By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
An election on which fire district will serve the Clear Lake neighborhood is moving forward after a 6-1 Keizer City Council vote Monday night.
Legal hurdles remain, as Marion County Fire District No. 1 (MCFD) has filed challenges in Marion County Circuit Court and the Land Use Board of Appeals. Another filing – this time to the ballot title – may well still be filed. The possibility exists that the election may not even count should MCFD’s various legal challenges be successful.
Councilors also asked, in a 4-3 vote, for top city staff to mediate conversations between the two fire districts in hopes of resolving their issues.
The 6-1 vote on Monday night came after Rep. Brian Clem, who represents east Salem in the Oregon House of Representatives, said he may review the statutes the city and Keizer Fire District (KFD) are relying upon to force the move in the upcoming legislative session. Councilor David McKane voted no.
Mayor Lore Christopher blasted MCFD’s leadership for legal filings the board has made.
“Past actions by management and by leadership have left me with a breach of trust for (MCFD),” Christopher said. “I know you feel the same way about me…. I don’t know how we get over that.”
Last week MCFD’s board proposed a compromise (see related story) that would reinstate a previous agreement allowing KFD’s ambulance to service the Clear Lake neighborhood. Keizer Fire District Chief Jeff Cowan has cited the resulting $75,000 drop in annual revenue as a catalyst for seeking to annex the neighborhood.
The offer was contingent on the election not taking place and a five-year moratorium on annexation discussions.
“Our desire is to try and resolve our differences amicably,” said MCFD Chief J. Kevin Henson.
Keizer Fire board member Mike Kurtz simply asked the council to move the matter forward.
“We would like to see a vote and get this resolved,” Kurtz said.
Councilor Cathy Clark said that, given vast differences of opinions and even disagreement on the facts, sending the question to voters is appropriate.
“Going back in my mind doesn’t seem to be a viable option because we can’t, in my mind, even define what going back is,” Clark said.
Earlier in the evening Clark pressed Clem on why he had gotten involved in the first place. While Clem, a Democrat, doesn’t represent Keizer, he represents parts of MCFD’s territory.
Clem said it was due to that representation and his interest in annexations in general.
“This could set off some conflicts between special districts,” Clem said.
Some councilors felt it was in Keizer’s long-term interests to be served by one fire district.
In other business, the council postponed until next month an extension of the urban renewal district.