Day: February 25, 2011

PROGRESS REPORT: Keizer Food Bank taps new leader

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes A few years ago, when Paul Morgan was just the director of the John Knox Food Bank, he was told by someone that he needed to think bigger – outside the box. So he did. In the intervening time, connections he fostered with other churches paved the way for a larger space at Faith Lutheran Church and brought the the force of six churches and other communities to bear on the mission of eradicating hunger in the Keizer area. “We said, ‘We hear your hunger and we’re here to alleviate it,’” Morgan said. The combined forces of the churches and other community volunteers allowed the food bank to open an additional day, which proved useful as tough times settled in. Last month, Morgan stepped aside from his duties as director paving the way for Curt McCormack to take the reins of the food bank and bring his vision to bear on its future. “I’m very satisfied with where we are, but one of the things we’re realizing is that we’re no longer just a church group, but it’s almost a small business and we need to make decisions that will make us more efficient,” McCormack said. In 2010, about 150 volunteers gave more than 22,200 hours to distribute 24,693 pounds of food in 12,186 food boxes to area residents. By volume, it’s...

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PROGRESS REPORT: Budget cuts top concern for local schools

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes Keizer principals are preparing for what they expect to be a difficult transition into a period of drastic cutting. “The difference is that up until now, the district has done everything they can to tighten their belt and it’s coming down it affecting the schools themselves,” said Colleen Johnson, principal of Claggett Creek Middle School. Husk delivered Salem-Keizer’s budget message on Feb. 22 and said the district will lose about $23 million from its general fund. Preliminary looks have district officials eyeing cuts of between 250 to 400 teachers, up to 230 support staffers, and as many as 16 administrators and closing schools with fewer than 200 students. Community members will have the opportunity for input at meetings scheduled March 29 and April 26 at locations to be determined. “We are committed to having as little negative impact on instruction, programs and jobs as possible,” said John Honey, McNary High School principal. Throughout Keizer, and the school district general, officials are already looking for opportunities to adjust their budgets, but they’re trying to be realistic with teachers and parents. “We need them to understand that things are going to change and we’re not going to be able to offer the things that we currently offer so we may be having more fundraisers for things we could cover through the regular budget,” said Laura...

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PROGRESS REPORT: How has a rough economy affected crime in Keizer?

By JASON COX Of the Keizertimes A funny thing happened in 2009, despite a recession that didn’t get any better during the year. Calls for service for burglaries and auto theft in Keizer plummeted by 31 percent from the previous year. Thefts from vehicles fell about 40 percent from 2008 levels. Even shoplifting saw a slight decline. So when you see burglaries and vehicle break-ins jump by about a third in 2010, it’s not necessarily a brand new crime wave. Rather, the numbers for at least burglaries and auto break-ins got back up to levels seen in 2007 and 2008. Other types of calls, including drugs and those involving interpersonal conflict, have been steadily rising. Non-criminal domestic incident calls went up 19 percent in 2010 after rising 16 percent in 2009. Assaults were up 21 percent in 2010, and rose by 11 percent in 2009. “Disturbances are an example where it would not be unordinary to see an increase,” said Keizer Police Capt. Jeff Kuhns. “People have lost jobs, unemployment benefits have come to an end and it’s really easy to see citizens become the subject of the stress this can cause.” But Kuhns cautioned outside influences and other factors could sway call for service numbers, including increased patrols. “There are more officers making traffic stops and contacting suspicious persons,” Kuhns said, “and this leads to more case numbers...

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PROGRESS RPEORT: Retirement community plans grand expansion

By JASON COX Of The Keizertimes Emerald Pointe Retirement Community is breaking ground this spring on cottage units designed for the active retiree. Jeff Hawkins, owner and manager of the north Keizer facility, said 11 units will be complete by around July. He plans a total of 38 two bedroom, two-bath homes for those who may want to downsize, but can still function independently. “It allows us to appeal to that younger person, recently retired, who is more mobile and wants to get out and travel,” Hawkins said. Walking paths will meander throughout the 11-acre campus, wide enough for golf carts. Each unit has a garage with a charger for a cart, Hawkins said, “so in the morning it’s ready to go.” The units will be part of a gated community, and each one will have an emergency call button. They will be what Hawkins called “handicap-adaptable” – meaning infrastructure is in place for things like grab bars in the bathtub, but they won’t be initially installed. In addition, Hawkins said, he’s beginning the process of developing what will be a 95-unit assisted care facility on the Emerald Pointe campus. He expects that building to open in about two years. Their existing building has 144 residential units. Hawkins hopes Emerald Pointe will be a place where retirees can “age-in-place.” “A couple can move into a cottage in their early...

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PROGRESS REPORT: Volcanoes Stadium contract reaches midway point

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes Fifteen years ago, city officials signed a contract with the owner of the Volcanoes that was a hot-button issue for many involved. “The biggest point of contention was the tax-exempt status, some people wanted the property to be tax-exempt for the life of the contract and others saw it differently,” said Shannon Johnson, Keizer city attorney. In the end, the stadium and parking lot was was exempted from property taxes for the first 10 years aside from a nominal $1 fee. Since the 2006-07 tax year, Salem-Keizer Sports Enterprises, L.L.C., has been paying full property taxes on the entire property amounting to $73,784.69 in 2010, or $25,893.47 on the parking lot and $47,891.22 on the stadium itself, said Susan Gahlsdorf, city finance director. Property taxes are paid to Marion County, but Keizer receives a portion. The long-term contract was inked for a total of 29 years with an option to extend for an additional eight years. The city also chipped in about $3 million to purchase additional property at the site that was needed for the stadium and the parking lot and to cover infrastructure cost. The city opted out of stadium ownership when officials determined it was beyond the means and capacity of the city to do so at that time, Johnson said. “It was good for the team, but it...

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