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Greg Smith wins 5th Dancing with the Hermiston Stars

More than 400 people braved the weather, raising more than $11,000 for local charities for Dancing with the Hermiston Stars on Saturday evening, and when the votes were counted,
State Representative Greg Smith took home the mirrorball trophy.

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Smith and partner Trina Morago danced the Paso Doble in a vampire-vs-buffy theme, complete with music and costumes.Smith says he didn’t expect to win because - in his words - he has two left feet and was surprised when he was asked to participate.
“My first reaction when I was asked to dance with the Hermiston stars was, ‘Oh, my goodness. You have got to be kidding,’” he said. "But in all seriousness, this was a blast. Congratulations to our Arts Council for all their hard work and congratulations to the charities, who are the real winners tonight," Smith said. "This was fun, and it's great that Hermiston has such a great opportunity for everyone to participate."
LuAnn Davison was the runner up with her Cha Cha to AC DC. County Commissioner Bill Elfering and City Councilwoman Clara Beas-Fitzgerald also received high scores - the first for his pilot-themed dance, and the second for her lively polka dance to Yakity Yak.

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Overall, both Smith and Mary Corp, president of the Desert Arts Foundation, say the real winners were the charities. Corp says the event almost sold out – even with the winter weather conditions.
"I was so pleased to see so many people brave the roads and the weather and come on our. It really turned out awesome," she said.
Corp said they raised more than $11,000 for local charities. The nonprofits do receive all funds donated to them without an administrative cost or overhead.

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EOTEC meeting cancelled

The Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning has been cancelled. The next EOTEC authority board meeting is 7 in the morning on January 27. All items on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting will be carried over.
The new date will allow the board to reflect on the potential changes to the name of East Airport Road.
The Hermiston City Council has asked the County Commissioners to consider changing the same of the street to avoid confusion with nearby Airport Way. The Hermiston City Council and Umatilla County Commissions having a join work session at 6 in the evening on Monday, Jan. 23, to discuss the request as well as to increase communication between the two entities on join projects, like the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center.

Pregnancy Care Services gears up for ribbon cutting, banquet
A ribbon cutting today for Pregnancy Care Services at their new location, 105 SW Second Street in the Grainary Square.
Hermiston center director Debbie Cissna says they weren’t looking for a new location, but the site makes them more accessible to foot traffic, greater visibility and better access for those using the center.
Pregnancy Care Services is a nonprofit organization that focuses on education and support. They provide services from free pregnancy tests through to parenting classes for moms – and dads.
The ribbon cutting is at noon today , and in a week and a half, the organization hosting a banquet featuring guest speaker John Ensor, president of PassionLife and the author of several books. It’s a fundraising event, but it’s free, and Cissna encourages the community to come out for the speaker and to learn about the nonprofit - even if you can't donate.
Cissna says the program will be about finding out what is going on in the Pregnancy Care movement and what can be done in the local community to help those facing an unplanned pregnancy. The event is free, but registration is required.
You can register at pregnancycareservices.com or by calling 541-567-2393.

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City approves plan for Ranch and Home
Plans moving ahead for the Ranch and Home shopping complex.
Last night, the Hermiston City Council unanimously approving a development agreement for the property off South Highway 395. Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan says the proposed retail store will be an “anchor tenant” on South 395 to guide development in that region.
""The major benefit to the community is that there will now be another major shopping center on the south side of town," Morgan said. "We're quickly running out of good, viable commercial real estate along Highway 395 through town."
In order to bring the project, the city has offered an incentive package.
"In exchange for constructing a 108,000 square foot Ranch and Home retail store, then we will reimburse their permit fees as well as their system development charges," Morgan said.
The total incentive package is about $100,000. Morgan says the company will pay the fees into the general fund, then once the project has its certificate of occupancy, that money will be refunded to the company.
During the meeting, The council also expected to ask the county to change the name of Airport Road. The road that the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center is called East Airport Road but doesn’t connect to the airport.
Morgan says having two roads named in such a similar way – Airport Way which travels to the local airport and Airport Road – also poses a risk for emergency responders. Because Airport Road is a county street and not within the city limits, the city council does not have the authority to change the name. They’ll be asking the county to make a change without giving a recommended replacement.
During the meeting, the oath of office also given to Municipal Judge Thomas Creasing, Mayor Dave Drotzmann and councilmen Manuel Gutierrez, Doug Primmer, John Kirwan, and Rod Hardin.

