By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
It wasn’t the usual budget priority list for parks.
Oh sure, some parts looked familiar during Tuesday night’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting.
There was the discussion of how Parks Board members needed to have their priority list wrapped up by the end of next month’s meeting so Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, would be able to present it to the Keizer City Council.
That led to each board member giving ideas of possible projects they would like to see done, not all of which would be possible with only about $20,000 in funding available once again next fiscal year.
Then a different idea came forward.
It started when board chair Brandon Smith mentioned neighbors who volunteer their time cleaning up around Hidden Creek Park had come to the board several times asking for assistance.
“I want to get estimates of what we can do to keep the momentum going down there,” Smith said.
Richard Walsh, like Smith a former city councilor, mentioned a way the neighbors could be helped.
“Salem has, or at least had, a matching program,” Walsh said. “It could be something like those neighbors did. If the neighbors could raise say $500, we could throw another $500 at them.”
Smith liked the idea.
“They said anything we could do to help them would be great,” said Smith, then looking at the West Keizer Neighborhood Association representatives sitting in the audience. “I bet neighborhood associations might be interested as well.”
Walsh agreed it would be good for people to come to the Parks Board and “let us know what is important to them in their neighborhood parks,” especially in terms of maintenance and upkeep.
“It would be nice to have funds to match neighborhood efforts,” Walsh said.
Lawyer also liked the idea and sought clarification.
“To throw out a number, you’re saying set aside let’s say $1,000 in the line item that says something like grants, available upon request?” he asked.
Smith pointed out under the old system, all of the money for the year could be spent on just one project.
“That’s a new thing we’re talking about this year,” he said. “A lot could fit under a matching program. This is a different model we’re talking about. Rather than blowing $20,000 on one project, we could do more, smaller projects.”
Jason Bruster had a suggestion for the new system.
“I’d say have an application process, which goes through the city,” Bruster said. “That way, we can also see if it is already in the budget.”
After everyone gave suggestions on items to fund, Smith revisited the matching grant idea.
“I see quite a few things on our list that could fall under a matching program,” he said. “My initial thought with a matching program was $1,000 or $2,000. But maybe we do a larger portion. Maybe we devote up to all $20,000 for matching. If we take one item for $20,000, we have not leveraged our money at all. If we take it and turn it into $40,000 or more, we can do more.”
There’s a chance not all $20,000 would not be used. Walsh had an easy solution in that case.
“If we don’t spend it, we can have that to spend next year,” he said.
Smith recalled how the River Road Renaissance committee in the past had problems giving away all of its money.
“My opinion is maybe that’s the best way to utilize the $20,000 we have,” he said.
Lawyer noted the Parks Board funding is flexible enough to work that way.
“I like the concept,” Lawyer said. “Say we get into April, near the end of the budget cycle. If no one has come forward, there’s nothing stopping the board from rolling the money over or using it to finish a project like a tennis court. That’s one of the sweetest things about this.”
Smith was willing to try the new concept.
“This could be a one-year experiment,” he said. “Maybe nobody comes to us and it’s a failed experiment. But my suspicion is this will get a lot more people coming in here. We could have to decide between options.”
A motion to do the matching was unanimously approved.