The city and the Keizer Heritage Foundation are headed for a collision unless they can come to an agreement on the foundation’s lease of the ground its building—the Keizer Heritage Center—sits on.

The Heritage Foundation raised money in the late 1980s to save the original Keizer School.  After the construction of Schoolhouse Square Shopping Center, the building sat forlorned behind the center.  The community came together and raised money—from pennies to sizable donations— with help from the city to relocate the building its to present site and to rehabilitate the structure into a community center. The center is the city’s only historic building that serves a public service.

If the current lease is not renewed the city can take over control of the heritage building.  That would be a troubling chain of events if it came to pass.

If the city did take control of the building one wonders how they would pay for its operation and maintenance.  The Keizer Heritage Foundation has used revenues from tenant rents and rental of the conference room to pay for day-to-day operations as well as adding money to the sinking fund that pays for big maintenance projects.

Some officials seek larger space for the Keizer Museum; others want more space for the Keizer Community Library.  Those are nifty goals but to reach them a lot of different pieces have to fall into place.  Some say there will be plenty of space once the Keizer Chamber of Commerce moves into new quarters at the transit center in Keizer Station, but that is not yet a done deal and can not be counted on for a few years.  Others say the conference space on the second floor can be used as museum space mingled with reading and computer space for the library.  Everyone has an idea of how to use the heritage center.

The things the city wanted the heritage foundation to focus on in return for a quarter million dollar gift were education, history and culture.  All three have been accomplished and the Heritage Center has flourished.  The Keizer Heritage Museum is operated by a group of dedicated volunteers that plays host to school children and drop-in visitors with an interest in local history.  The Keizer Art Association, a paying tenant, offers art classes, monthly exhibits and public receptions.  The Keizer Community Library is the little engine that could; it started as a children’s library and has long since outgrown its space.

The Heritage Center offers its conference room on the second floor to community groups at a discount.

We don’t see how anyone can say the foundation has not fulfilled its mission—it has, and then some.  In our view the city should be thankful there are dedicated people who oversee the center and its tenants, who are generous with their time and take their duties seriously.  The city should offer a long-term lease and say “Thank you for doing a great job with the heritage center.”

Our hope is that the city and the Heritage Foundation will be able to come to an agreement on how to keep the center a viable and important part of Keizer’s life. The foundation done that quite well.

The city will have to make a good case for taking over the ownership and management of the building especially when budgets will be tight into the foreseeable future. When the city faces other issues such as unfilled police department positions and fluoridation in our water, taking over the Heritage Center shouldn’t be a priority. Which tenants will stay, move or receive reconfigured space is a discussion that should be left to the foundation and the groups that rent space.  Keizer Heritage Foundation has done nothing but good things for the residents of Keizer.  The city of Keizer needs to recognize that and turn its focus to other issues.

—LAZ

(Disclosure:  LAZ was elected to the Heritage Foundation Board in September, 2010.)