The Local News of Newberry Country


ODOT Scraps La Pine Overpass Project

By Andrea Hine, Staff Writer

The Bulletin’s unsparing front-page headline said it best. And the story that followed summed up the situation. “The Oregon Department of Transportation is preparing to abandon an attempt to build an overpass on U.S. Highway 97 in La Pine, after having spent $12.4 million of the $17 million allocated for the project.”

ODOT officials announced the news to a standing-room-only audience in La Pine’s City Hall. They also explained the reason for rapidly-sinking soils at the site, which had halted the project in May, and led geotechnical experts to conclude the overpass cannot be completed safely.

KTVZ reporter Jessie Foster reveals what audience members inside City Hall just learned: ODOT has decided to abandon the $17 million Wickiup Junction overpass project, due to rapidly sinking soils at the bottom of an ancient lake bed below the site that compromised its safety. Mayor Dennis Scott urged ODOT to explore other options, saying that “we really have to put this project forward, as it affects La Pine’s economic development.”

Investigations by ODOT and an outside consulting firm (which included removing soil samples from as deep as 280 feet below the surface) revealed the contents of an ancient lake, thought to have been formed when lava flows from the nearby Newberry Volcano dammed the Deschutes River. At its deep base, under layers of volcanic ash, pumice, sand and silt deposits, experts found intact silica skeletons from microscopic algae that lived in the lake and sank, forming a thick bed on the lake bottom thousands of years ago.

Under the weight of the project (250,000 cubic yards of soil), the resultant fracturing and compressing of the algae caused unpredictable settlement. “The overpass itself sunk six inches over the winter,” said ODOT district manager Bob Bryant, “with portions of the embankments sinking as much as 18 inches.” The cause of the unusual settlement was revealed only through advanced techniques such as the use of a scanning electron microscope and x-ray diffraction. “I’ve been building bridges for 30 years,” noted Bryant, “and have never encountered similar subterranean deposits.” ODOT will now explore “what happens next,” including further investigation of site conditions, evaluating options to salvage project materials, and repurposing the original funds. It will also examine other alternatives to achieve the original goals of the project, such as constructing a similar overpass near the one that was 80 percent completed.

Central Oregon Symphony Lends its Cellists to La Pine Library

Book borrowers paused, video renters took a break from perusing titles, and computer users lifted their hands from the keyboard as cello music filled the La Pine public library’s community room on a recent Saturday afternoon. The product of a partnership between the Central Oregon Symphony and two area library systems, “Music in Public Places” drew a crowd of several dozen attendees. The hour-long concert by the Bend Cello Collective featured music by composers ranging from Mozart to Michael Jackson.

The musicians (from left to right) – Amy Mitchell, Emma Chaput, Evan Sigvaldsen, Austin Lenahan, Janet Gesme and Leo Reincke – include a helicopter pilot, a science teacher, a marathon runner and speakers of German, Russian and Spanish.

“This was my grandmother’s idea,” admitted nine-year-old Braeden Poore, the youngest concert-goer. “But I’m happy that I came.” (Grandmother Annie Stiles, manager of the Outpost, was perpetuating a family tradition, having been introduced to classical music by her father when “I was just a little kid.”)

A second Central Oregon Symphony performance, also in the library’s community room and offered free of charge, will feature the Dove String Quartet. It takes place on November 4 at 2 p.m.

3,000-Square-Foot St. Vincent Expansion Underway

By Staff Writer

Jerry Moore (left), CEO of St. Vincent de Paul, noted that the thrift store currently has six volunteers and 14 paid employees – one of whom, Heather Looomis (right), was recently promoted to manager. “All of them live in La Pine, so the money goes right back into the community.”

“Sometimes out of habit, I want to go into the back of the building, but there’s no back to go into!” admitted CEO Jerry Moore, who is adjusting to construction efforts that will expand the St. Vincent de Paul facility by 3,000 square feet.

“What was the back has been torn down, and we’ll have a large drive-up covered area for donation drop-off and storage. Work is going along really well, including digging for the foundation and pouring the concrete. We’re actually a little ahead of schedule, and hope to finish by November.” Moore explained.

“This project culminates several years of talking, and only became possible after we obtained a significant amount of grant money,” he continued. “The efforts will include sidewalks, paving and landscaping in harmony with that of our next-door neighbor, Mid-Oregon Credit Union.”

Moore recalled that he first visited La Pine in 1988 when helping a friend drive up a truck and trailer. “I had such a good time that my wife didn’t think I was ever coming home.”

The couple – attracted by the change in climates throughout the year, as well as the area’s hunting and fishing – relocated here from Southern California in 1999. “We had been looking for a small town, with good, friendly people – characteristics that described La Pine then, and which describe it now.”

First becoming involved with St. Vincent through his church, Moore “got volunteered to serve on the board.” He then agreed to take on the job of CEO, “thinking I would stay in the position for a year. It’s going on nine years now.”

(Moore previously worked in management for General Telephone, now Verizon, and “had 440 people working for me. I traveled extensively to oversee the conversion to digital telephone technology – which was a big step in the communications industry.”)

Under Moore’s leadership, St. Vincent de Paul “has grown financially, as well as in size. We currently have six volunteers and 14 paid employees – one of whom, Heather Loomis, was recently promoted to manager. All of them live in La Pine, so the money goes right back into the community.”

Donations to the thrift store support the nonprofit’s social services component. “Under the direction of Jamie Smith, the only paid employee, it is run 99 percent by volunteers,” asserted Moore. “Its services include providing food, showers, propane, gasoline (to help people look for work), and even a dental van.”

Volunteers have always been a mainstay of the organization. “When the land and the building (which had been a carpet store) were purchased 7-8 years ago, the facility was renovated in only two months with the help of 75 volunteers,” he recalled.

Moore noted that “we really don’t blow our own horn, and prefer to stay low key. Our employees are very motivated – and we all do the best we can to serve the community.”