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home : letters : letters May 26, 2016

2/11/2014 12:43:00 PM
Letters to the Editor 02/12/2014

To the Editor:

I applaud the City of Sisters for having the courage to think big and to also think outside the purview of normal municipal efforts. I am encouraged by the bold and creative thinking that brought about the suggested Sisters amphitheater.

This is a longterm project of massive proportions and it is incumbent on all of our City leaders to engage in detailed analysis and microscopic due diligence to make sure that we are utilizing taxpayer funds in a reasonable and sound manner.

While some might have felt my comments at last Tuesday's community meeting were representative of a lack of support, my comments were meant to highlight what I believe has been a lack of proper research, due diligence and information gathering. It has seemed to me that there was not the level of understanding on what an operating model might look like and the magnitude of the investment in the long term.

It is clear from the experiences of Sedona and Jacksonville, that this requires a long-term mechanism of fundraising in order to ensure success. While there are opportunities for incremental revenue from other sources including an RV park, the level of detail on the expense side of the equation has tremendous holes.

I appreciate being in the weeds on decibel levels, would feel better if we were in the weeds on the operating model. Pulling the trigger on this without that level of understanding seems foolhardy.

There is one chance to get this right, and if this fails due to a lack of proper research and planning the City of Sisters will squander trust and goodwill and the opportunity for thinking big will be lost forever. The easiest and cheapest part is building it; the hardest and most expensive is making it work.

Lisa Clausen


To the Editor:

I attended the two meetings regarding building an amphitheater in Sisters, and was disturbed to hear so much negative input regarding a plan to increase tourism and bring revenue to Sisters.

The opinions ranged from concerns about parking to a view that Sisters is a town of retirees with deep pockets who want things to remain as are. There was no input from younger people who are trying to live in Sisters and provide for their families in order to attend the schools we value so much or to be able to work here in a family-wage job.

Through all the negativism there was no positive support for efforts to build an economic development plan that supports tourism as well as traded-sector growth. The amphitheater is just one step that is viable. The purchase price of the land is very attractive, and at least it's a plan to develop a non-tax-based revenue source. Why bash it from the start and not give city officials a chance to determine if they can deliver.

Over and over, towns have been successful when they pull together to make things happen. We can assume that the pillars of our tourism success-the Rodeo, the Quilt Show, and the Folk Festival-will be around forever. However, that may not be the case; and if we chose to sit on our laurels and bash every idea for development and change, traffic will continue to pass us by for the greener pastures of Bend, Redmond and Prineville.

Please, pull together and support the amphitheater project.

David Childress


To the Editor:

Perhaps the greatest challenge to thinking out of the box is defining the box itself. If one doesn't understand or won't recognize the box they are in, what chance do they have to effectively think out of it. This is the problem I see facing Sisters.

Economically, Sisters is in a box. Granted, it is a beautiful box filled with wonderful vistas, good schools and caring citizens. Unfortunately, this box does not generate enough living-wage jobs to sustain itself. So, what is the box? It's a six-month tourist economy trying to support year-round merchants. It's a boom-to-bust economy on an annual cycle.

The challenge for the out-of-box thinkers is to find ways to expand the tourist season and attract new businesses that will provide living wage jobs without damaging the box itself. This brings me to the proposed amphitheater. This proposal is totally within the box. It contributes nothing to the November-May economic doldrums. It will create few, if any, living-wage jobs and will overburden an already-maxed-out infrastructure during the summer months.

Dreaming is no substitute for fiscally responsible creative thinking. Some dreams are just nightmares.

Philip Gerber


To the Editor:

At the meeting last night (Tuesday, February 4) at Sisters High School, the specter of "it's commercial property that Walmart could build a store on if they wanted" was raised. But since they're a business, they wouldn't of course because they know the local population isn't big enough for a Walmart.

