How Prineville got wired

A decade ago, the small Central Oregon town of Prineville was left out of a new fiber optic loop and lacked the reliable high-speed Internet connections necessary to attract the data centers now popping up there.

See my story here on how Prineville got connected to the fiber optic network. With my colleagues Dylan Darling and Duffie Taylor, I also looked at how data centers’ draw on resources – power, water, fiber optic lines – will impact the region in the future. Find that story here.

Deschutes County mental health services aim for better access after oversight agency warning

Deschutes County is expanding mental health services after being warned it could lose money if it didn’t improve access to care.

In February, the county was placing people who requested routine mental health care on a callback list. Patients who were going through mental health crises got help immediately, but the waiting list to schedule routine care grew to more than 100 people by the beginning of February, according to records obtained by The Bulletin through a public records request.

Some patients waited 30 to 60 days for someone to call them back and schedule an appointment, said Jeff Emrick, program support manager for Deschutes County Health Services.

This raised concerns at the agency that oversees the state and federal funds the county had been getting. The Accountable Behavioral Health Alliance, or ABHA, realized the county was not meeting the state’s requirement to provide patients covered by the Oregon Health Plan with prompt access to mental health care.

Read the rest of my story here.

Increase in building permits encourages officials, but some are still cautious

During the long and painful decline in Deschutes County’s construction industry, local officials have learned to treat any positive economic signs with caution.

So the news this week that July was the best month for home-building activity in rural county areas in nearly three years got a lukewarm reception. It’s too soon to tell whether the numbers are a fluke, but the city of Bend has noticed an increase in home building for several months.

Read the rest of my story here, or check out the AP version on The Register-Guard website.

State bar questions DA, suggests release of personal information not against law

The Oregon State Bar said Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty was incorrect when he said the release of personal information about his employees broke the law.

In a June 9 letter to Flaherty, Susan Roedl Cournoyer, the state bar’s assistant disciplinary counsel, also suggested Flaherty’s actions — regarding a grand jury he convened in February to investigate the matter — violated state bar rules against conflicts of interest and “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

Read the rest of the story here.

I’m in the capital this week, covering stories such as this:

State health plan draws union fire

Commissioner seeks 20% cut in district attorney’s salary

Here is the AP version of my story, from The Register-Guard website:

BEND — A Deschutes County commissioner wants to cut District Attorney Patrick Flaherty’s salary by 20 percent on grounds the prosecutor is wasting taxpayer money for a grand jury investigation into the way the county handled a public records request by The Bulletin newspaper.

Commissioner Tony DeBone said reducing the district attorney’s salary will help offset the cost of the investigation, The Bulletin reported.

To view the rest of the story, click here.

Grand jury inquiry costs mount

The costs of a grand jury inquiry into the release of Deschutes County district attorney’s records are mounting as the investigation enters its third week.

County officials are preparing to hire an outside attorney to advise them on the investigation because they believe their legal department is the target of the grand jury. Meanwhile, county staff spent 87 hours gathering records they were ordered to provide to the grand jury last week, according to information the county released Tuesday.

Continue reading the story here.