Year in Review: January, February, March

97 points

New hospital addition opens, Jan. 8, 2020

ENTERPRISE — The new addition to Wallowa Memorial Hospital’s clinic building is complete and open for business.

“We built it to improve people’s access to health care,” hospital CEO Larry Davy said. “The Affordable Care Act and our very liberal financial assistance policy has allowed more and more people to access health care on a regular basis. That put quite a strain on our existing facilities, which were designed for the old ways of so many being uninsured.”

“We are doing so much more than we used to,” Davy said, “… managing chronic disease, providing mental health care and those types of things. We just ran out of room.”

Police build relationships at lunch with kids, Jan. 15, 2020

ENTERPRISE — Visibility and developing positive relationships were on the minds of area law enforcement officers who visited and ate lunch with kindergarten through sixth-grade students at Enterprise Elementary School for National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on Thursday, Jan. 9.

Officers representing the city of Enterprise, Wallowa County and Oregon State Police joined the kids for lunch and to receive artwork made by the students expressing students’ appreciation to the lawmen.

“This is fun,” Wallowa County Sheriff Steve Rogers said. “We’re making sure young people know that especially in an emergency they can call 911 — in an emergency. Little kids may have a tendency to think they can call to get help with their arithmetic, but it’s for an emergency.”

Enterprise Schools Superintendent Erika Pinkerton agreed.

“The kids are saying thanks,” she said. “The kids respect police officers and we want to continue to enhance that.”

Joseph Charter carries on after fire, Jan. 22, 2020

JOSEPH — After weathering a major fire and its consequences, Joseph Charter School is putting things back together. Classes will resume on Monday, Jan. 27 according to Superintendent Lance Homan.

“We are not sure of the timing to return to the upper classrooms,” Homan said. “Grades 5 and 6 may have to have classes off campus for awhile, but we’d like to keep grades 5 to 12 on campus when classes start up next week.”

The elementary school, or lower level for grades K-4 should be cleaned up and ready for students by Monday.

“We are taking every precaution during this restoration process,” Homan said. “So when we give the OK to resume classes in the building, it will be a safe, clean place for students and everyone.”

The classroom damage was mainly the consequence of smoke and particles spread by the fire in the gym and mechanical room. The cleanup crews have assured Homan that when students come back a lot of it will be repainted, and everything will look brand new.

Eagle Cap Extreme lives up to its name, Jan. 29, 2020

WALLOWA COUNTY — The 16th annual Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race in Wallowa County lived up to its name this year with a record number of racers (40). Half of the entrants were women and more than half of the finishers were women. Racers came from across the western U.S. and from Europe.

Gabe Dunham, of Darby, Montana, was first across the finish line in the premier 200-mile race. She took third in the race in 2019, but this was her year to claim the top trophy and $1,700 prize money. Her time of 32 hours, 10 minutes was a fast time for the event, though not quite a record. After her ECX win, Dunham is headed for Montana’s Race to the Sky and then will compete in this year’s Iditarod.

“We (the dogs and Dunham) have trained for a long time for this,” Dunham said. “We’re ready.”

Josi Thyr, of Olney, Montana, crossed the finish line just 11 minutes after Dunham.

“I could see Josi’s lights behind me,” Dunham said. “And I thought to myself I haven’t trained this hard and come this far to lose the race.”

Wallowa Memorial Hospital receives a five-star accolade, Feb. 5, 2020

ENTERPRISE — Superlatives seem almost routine for the Wallowa Memorial Hospital these days.

Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded it a coveted five-star rating for quality care. In Oregon, only OHSU, and eight others, including WMH, received five-star recognition. Providence St. Mary’s in Walla Walla also received a five star rating.

The hospital’s five-star rating is based upon seven aspects of quality, including safety of care, effectiveness of care, and timeliness of care. Data for the rankings were collected between July 2015 and December 2018. Wallowa Memorial Hospital is one of the smallest and most rural hospitals among the 407 facilities nationwide to receive a 5-star rank, and the only rural hospital in Oregon to be awarded the top rating. The CMS report rated 4,586 hospitals across the country. The ranking places WMH in the top 9%.

Edelweiss Inn’s future looking bleak, Feb. 12, 2020

WALLOWA LAKE VILLAGE —People in Wallowa County have long hoped that the iconic Edelweiss Inn at Wallowa Lake could be restored. But it’s looking less and less like such a miracle will occur.

“The cost is what’s making that thing impossible to restore. It would be a virtual rebuild,” co-owner Mike Lockhart said. “It would be a fairly major job.”

He said work is needed on the century-old building’s foundation, roof, flooring and nearly everything in between.