As presented, the amphitheater will be a business too, essentially a concert business, else it can't pay for itself. Numbers that describe number of dates, likely attendance, $$ for tickets, parking spaces, etc. are spreadsheet cells. The living, breathing business that will lie underneath them, will be, well, living and breathing. The concert business is not an easy business.

We are not Jacksonville. They have Ashland, interstate access from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, and a thriving live theater business that attracts overnighters and family overnighters. And they have a thriving wine business in the area. We can realistically draw folks from Bend, Redmond and environs including Black Butte but most of the other traffic that comes through here, does just that-comes through here. I think we need to hear more about who will run that business, what their track record is, and why they think they can succeed at it. I can tell you from a fair amount of publishing experience that filling out a spreadsheet with estimates is a lot easier than coming up with product that lives up to those numbers.

In general Sisters is a great destination for Bend and Redmond families who are into hiking and enjoying the out-of-doors, even in winter, of which we have a fair amount. Maybe start with a great eco-friendly family-oriented park that Bend and Redmond families would enjoy coming to. Then decide as we live with it whether we want to make a concert amphitheater one of its attractions.

David Grady


To the Editor:

I have attended both public meetings of the City Council during which the amphitheater project was presented, listening closely to the presentations, the thoughtful comments of many citizens, and reviewing the additional information provided by David Asson.

It does not appear to me that the City will meet its own goals by providing an outdoor facility for up to 3,350 people at 25 performances a year open from May to October along with a park and an RV park.

Is it a positive for the City to undertake development of the property in question? Perhaps. The planned park is very attractive. The RV park provides modest income and a second in-town option for RV-ing visitors.

Will the amphitheater project meet the Council goal of increasing business for downtown merchants? Perhaps, but that is not assured. To think that many amphitheater patrons will spend lots of time downtown, even if they have to park there, is an assumption that should not drive this costly project.

Is summer the season businesses need help? As one business owner noted publicly and others have stated, "it is during the winter months that we need help, not during the summer months." A focus on projects that would enhance visitors to town during the winter months would be of more use. An open-air amphitheater would not be the answer!

Will the project provide new living-wage jobs for Sisters as the council claims? Not likely. Most of the jobs created will be part-time seasonal jobs. A good number will be minimum-wage jobs.

Is the amphitheater project financially feasible as planned? One council member, CPA David Asson, thinks not. The council has heard, but has not acknowledged that some of the examples of amphitheaters they cite are not financially successful. A similar project in Sedona, AZ, has failed. The well-known Britt Festival in Jacksonville requires significant on-going fundraising. The council believes but has not proved that the proposed project will generate enough income to cover interest on loans (debt service), let alone produce enough income to cover its operating expenses.

I hope that citizens stay involved; that the council can step back from their enthusiasm and see some of the downsides to this proposal, and understand that people who question or do not believe the amphitheater should be built are not the enemy.

Pat Kearney


To the Editor:

In a recent opinion column the Sisters City Council spoke about the "duty" and "obligation" of elected government to communicate with its citizens.

In light of the current Mozart Project that gives every appearance to be city-driven, I call on each individual councilor to live up to the words in that editorial and clearly communicate their own position and the reasons behind it.

If you believe an amphitheater is right (or wrong) for our town, then tell us so, and spell out the reasons that you think as you do. Your constituents deserve to know exactly where you stand. A story in The Nugget that communicates this information would be most helpful.

Ed Protas


To the Editor:

It is difficult to believe that an outdoor amphitheater operating May through October would create much in the way of value to the community during a season when we do quite well anyway.

What are they thinking? Or not thinking....

Elected officials should certainly heed the will of their people.

Ginny Smith


To the Editor:

Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (SOQS), now in its 39th year, is a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and inspire about the art of quilting and to support the school and community and community groups of Sisters and Central Oregon.

