Owens released a statement to the community announcing that this would be his last year at Sherman.

At the regular school board meeting April 10, however, the board voted unanimously to renew his contract, first proposing a pay increase of 5 percent before settling on 6.5 percent. Owens appeared to accept the contract renewal as proposed.

Just two weeks later, Owens announced he would stick to his retirement timeline as planned.

Principal Fall said she plans to remain in Sherman County long term and did intend to consider stepping into the superintendent role someday. However, that timeline was perhaps a little shorter than anticipated, she said.

Members of the board expressed concern about the short timeline the district is facing to fill these administrative roles.

Directors Coelsch and Scott Susi will start working with legal counsel immediately to draft contracts. They will also take steps to post job openings for both a principal and a dean of students position.

The district won’t necessarily plan to hire for both positions, but rather is open to filling one or the other.

Owens said the primary difference between the two positions is that a dean of students may not have an administrator certificate, and any staff member who is certified can potentially serve in that role. A dean of students who does not have an administrative degree cannot evaluate or supervise teachers, but a principal can, Owens said.

Board members agreed that posting for the principal position should happen as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, three of the five Sherman school board members are up for reelection in May.

Running against board chair Paul Bish for Position 5, a four-year term, is James D. Alley.

Running against vice-chair Jeremy Lanthorn for Position 1, a four-year term, are Jesse von Borstel and Bryan Cranston.

Running against Kasey Webber for Position 2, a two-year term, is Seth von Borstel. Webber was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former board chair Jesse Stutzman over the winter.

The countywide election is set for Tuesday, May 16. Directors Susi and Coelsch are not up for reelection this cycle.

Huskies Baseball on win streak

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By Rob Whitbeck – Times- Journal Sports

The Sherman Huskies baseball team is riding a five-game winning streak and has a perfect 3-0 record in league play.

Led by head coach Joe Justesen, the Huskies travelled to Dufur for their league opener on Tuesday, the 8th, a game in which Sherman overpowered the Rangers 21-8. This single game was followed by a double header against Dufur in Moro on Saturday. The Huskies handled the Rangers again, winning the opener 10-5, and the second game by a score of 13-3. With those three victories they swept the series against the Rangers.

Tuesday’s game in Dufur started out as a two-way slugfest. Sherman trailed 8-7 after three innings, but in the fourth the Husky pitchers settled down and began to quiet the Dufur bats. Meanwhile, the Huskies continued to pound out hit after hit. After four runs in the fourth, and two more in the fifth, the Huskies’ outdid themselves in the sixth, sending eight runners across the plate, all while holding the Rangers scoreless.

Levon Whitbeck rounds third against Dufur on April 8. (Jeremy Lanthorn)

The Huskies’ two players from Condon, catcher Brody Geer and first baseman Blake Carnine, had excellent hitting days. Geer went four for five with two doubles. He also scored three runs and drove in five. Carnine, for his part, went five for six with three runs scored and three batted in. Added to that, Caiden Walker, Eduardo Rubio, and Kole Martin each had three hits, and Cade von Borstel scored a team-high five runs. Defensively, Martin continued to captivate Sherman fans with two spectacular catches in centerfield.

Saturday in Moro, in the opening game of the twin bill, Eduardo Rubio turned in a fine pitching performance. He yielded only three hits and one earned run over five and a third innings, striking out eight and walking only two as he battled Dufur hurler Foster Harvey through the several innings.

Talon Dark heads for third against Dufur on April 8. (Jeremy Lanthorn)

In the top of the sixth, as the Huskies were transitioning to reliever Sawyer Baker, Dufur scored two runs and tied the game four to four. Sherman immediately answered back, erupting for six runs on five hits in the bottom half of that same inning, effectively sealing the win for the Huskies. Baker was able to fend off the Rangers for two and two-third innings and got the win. Martin, Talon Dark, and Michael Blagg accounted for six of the eleven Husky hits, while Geer and Leven Whitbeck drove in two runs apiece.

Game two took a similar course. Starter Talon Dark and reliever Leven Whitbeck combined to hold the Huskies to three runs. Dufur slipped into the lead 2-1 in the top of the fourth but, as in game one, Sherman answered. They scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning and never relinquished that lead. After the Rangers pulled Thomas, their starting pitcher, the Huskies were able to pile on eight more runs.

A Husky lays down a but against Dufur on April 8. (Jeremy Lanthorn)

For the second time that day the Huskies produced eleven hits. Again, the reliever got the win. Whitbeck, the Huskies only player from Wheeler High School, led the team with three hits, two of which were doubles. Talon Dark and Cade von Borstel added two hits apiece, and the versatile Eduardo Rubio, who filled in at shortstop while Whitbeck pitched, made two superb infield plays.

The Huskies are an entertaining team to watch. They currently have six players hitting over .300, and are led by Talon Dark, who has been pounding the ball game in and game out since the season started. Dark, a third baseman, has gotten off to a great start and is hitting at a heady .522 clip. Following Dark is Brody Geer who is hitting an even .400.