SAIF reschedules seminars - For safety

SAIF has postponed its free ag safety seminar due to… safety.
Kevin Pfau with SAIF says the Hermiston ag seminars, which serve Umatilla and Morrow counties, were scheduled for this weekend but were postponed due to roads not being safe for traveling.
SAIF is Oregon’s nonprofit workers’ compensation insurance company. The new seminars are March 6 in English and March 7 in Spanish. They will be at the Hermiston Conference Center. The rescheduled seminar will be open to additional attendees.
Pfau says SAIF holds seminars in 16 difference Oregon cities, many of them in Eastern Oregon. The Hermiston seminar serves Umatilla and Morrow counties, the seminars this weekend had 130 people signed up for the seminar in English – and another 70 signed up in Spanish. Pfau says it's a testament to their seminars, which are a combination of entertainment and information.
All registered attendees will be notified of the cancellation and the new dates.
For more information, including registration for the march seminars, you can visit www.SAIF.com/agseminar.

OSP responds to 750 traffic incidents in 36 hours

The Oregon State Police responded to more than 750 traffic incidents over 36 hours this weekend, and the winter weather isn't going away.
The incidents included 91 road hazards, 266 disabled vehicles, and 394 reported crashes.
OSP Captain Bill Fugate says in most cases, drivers were going too fast for conditions.

OSP saying if traveling is not necessary, to stay at home. Other recommendations:
*Take your time and slow down when poor driving conditions are present. Please know chain/traction tire requirements when traveling. Failure to follow the requirements could result in a $160 fine and being turned around.
*If your vehicle becomes disabled or cannot travel any further, do NOT stop in the roadway. Please try to get it off the plowed section of the roadway or it could be towed. Leave a note with the vehicle explaining when you intend on removing it. Under state law, an abandoned vehicle which is a hazard can be towed immediately. If not a hazard it can be towed 24 hours after tagged by law enforcement.
*Be prepared in the event you become stuck during your travels- Carry water, food, and blankets in the event you are stuck in your vehicle during your trip
*Put the distractions away. Pull over to use that handheld electronic device, ask as passenger to help or wait to arrive at your destination to use them.
*Get rested before you travel. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Be patient and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
*Wear your safety belt. Ensure your passengers and children are properly restrained too. We see too many crashes were people would have walked away with minor in any injuries.
These simple tips are your way to support our mission of transportation safety during storms such as these.

Hermiston Police respond to drug-related stabbing
The Hermiston Police Department also responding to a stabbing at Dun Rolling Trailer Park yesterday. The report came in 10 minutes before 11 in the morning. Officers arrived at the scene within minutes but were unable to locate anyone directly involved, so officers went to Good Shepherd Medical Center as a precautionary measure. Within minutes, they had a stabbing victim. Officers detained a 32-year-old male at the hospital. According to statements from police chief Jason Edmiston, the suspect had driven the alleged victim - A 30-year-old male – to the hospital. The 30-year-old was being treated for superficial wounds to the head and shoulder.
Edmiston says a controlled substance was involved in the stabbing and contributed to the poor decision making.
A department release saying This investigation is very active as differing accounts of what transpired have been given. Detectives
have several additional people to interview before making any charges.


Fire torches home on Cherry
A fire yesterday evening in Hermiston.
Umatilla County Fire District 1 dispatched at 9:43 in the evening to a home on Cherry Avenue. No injuries, but the single story home is a total loss. The Fire Marshal expected to begin his investigation today. No cause has been determined in the fire. Officials say between 7 and 9 people lived in the home. They have been put up in a local hotel.


School Wellness Center marks one year
The Hermiston School District’s Wellness Center celebrated one year of operations on Wednesday. The clinic, a partnership with Family Health Associates, celebrating its one-year anniversary on Wednesday. Jon Mishra, director of special programs for the Hermiston School District, says the Wellness Center has exceeded expectations.
"The biggest surprise is just the number of users that they've had," Mishra said. "It's been great to be able to encompass our students, our staff, and our staff's dependents in there. It's been pretty cool."
Dr. Derek Earl says Family Health Associate doctors and nurse practitioners rotate through the clinic. He says the group didn’t know exactly what to expect when the center opened.
"We didn't know any clinic like this. There was no model for us to follow," he says. "We went into this saying, 'Please don't let us lose too much money.' We felt it was a good service to provide for the community."
Earl says the clinic offers almost all the services of Family health associates. The exceptions are mental health and reproductive health services, which the school district requested not to be offered at the school-based site.
The wellness center has served as many as one patient a day and as many as 40. They average about 9 patients a day, and Mishra says it has helped relieve waits for healthcare.
"It's done a great job at really alleviated the pressure that our community has in terms of healthcare," Mishra said. "I know in my particular case, anytime I've had to go in there, I've been in, I've been seen, I've been o to the drug store and am back to what I was doing within 45 minutes."
The Wellness Center operates about 20 hours a week. It’s located inside of the office of Hermiston High School and serves Hermiston school district students, staff, and their families.
Umatilla County foster parents full

More children in the state of Oregon – and in the city of Hermiston – need foster homes than there are homes available.

