By MIKE WELTER
The Vineyards 1 Home Owners Association board has gathered a considerable amount of information from both fire districts as well as the city on this annexation plan. We feel this plan has too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions.
Currently we have auto response by Keizer Fire District (KFD) and Marion County Fire District #1 (MCFD1) from Chemawa Road north to the city limits. If MCFD1 is no longer at the Clear Lake station they will have to respond from further away if KFD is tied up. This could delay response times up to 10 minutes or longer. Delayed response time equals a higher probability of property loss. If both measures pass, Keizer Fire says they will have two ambulances in service but that’s less than we have now between the two fire districts. This takes a valuable resource from the center of the city where the majority of their ambulance calls originate and moves it to the northern fringes of the city. This equates to less resources and delayed response times to those in need for a medical emergency.
Who gets the Clear Lake station and equipment: Keizer Fire has stated that the station and equipment would come to them at no cost and this is in their analysis presented to the city. However in their City of Keizer Withdrawal of Clear Lake Area Fact Sheet they state that the legal standard is to effect an equitable distribution of assets. If the distribution cannot be agreed to, there is a process to quickly decide the distribution by a neutral third party arbitrator. On Keizer’s own web site they state two different scenarios. Since Marion County Fire still has more than 80 miles to cover it seems highly unlikely that all of the station and equipment would come at no cost to Keizer Fire, however it appears that KFD has budgeted only for their best case scenario with no backup plan.
More inconsistencies come from the city. During council meetings the mayor insisted that the Clear Lake residents would be able to vote on the matter. The problem is that with all of Keizer voting on it, the voice of the residents affected is diluted. The council was presented with over 600 resident’s signatures opposing the annexation and ignored them. However one letter signed by three people from the homeowners association requesting the annexation was given unquestioned validity. Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan is a board member of one of those associations. It also appears from various emails, city council meetings, and, most recently, Lore Christopher’s letter in the Keizertimes that the mayor has a personal agenda against Marion County Fire.
Further questions come from Keizer Fire District. Chief Cowan said in the July Keizertimes, “A vote brings the process up to the gold standard of the will of the people.” Apparently that does not apply to the people of Clear Lake as at a legislative hearing both MCFD1 and KFD were asked if they would abide by a vote solely by the residents of Clear Lake. Chief Cowan’s response was that this was unacceptable while MCFD1 said that they would abide by it. In Keizer Fire’s Withdrawal of Clear Lake Area Fact Sheet they state that “it is correct that Keizer Fire is feeling budget pressures. This is a survival issue for Keizer Fire.” However in other areas, they refer to this annexation as net neutral stating that all the tax revenue would go to run the Clear Lake station. Which is it?
I have repeatedly asked for a business plan for the annexation. Twice I was told by Keizer Fire that this was done in executive session and could not be provided. Then I was told that they have been running a station since the 1940s and they would deal with it when they get to it.
Send a message that enough is enough and vote no on Measures 24-325 and 24-326.
Mike Welter lives in Keizer.