By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

It’s not yet official policy, but a wireless telecom fee in Keizer could be sent to voters if councilors vote on second reading to institute one.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nationwide group with an Oregon chapter, will ask city councilors to refer the issue to voters, according to its spokesman.
If not, said Oregon AFP spokesman Matt Evans, the group would work to “collect a sufficient number of signatures to give voters in the city of Keizer the opportunity to weigh in on the idea.

“I think it’s fair to say that AFP is going to attend the next council meeting where this issue is discussed,” Evans said. “We’re going to appeal to the council … If they feel the need for this tax to be implemented, we believe they should refer it directly to the ballot and allow the voices of Keizer voters to be heard on the issues rather than just implementing it.”

The Keizer City Council last week gave themselves the authority to institute a tax on wireless telecommunications companies operating within the city of Keizer. The primary target is cell phone users. Because the wireless telecommunications companies do not pay franchise fees as a wired telephone firm like Qwest does, some city staff argue expenses for 911 and public safety communications are outpacing revenue from the state’s 911 fee fund. This requires general fund monies to be spent on communications services, which City Manager Chris Eppley and some city councilors have argued causes the police department and other general fund-reliant areas to suffer.

Councilor David McKane was the only vote against the new fees at last week’s council meeting. He questions whether all the money raised by a cell phone fee would go towards public safety, instead of diverting general fund dollars currently spent on police elsewhere.

“It’s kind of like a bait and switch,” McKane said. “That left me really uncomfortable when when I brought it up at the meeting – the city manager’s answer didn’t give me warm and fuzzies.”