As the new Executive Director, I've been making presentations to area service and community groups. The questions I am asked tell me we need to better educate the public how we serve the Sisters community:

• Since 2007, SOQS has donated back to the community an average of $18,000.00 a year to groups such as SHS Nordic Team, Track Team, Soccer Team; Sisters Family Access, Sisters Park & Rec. District, Sisters Rotary Scholarship Fund, the Humane Society of Central Oregon, and Wendy's Wish/St. Charles Foundation to name a few.

• Our more than 100 local business sponsors' dollars stay in Sisters and help to attract 10,000 visitors who shop, eat, sleep, and play here.

• Our 2009 economic survey reveals that 50% of Quilt Show attendees are out-of-state visitors. 96 percent of the attendees have permanent residences out of the area.

• Visitors who come for Quilt Week spend an average of $91 per day.

• The economic impact of the Quilt Show Week is $1.7 million dollars - spending by visitors who would not come to Sisters if Quilt Show did not exist - and the equivalent to 26 full-time jobs.

There are dozens of nonprofits in our community registered with the state. Like SOQS, these nonprofits generate and spend money that stays in our community.

We are grateful to have such wide-ranging partnerships with our community. We look forward to working with those businesses and organizations to help bring visitors back to Sisters again and again, which, in turn invigorates our community's economic vitality.

Jeanette Pilak

Executive Director


To the Editor:

The intersection at Main and Locust is a mess because the City ripped up the sidewalk and curb improvements that were made just a few years ago. This was the result of a dispute between the Marlows and the City.

The Nugget reported City Manager Andrew Gorayeb said: "We offered the Marlows the appraised value of their strip of property, $40,900 less the improvement reimbursement of $12,500." The Marlows declined. Had it accepted the City would have paid $28,400 to settle the dispute and would have owned the strip of land with the improvements necessary to make the intersection safe for vehicles and pedestrians; a very good deal for the City and its residents.

The City lost the lawsuit and, per The Nugget, the court awarded the Marlows $634 for trees that were cut down, a $550 prevailing party fee, $2,131 for fees and disbursements, and $30,000 for their attorney's fees - a total award to the Marlows of $33,315. This is more than if they had accepted the City's offer and they still own the property!

The City's offer should have been much closer to $40,900 to buy the strip of land from the Marlows, plus the $12,500 value of the improvements, plus something to defend the lawsuit; assume $10,000. This means a good settlement offer would have been at or around $63,400. This amount likely would have avoided the cost of defending a lawsuit it lost, and the City would have owned the property and improvements.

Now we have an intersection that is a mess and must be fixed. Sometime soon the City needs to buy the Marlow property and re-install the improvements that it just removed. This will cost approximately $53,500 on top of the $33,315 awarded to the Marlows. The intersection is not safe. Why didn't the City increase its offer to the Marlows to avoid trial? What would cause the City to destroy something that had considerable value?

Please correct me if I'm missing something. If not, then we have a mess on Main Avenue because the City has been unreasonable.

Mike Morgan


To the Editor:

Randy Miller For Deschutes County Judge.

Courage and integrity are found in one's beliefs, but are exhibited through one's actions. Those actions embody character. As founders of the internationally recognized nonprofit Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, we are proud to say that Randy Miller has been quietly demonstrating his great character by helping the organization to provide a safe place for thousands of children, horses and families to experience hope, healing and encouragement.

Randy started with the Ranch in 1997 after serving his country as a U.S. Marine combat veteran and this community as a police officer.

Randy serves today as the organization's attorney. We know Randy well. In addition to his intelligence and proven legal ability, Randy has excellent judgment, leadership, work ethic, a steadfast moral compass, and a deep passion for families, starting with his own.

There's no question that Randy Miller is qualified to be our newest judge. What separates Randy Miller from other candidates is that he understands and truly cares for all people no matter their demographic or situation, and has the courage, integrity and desire to perform this duty for his community very well. We will vote for Randy Miller this May.

We encourage others to do the same.

K. Troy and Kim Meeder,

Founders, Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch

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