By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Repayment of money taken from the River Road Renaissance (RRR) projects to pay for Keizer Station problems and civic center cost overruns became a topic of debate for the Keizer Urban Renewal Agency at a meeting Monday, Sept. 17.
The Keizer City Council members pull double duty as agents of the Keizer Urban Renewal Agency.
The River Road Renaissance project was established to assist River Road business owners in renovating or refurbishing their street frontage and assigned a $5.6 million budget, however only $900,000 has been spent on River Road projects.
More than $3 million from RRR fund was used to cover cost overruns from the construction of the Keizer Civic Center; $1 million was frozen to cover defaults on payments to Keizer Station’s local improvement district (LID); another $647,000 was used to purchase property in Area B of Keizer Station; and $61,000 has been used to cover consulting and legal services incurred as a result of extending Keizer Urban Renewal District to cover the LID defaults.
“We’ve just robbed it blind and now we’re going to make an empty motion that in 10 years, if there’s any money left, we’ll give you a couple of bucks. I can’t support that,” said Agent Joe Egli. “I just feel like we’ve stripped the guts out of this thing and we’ve got a little skin and hair sitting there and it’s got no meat.”
Despite such objections, the agency approved a resolution 4-2 stating the intent to replenish the RRR after the all the other taxing agencies affected by the extension of the Keizer Urban Renewal District have been repaid.
Egli and Agent Mark Caillier were the dissenting votes and said they wanted to see a commitment to quicker replenishment. Both councilors said they would prefer a resolution committed to replenishing the RRR fund with net proceeds from the sale of both Keizer Station Area A and Area B properties.
“We made a commitment of $5.6 million and we’ve spent $900,000. That’s 16 percent. We took the other 84 percent for other things. I believe we need to follow through as best we can and support the folks on River Road through River Road Renaissance as best we can,” Caillier said. “I was hoping for a statement that equals the $4.7 million we haven’t paid [RRR] rather than a statement that equals the $900,000 we allowed.”
City officials still have a list of 80 projects they would like to see the RRR money used toward, 15 have been deemed high priority.
The resolution as passed does not bind this iteration of Keizer Urban Renewal Agency or future ones to repaying the money taken from the RRR, but “affirms intent” to repay it.
“When the property in Area B sells, we have plenty of options. Saying that we’re not going to include it in this resolution does not mean we can’t use that money,” said Agent David McKane.
“Councilors Caillier and Egli said that we haven’t lived up to those promises and I would say that’s what we’re showing intent to do,” added Agent Brandon Smith.
Agent Cathy Clark supported the resolution saying private investment is already taking care of some of the areas of concern.
“We’ve already seen two properties redeveloped with private investment, the chiropractic clinic and McDonald’s, and as properties are redeveloping businesses see the benefit,” she said.