"We have a tremendous need not just in Umatilla County but in Hermiston," Irma De Anda, foster home certifier said. "We have a need right now."
De Anda says in Umatilla County there are 143 children currently in foster care, and all the local homes are full. they have children of all ages in need from teenagers through infants.

"The day before Christmas we had a baby that was brought in, so I needed to find a home right away for this child and our homes were full," De Anda said. "I was begging, trying to find out who could take this baby. Fortunately, I was able to find a home, but there is a need here."

DHS is looking for foster homes of any size and wanting to take on any age of children. She says foster families are able to pick what age of children they would be willing to foster. If you are at all interested, they have foster training coming up every Saturday in the month of January – in Hermiston.

Trainings are at the DHS office in Hermiston from 9 to 4. The classes are free, and the certifiers said there's no pressure or commitment to become a foster parent if you attend the classes.
The experts say there are other ways to volunteer without becoming a full foster family – from tutoring to just sitting with children when they first come in while the office finds a foster home for them. For more information, call 541-564-4484.

Sheriff's Office cleans out homeless camp

On Thursday, Dec. 29, the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office cleaned out a large section of property along the banks of the Umatilla River where campers were living in tents and a small recreational trailer. The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office responded to numerous complaints and several calls for service at the site over the last few months, including several arrests.
The campers eventually vacated the property, but left garbage, debris, and the camp trailer behind, according to the sheriff’s office. The clean up was delayed due to weather but cleaned up last week with help from code enforcement, community corrections, and Sanitary Disposal. This clean up was about a half mile from a camp cleaned up in March of 2016.

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HART service begins Tuesday

The Hermiston Area Regional Transit, or HART, starts its routes this coming Tuesday. The fixed-route bus service is a partnership between the city and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s KAYAK Public Transit. The free service makes an hourly loop through Hermiston with set stops Monday through Friday from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. A timetable for the service is available on the websites for each the City of Hermiston and the Confederated Tribes.
A press release from the city says it’s the first fixed-route system to operate within Hermiston. It’s a supplement both to the KaYAK intra-city system, which drives between cities, and Hermiston’s existing senior and disabled taxi program.
Mark Morgan, Hermiston Assistant City Manager says the city hopes to fund much of the program through grants.
The city is asking local residents to try out the system and be patient as it grows. For more information about the HART system, contact KaYAK transit at 541-429-7519

Find the full schedule here: http://hermiston.or.us/sites/hermiston.or.us/files/Image/FINAL-%20HART%20Map%20%26%20Schedule%20_0.pdf

Agape House needs for new year

Today, Dec. 29, is Tick Tock day – the day to take care of unfinished business before the end of the year. It’s a reminder the clock is ticking – and there’s even a social media hash tag – tick tock day – to share your info and take care of those new year’s resolutions.
For local businesses and organizations, it’s a time of reflection and preparation.
At Agape House, Dave Hughes says they will reflect on what they've done in the past year as well as evaluate what needs aren't being met in the community. Hughes says that reflection has sparked ideas like the weekend backpack program, which sends food home with needy children to have nutritional meals over the weekend, as well as Martha’s House family homeless shelter. Hughes says Agape House can’t be everywhere in the community, so if you see a need, reach out and provide that information.
Agape House is also always looking for volunteers, and they’re in the process of scheduling and planning for next year. If you’d like to find out more about drop in volunteer times or special projects
It’s also the time of year to think about donating to our local nonprofits before filing your taxes next year. Agape House is a 501c3, which makes donations tax deductible.
For more information, to volunteer or to donate, you can contact Agape House at 567-8774.

Pregnancy Care Services prepares for move
Friday is also the last day to stop in to Pregnancy Care Services at its current location in the Cornerstone Plaza. The nonprofit is moving locations on Jan. 3. The new site is105 SW Second Street. That’s near Bi-Mart. They’re planning a ribbon cutting and grand opening at noon on Jan. 12. Pregnancy Care Services is also planning a fundraising banquet and celebration on Sunday, Jan. 22. There is no cost to attend that dinner and program but registration is required. You can register on the website pregnancycareservices. Com, by phone at 541-567-2393, or by emailing debbie@pregnancycareservices.com

 

Good Shepherd unveils beam video

The last steel beam was installed on the Good Shepherd Medical Plaza's North Wing Expansion project last Wednesday. Bouten construction and the steel crew celebrated by placing a Christmas Tree on the final steel beam on the North West Corner of the new building just in time for Christmas.

