News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Letters to the Editor - 3/10/2021

To the medical staff, National Guard service members and hundreds of ordinary citizens who are volunteering to help vaccinate our residents against COVID-19 during this pandemic: Thank you. You are performing a vital role in our community. At the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, the process was efficient, painless and the people all helpful and upbeat, from the greeters at the entrance who made polite inquiries and gave us directions upon our arrival through the fellow who did a dance while waving us to the exits.

Let’s get this done.

Michael Wells

To the Editor:

I read with great interest, and heartily support your aspirations as made plain in, your editorial on page 2 in the March 3 Nugget. Everything you say about Sisters’ major events — the rodeo, the quilt show, and the folk festival — is most certainly true.

I take issue with only one aspect of your proposal. At this time, at the close of the winter virus season, I don’t believe the citizens of Sisters should be petitioning our county or state governance institutions for permission to resume our lives. Rather, I believe the City Council should engage the community in a conversation to examine the current state of the science and the data, and the risks associated with returning to the events that so characterize our community’s relationships with the outside world each year, to determine how we should conduct ourselves this year with regard to those events.

In Article 1, Section 1 of the Oregon constitution, it says this:

“Natural rights inherent in people. We declare that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.”

In Section 26, it says this: “Assemblages of people; instruction of representatives; application to legislature. No law shall be passed re-straining any of the inhabitants of the State from assembling together in a peaceable manner to consult for their common good; nor from instructing their Representatives; nor from applying to the Legislature for re-dress of greviances [sic].”

These rights are clearly unconditioned. It seems to me that the citizens of Sisters, through the voice of their elected City Council, after considering all of the science and current health of the community, in all of its aspects, should simply tell the public and “instruct our representatives” as to what the City of Sisters intends to do with regard to its community life going forward.

If any entity chooses to take issue with those decisions, let them bring evidence to the City Council that other decisions would be more appropriate. Many of us in the community are prepared to help the Council sort through the confusion of conflicting information as part of the conversation.

As Article 1, Section 26 says, we, the citizens of Sisters, should be “assembling together in a peaceable manner to consult for [our] common good,” and “instructing our representatives.”

The decisions about the City’s major events are for the citizens of Sisters to make. Those who assert otherwise must support their claims. As a colleague of mine once said, “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

Charlie Stephens

To the Editor:

We need our schools to be teaching children in person, full time, five days a week. This is critical for the educational and social development of our children.

As a parent of a fourth grader, and concerned citizen of the local community in general, I attended the recent “coffee meeting” on March 3 with Sisters Schools Superintendent Curt Scholl, to express my concerns about the schools still being only on a partial in-person schedule. The general consensus among national educational leaders seems to indicate school children are suffering in both scholastic performance and emotional health due to lack of in-person education. Currently, students in Sisters Elementary School are attending in-person four days a week, while the middle-school and high-school students are attending in-person two days a week.

Superintendent Scholl indicated the middle and high schools are on a hybrid schedule, where half of the students go two days a week, the other half a different two days. This is due to regulatory mandates, which dictate a certain space requirement per student in classrooms. He also indicated that the State of Oregon was not very informative in providing the logic and science on how this spacing was determined, or when and how the mandates would be modified. I have found articles where many medical professionals indicate a hybrid attendance schedule has more potential to spread communicable viruses than full-time school attendance.

Superintendent Scholl indicated that the district goal is to have all students on a normal five-day in-person schedule as soon as possible. He suggested that current regulatory mandates are largely preventing this. However, I was less convinced that the district doesn’t have the ability to return the elementary school back to a normal five-day schedule immediately.

As a society, we are constantly required to evaluate future actions based on risk vs. benefit. Currently, the rate of increase for new COVID-19 cases is rapidly dropping, teachers have been vaccinated, and the district has procedures to minimize spread of infections within the schools. Risk is much lower. The benefit of educating our children is great. Let’s get our schools back to a normal schedule.

In the meeting with the Superintendent, it was suggested that public activism was a good method to get those in responsible roles to change course. I recommended that if you feel Sisters schools should get back to a normal five-day a week in-person schedule, voice your opinion.

Steve Barlow

To the Editor:

I hear people asking if the Cloverdale Fire District (CFD) operating levy is worth the cost. Everyone will have to weigh that for themselves, but it helps if you know what you are getting for the price.

Currently, the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District (SCSFD) provides ambulance service to roughly 800 square miles throughout Sisters Country, which includes CFD. This is done with enough paid staffing for only one ambulance at minimum. A second ambulance is able to be staffed using students or volunteers in addition to paid staff, but there are often times when the students and volunteers aren’t available.

If the one ambulance is already on a call (a Hoodoo call or crash on the pass can take an ambulance out of service for three to four hours) and a second (or even third) call comes in when there isn’t enough staffing, it is a scramble to respond and you might be getting an ambulance from much further away.

The CFD levy would help solve this problem by placing a second fully staffed ambulance in CFD. This is a benefit to all of Sisters Country as it adds another emergency medical resource which will be a part of a cooperative service model.

The CFD levy is only paying a portion of the cost for staffing this ambulance which makes it a great value for the price. This levy will result in a staffing agreement with SCSFD while still maintaining CFD as a separate entity.

Costs will be shared proportionally between the two districts with CFD paying a smaller share in proportion to their call volume and staffing (among other factors). The cost of this levy is far less than if CFD tried to do it on their own.

The data shows the current model is not sustainable into the future. Volunteers are increasingly difficult to recruit and train, and CFD is lacking enough volunteer officers to provide supervision on all nights and weekends. This requires the current CFD staff to often cover those gaps. With CFD’s call volume increasing 27 percent over five years, CFD is burning out its current staff.

This trend indicates the need for additional staffing. This levy provides that staffing at a comparatively low price and helps sustain, and even improve, the excellent service currently provided to the citizens of CFD for now and into the future.

Contact Chief Olsen at 541-389-2345 if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or kudos.

Damon Frutos


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