The competition is expected to stiffen as the Huskies take on Irrigon next, in another three-game series.

Oregon Frontier Chamber Exec. Director K’Lynn Lane to receive Oregon Partnership Award

By Jessica R. Wheeler

A crew from Travel Oregon was in Condon last week to film a short video showcasing Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce Executive Director K’Lynn Lane.

Lane will be receiving the coveted Oregon Partnership Award at the 2023 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, set for April 3-5 in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center.

Lisa Itel, director of Strategic Partnership Development for Travel Oregon, said that filming went well and that Lane had clearly made an impact on the region.

“So I wasn’t surprised to see her name come in through our nominations to the Oregon Governor’s Conference Awards,” Itel said. “And, she had multiple nominations, which is not surprising either.”

Itel said the conference is a great way to bring together people from across the state’s tourism industry, and it’s also a chance to celebrate some of the partnerships within the industry — and honor leaders such as Lane.

“There are a lot of people who’ve just seen her passion,” she said. “The review committee, based on the submissions, really felt like she was deserving of this award. And after today, it is very apparent that is the case.”

The video will debut just in time for the conference, and Lane will be at the opening reception in Portland on April 3 to accept the award.

Travel Oregon will also announce winners of the Governor’s Tourism Award, the Oregon Leadership Award and the Stewardship Award, among others.

“It’s a really big night,” Itel said. “And it’s a really awesome opportunity for us to recognize industry.”

Itel said she’s familiar with Condon and has visited the area many times over the years.

“We’re big fans of this region,” said Itel, whose 7-year-old daughter loves rodeo and riding horses. “We feel a personal connection here.”

She said they’re very much looking forward to the Spray Rodeo, her daughter’s favorite, since it’s the first one of the season.

Travel Oregon brought a small team from Allied Video of Salem to shoot the interviews.

Co-owner and senior producer BrAd Steiner and freelance tech Gar Russell arrived Sunday night for their stay at Hotel Condon.

“They do a fantastic job,” Russell said. “It’s very comfortable, it’s very classy. I loved all of the history.”

And the owners were top notch, he said.

“They went the extra mile to welcome us,” Russell said. “And the hotel breakfast was great.”

Steiner said he was impressed by the town of Condon and thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

“It’s like a little oasis,” Steiner said. “I noticed when we drove in, for miles it’s like there’s nothing — and then suddenly there’s this little bit of civilization. It’s pretty neat.”

Steiner said he last visited the area probably 15 years ago with his kids to hunt for fossils.

Russell said he used to fight fires in eastern Oregon and was thrilled to be able to return.

“It just feels so good to come back out to the stars, and the people, and the smells, and even the wind — it’s nostalgic. The quiet and the heart out here, it’s really something I connect with.”

He said he instantly felt welcomed in Condon.

“It’s beautiful, and the folks are very kind,” Russell said. “I’m not finding this on the west side or other places. It just kind of innately, immediately felt like home.”

Rufus man sought in double homicide

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On March 16, 2023, at around 2202 hours, the Klickitat County Department of Emergency Management received information from the FBI Taskforce out of Yakima, Washington, of a possible suspect involved in burning two bodies on the Yakama Nation Tribal Reservation in the Toppenish, Washington, area.

One of the suspects was believed to be in the Goldendale area.

On March 17, 2023, at around 0203 hours, Officer Michael Steljes with the Goldendale Police Department, Deputy Zack McBride with the Sheriff’s Office, and agents with the FBI Taskforce located a vehicle associated with one of the suspects in the case, in Goldendale. A traffic stop was conducted on the associated vehicle and two subjects were taken into custody. The fist subject was determined to be a suspect in the burning of the two bodies and the second subject was determined to not be involved in the incident, but was found to have a warrant for his arrest in an unrelated case.

Through the investigation, it was determined a homicide involving the two dead bodies had occurred on Box Canyon Road north of Goldendale in Klickitat County, Washington. A third crime scene was located along Highway 97 on the Yakama Nation Tribal Reservation.
Agents with the FBI Seattle Office, as well as Agents with the FBI Yakima Office processed the crime scene where the bodies had been burned. The Washington State Patrol sent a Detective unit as well as a Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team to assist in processing the other crime scenes.

A second suspect was identified and is believed to be the shooter. The second suspect is believed to still be armed with the weapon used in the homicide and was believed to have been driver to Rufus, Oregon.

The Sherman County Sheriff’s assisted in the investigation, and called in The Dalles Police Department SWAT Team, as well as the Mid-Columbia SWAT Team.
Attempts were made to arrest the second suspect at his residence, but the suspect left approximately 20 minutes before the SWAT Teams arrived.
Warrants were issued for the second suspect charging him with two counts of Murder in the First Degree. The second suspect was identified as John Scott Raczykowski, 31 years old of Rufus, Oregon.

Raczykowski is believed to be armed and dangerous.