Today, Dec. 27, the Good Shepherd Healthcare System released a video showing the new construction:

 

Storm and crash close I-84 (Dec. 27)

A winter storm hitting Union County has closed Interstate 84.
I-84 closed around 5 this morning: Westbound between Ontario (Exit 374) and Pendleton (Exit 216), and eastbound between Pendleton (Exit 216) and Baker City (Exit 302).

Road conditions described as blowing snow, snow drifts, and spots of ice.

Other closed state roads in the region closed: OR237 (Cover Hwy.) between OR82 and Cove (MP 0.0-22); OR237 between Union and North Powder (MP 16-32); US395 between Pilot Rock and OR244 (Ukiah) junction (MP 23-50). Snow drifts are also impacting section of OR82 between I-84 junction and Island City (MP 0-2) and OR 203 between Union and Pondosa (MP 0-22). Expect delays and/or closures on these routes.

ODOT crews are working 24/7 to address road conditions, but motorists are advised to stay home today, if possible. State offices in Union County have been closed for the day due to weather/road conditions. Alternate highways, including city and county roads may a lso be impacted by severe winter conditions. A new winter storm is forecasted to bring additional snow and strong winds to eastern Oregon throughout the day. Road conditions may change at any time. Check TripCheck.com or call 511 / 800-977-6368 for updated information.

 

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Devin Goldman, on left, and Catie Brenaman, coordinators of the 12 Days of Giving campaign, #GSGivesBack, show off the 1,700 items donated as part of the holiday drive (Photo provided by Good Shepherd).

1700 items donated in 12 Days of Giving

A few weeks ago, the Good Shepherd Healthcare System launched its 12 Days of Giving campaign, #GSGivesBack. You heard about it here on your local radio stations as well as online and on social media and even in our local newspapers.
The totals are in, and the community donated 1,725 items as part of GSGivesBack.
"Since we gotten such a positive response, I think we're probably going to be doing it again next year, so for those of you who didn't get a chance to participate, we'll be doing it again next year," says Hospital Spokesman Nick Bejarano.
Bejarano called the community extremely generous while donating items from durable medical equipment to toys and bicycles.
The items include:
Approximately 1,725 items were collected which include:
26 Packages of Diapers
427 Non-Perishable Food Items
35 Misc, Items
125 Gloves/mittens
194 Books
24 Household Items
187 Personal Care Products
42 Pet Food
220 Pairs of Socks
5 Shoes
12 Gift Cards
4 Bikes
105 Hats
65 Toys
37 Blankets
52 Scarves
129 Clothing Items
18 Coats
6 Durable Medical Equipment
$155 Cash
8 Baby Supplies

All items were distributed to local nonprofit organizations Agape House,
Domestic Violence Services, Clearview Mediation Medical Loan Closet, Eastern Oregon Humane Society/Pet Rescue, Umatilla/Morrow WIC, Desert Rose Ministries, iCan Bike, Hermiston Warming Station, Friends of Hermiston/Umatilla/Stanfield Libraries, Christmas Express, Stanfield Food Basket

 

Sheriff speaks out against lab closure

Law enforcement from Umatilla and Morrow counties gathered this week to discuss how to combat one part of the governor’s budget.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s proposed budget cuts include shuttering the Oregon State Police crime lab in Pendleton and diverting evidence to Clackamas for processing.
Regional law enforcement looking at ways to make their case to keep Eastern Oregon’s only crime lab open. Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan says the officers had the same basic question: why isn’t law enforcement a priority.
"We definitely have some concerns about slow response times to crime scenes, slow processing of evidence," Rowan says. "What is the intention on mitigating those issues and making sure our needs are met - or at least addressed?"
Rural Oregon has had an experience dealing with those delays already thanks to a criminal case involving a lab technician who worked in both Pendleton and Bend. Nika Larsen’s theft of drugs and tampering with evidence sent cases to the Clackamas last winter and summer – where some are still pending results from as far back as February.
"It's about being efficient with a dollar and being able to prosecute cases that need to be. These delays can have significant impacts on our criminal justice system," the sheriff said.
Rowan says the Pendleton lab is now the only one serving Eastern Oregon. A lab in Ontario fell to previous cuts, and this isn’t the first time the Pendleton lab has faced the chopping block at the state level. If the Pendleton lab closes, evidence from Umatilla County could travel 200 miles one way to be processed – evidence cases in Malheur County from cities of Ontario or Nyssa would have to travel 400.
"There's just saying that to gain some efficiencies and save money, they want to close that lab. That doesn't make sense to us when it's such a huge part of the criminal justice system in Umatilla County, Union County, Baker County, etc."
Rowan says they plan to use the next several months to come up with solutions and work to keep the lab open. Rowan says the lab also needs an investment to bring it up to current standards.
The Umatilla County Commissioners and local political representatives have also come out against the proposed closure.