Wheat farmer finally able to move on, Feb. 19, 2020

ALDER SLOPE — Wheat farmer Erl McLaughlin has finally gotten a settlement for his unharvested crop after fretting through the fall and early winter and wondering what the next growing season will bring.

McLaughlin, who farms 550 acres on Alder Slope, was unable to harvest 412 acres of dark northern spring wheat because of the high moisture content caused by a wet fall.

Insured under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Multi-Peril Crop Insurance program, McLaughlin said he kept thorough documentation from late September that showed weather and crop conditions that he was able to present to the USDA office in Spokane, Washington. As a result, he was able to get the settlement in late January.

Though declining to state the exact amount, he said the settlement staved off total disaster.

Chamber honors distinguished residents, Feb. 26, 2020

ENTERPRISE — About 200 people showed up Sunday, Feb. 23, to applaud the recipients of nine awards bestowed on members of the Wallowa County community at the 40th annual Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet at the Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise.

Kellee Sheehy served as master of ceremonies for the gathering, explaining the Wizard of Oz theme of “there’s no place like home” as particularly appropriate to the county.

“We have everything we’ve always wanted here,” she said. “You don’t have to go somewhere … where there’s a Walmart.”

Among the awards bestowed was the new Leader in Health Care award. The award was new this year, and honored three physicians for their roles in instigating, developing, providing high-quality health care in the county.

500 and counting — Enterprise coach accomplishes major milestone, March 4, 2020

ENTERPRISE — Mike Crawford used the word “blessed” several times in describing his basketball coaching career, one that at Enterprise High School has spanned 31 seasons, 758 games and — after last Saturday’s 40-38 overtime thriller over Heppner at the Blue Mountain Conference tournament — 500 victories.

The blessings, though, stem more from the hundreds of athletes he has worked with since the start of the 1989-90 season, his first leading the EHS girls basketball program.

Crawford, 61 at the time of the victory, joined an elite group in the state of Oregon with the latest milestone win, as he is just the seventh girls basketball coach in state history to win 500 games, and the fourth to win that many at one school.

Along the way, he’s guided the program to numerous state tournament trophies, including a championship in 1996, had players who now help him on the sidelines as assistant coaches and even has second generations of families who have played for him.

Teenage vaping small but growing trend in Wallowa County, March 11, 2020

WALLOWA COUNTY — Vaping among young people has reached epidemic proportions both in Oregon and the U.S. according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And this new, high-tech method of inhaling nicotine and other substances seems to be a growing problem in Wallowa County as well.

In Wallowa County, schools ban both smoking and vaping on school grounds and at school activates. But within the past three months, several students and student-athletes have reportedly been involved in vaping at athletic events. Despite the ban on kid-friendly vaping flavors, Mandy Decker, Director of Juvenile Services for Wallowa County, sees vaping as a growing problem.

Just like smoking tobacco, vaping delivers nicotine to the user. Hence, other concerns cited by the CDC include the negative effects of nicotine on the developing adolescent brain, the presence of heavy metals, including nickel, tin and lead in the aerosols inhaled, and the presence of known carcinogens in the same fluids. Flavorings can also trigger serious lung disease.

Enterprise students spark Holocaust, hate speech awareness, March 18, 2020

ENTERPRISE — It wasn’t just the swastika drawn in the moist dust on Deedee Duncan’s car. Or the burning swastika ignited on the ground at a student bonfire. But these incidents, compounded by racist and misogynistic statements in and around Enterprise High School, convinced seniors Duncan and Tishrei Movich-Fields that they had to do something.

The two 18-year-olds transformed their concerns into an outstanding Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) project that has raised awareness in their classmates and is motivating the school to provide more education about the power of speech and the consequences of hate.

Tishrei and her family are members of Wallowa County’s Jewish community. Duncan is a longtime family friend.

“It was really worrisome,” Movich-Fields said. “We realized that the students probably didn’t really understand what the swastika symbol meant and how threatening it is, or how hurtful the other things they said were. And so we decided to do our senior FCCLA project on helping students understand what that all this means and why it’s not a joke.”

Ribich, Brooks combine for EHS and Wallowa County track, cross-country teams, March 25, 2020

ENTERPRISE — Just because Enterprise High School 2014 graduate and rising global track star David Ribich became a professional runner for Brooks Sports, Inc., doesn’t mean he forgot his Outlaw heritage. In fact, he made it a condition of his Brooks’ contract that his high school alma mater share in his good fortune, as well.

“The ability of a company to pursue my off-track goals were equally important as my on-track goals,” Ribich wrote in a statement he sent to his mom, Jenny Reinheardt. “Brooks jumped at the idea to give back to the roads that raised me and help a community I feel so strongly about. I hope that for the duration of my career a partnership from my sponsor and EHS can occur.”

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