News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Team offers update on community vision

At their quarterly meeting on April 5, the Vision Implementation Team (VIT) took a first look at how to go about adding new topics and strategies to the Vision Plan as evolving issues arise.

There was a great deal of discussion regarding how to address houselessness in the Vision Plan, and where the strategies should go within the plan. The suggestion was made to invite locals who are working with the homeless and Cheyenne Purrington, the Deschutes County and participating cities’ houseless strategies and solutions director, to the next quarterly VIT meeting in June to report on what’s being done in Deschutes County and Sisters.

It was also noted that an area not addressed in the Vision Plan is local agriculture, a situation the team would like to remedy.

Angela Saraceno, the community partnerships officer with St. Charles Health System, has joined the team as the Under 35 representative. In another change, the Chamber of Commerce has removed itself from the team and will be represented by EDCO’s (Economic Development of Central Oregon) Eric Strobel. The team approved adding Explore Sisters, the destination management organization (DMO), and its executive director, Scott Humpert to the team.

Attendees at the meeting provided work plan updates for the strategies of the Vision Plan for which they are the lead partner.

Ian Reid of the U.S. Forest Service reported they are looking for funding to create a multi-use path from Village Green Park to the Peterson Ridge Trail. They are working with the Sisters Trail Alliance on modification of the Whychus Overlook. Many of the strategies are aimed at livability.

Community Development Director Scott Woodford said work continues with Northwest Housing Alternatives to reach agreement regarding the workforce housing apartments slated for Heavenly Acres. Several Development Code updates regarding zoning went before Council for approval. The East Portal Master Plan is ready for approval by the City Council on April 26.

Woodford reported that the land on the northeast corner of the Barclay roundabout, which is intended for a park, has been deeded to the City by Sisters Woodlands. The dark skies ordinance needs to be updated. The City is working on wildfire resiliency and defensible space.

Engineering of the Adams Avenue streetscape is completed, and now funding sources must be identified. City staff will also be looking at short-term rental and vacation homes policies.

Nancy Connolly, standing in for Explore Sisters, explained how the DMO provides direct management of the visitor experience. It came out of the spirit of the vision, she said. The DMO should have a contract in place this month to develop a branding strategy. There is a possibility of securing a RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) intern to assist Humpert. Their strategies address the “prosperous and connected” parts of the Vision.

Curt Scholl, Sisters School District superintendent, told the group that work was being done on repurposing the current elementary school. A feasibility study was conducted to determine the building’s suitability for possible use by Sisters Park & Recreation District. The districts subsequently announced that they are moving forward with turning that site into an SPRD recreation center (see story, page 1).

When Scholl arrived in Sisters eight years ago, the graduation rate at the high school was 80 percent. He announced that in the last four years it has reached 90-94 percent. The flight instruction program is now being offered at the Bend Airport. There are repairs that need to be made to the flight simulator that will require about $10,000 to get it recertified. New machinery for the luthier program has been purchased that enables guitar faces to be made in less time. Some of the students are also able to make snowboards.

Fire Chief Roger Johnson said the state risk map is now called a hazard map and should be released at the end of 2023. It will not be allowed to be used by insurance companies to cancel policies. Johnson explained that rate increases are due to losses companies have paid. When claims for losses increase, insurance rates go up. He announced a May 11 town hall forum at Sisters Fire Hall regarding resiliency planning.

The fire department is working with the USFS, University of Oregon Hazard Lab, AT&T, and a private property owner to install an Alert Wildfire detection camera on the Camp Sherman cell tower. Funding for the project has been secured.

Eric Strobel of EDCO reported that much work is underway on several “prosperous” strategies. An industrial trade group/association is being developed to provide relevant information to local businesses regarding services that exist locally, legislation, education and grant opportunities, space availability, and worker housing availability. The group will be able to support and provide mentorship to new and prospective businesses.

Two traded-sector businesses in the food and beverage or craft sector have been recruited. A Sisters EDCO board is being formed.


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