 

HHS students win Congressional honor

Three Hermiston High School students have won the congressional app challenge for Oregon’s District 2. Computer science students Jordan Liebe, Courtney Cash, and Marvin Hozi developed a “touch and talk” chrome app
The app helps give non-verbal students a way to communicate by allowing students to say common phrases used at school, like true/false or “may I have a pencil,” at the push of a button. The students explain the app through a youtube video.


Touch and Speak can be used with equipment recently purchased by Hermiston High School's special education teachers, through a grant from the Hermiston Ed Foundation
As part of the Congressional App challenge, 650 original student-created apps were submitted from 123 Congressional Districts across the country. The Hermiston students have been invited to showcase their app to members of Congress during a reception in April in Washington DC. To see a complete list of all the 2016 Congressional App Challenge winners, go to www.congressionalappchallenge.us .

 

Donors match funds for Farm-City Pro Rodeo

Two anonymous donors have agreed to match charitable donations to the Friends of the Fair and rodeo, - up to $200,000 dollars – to help complete the lights and needed seating for the Farm-City Pro Rodeo arena.
Each dollar donated to the Friends of the Fair and Rodeo will be matched by the donors, and The goal is to raise $400,000 to finish the lighting and seating before the 2017 rodeo.
For more information or to make a donation, you can contact Dennis Barnett, at 541-567-5215. Donations are tax deductible.

 

Christmas Tree brightens - again

The lights could be dark at the winter festival in front of City Hall this week.
The festival has offered a light show every Thrusday, Friday, and Saturday this month, but weather and damage from a snow plow may have ended the celebration early after a major electrical cord was severed..
Assistant city manager mark morgan says some of the lights are still working, and will be on in the evenings. Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter says the city has been replacing parts and will have the Christmas tree back on today - Tuesday, Dec. 20.
The light show was impacted by both freezing rain and now, rain melting and potential flooding. City staff is working on the lighting and could have the show back on for this weekend, but staff say it’s not a guarantee.
The tree, however, will illuminate downtown again through Christmas.

Fire Marshal cautions on electrical fires

Two home attic fires over the weekend – one in Echo on Friday and one in Hermiston on Saturday. No injuries reported in either fire, but smoke and water damage. Fire Marshal Tom Bohm says in attic fires, the cause is often electrical, especially in homes that have not had the electrical system upgraded.
Bohm says the electric system caused the fire in Hermiston on Saturday, and he says it's a good reminder to have an electrician visit your home because as time passes and we had more electronics, it can strain a home's electrical system. A good sign that it needs to happen soon is if you consistently trip breakers or if you know you can only run one thing at a time. For example, if you know running the TV and a blender at the same time will trip a breaker - you need to have it looked at.

Other holiday tips: make sure you do not add more than five strings of lights to a single outlet, and if your’e using a space heater, make sure it's plugged into the wall - not an extension cord or power strip. Bohm says the district has already had one fire this season caused by a space heater.

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Local News

Hermiston Schools unveil HHS plan

The Hermiston School District is floating ideas for a $104 bond to put on the ballot in May of 2017. Last week, the district finally unveiled its design plans for an expansion and renovation to Hermiston High School.
The plan utilizes the former fairgrounds to add an expanded wing – primarily science, ag and CTE classrooms – additional parking lots and a new Weber field.
“Weber Field’s been there for a long time,” says Mike Kay, districtc executive director of operations. “There’s a lot of great memories there and a lot of passion with that facility. The fact that we’re going to move it is going to be extremely tough because, as I said, it’s been there a long time.”
Kay says it will be a new field with new equipment and staff worked “at length” with baseball coaches and high school staff to finalize the location and how “appealing” the new filed will be. In addition to the new Weber field, the former fairgrounds will also house a new parking lot. Kay says parking is an “important piece” for Hermiston High School.
It’s going to add a tremendous amount of student parking on that norht side of the building, which will be a great relief to the high school,” Kay said. “If you’ve been around the high school at all, parking is pretty challenging during the school day.”
Kay says they are still working on a timeline for when buildings on the existing fairgrounds will be demolished and when construction would begin – if the bond is passed.