By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
There was $20,000 to start.
That figure was cut to $10,000, causing some disappointment Tuesday night.
By the end, the figure had risen to $33,000 so all was good again.
Last month, members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board discussed what to do with the approximately $20,000 they would have to spend for the upcoming fiscal year. The decision was made to use the funds as matching grant money, in essence doubling the money by partnering with community projects in need of more funding.
That changed during Tuesday’s meeting as Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, presented the proposed overall parks budget for next year. With $7,400 being spent on fall protection – wood chips – in several parks, plus another $3,500 to match Keizer Rotary for park benches, the amount dropped to about $10,000.
“I’m comfortable that there is $10,000 available for the grant program,” Lawyer said. “If your pilot program is not successful, the funding can be used for something else.”
A couple of board members expressed concern about the drop.
“So for the pilot grant program it’s $10,000, not $20,000?” board member Roland Herrera asked.
Lawyer felt that was a safe bet.
“I’m comfortable with it being at $10,000,” Lawyer said. “I don’t see it going down.”
Board chair Brandon Smith wasn’t as comfortable.
“That’s disappointing that it’s not $20,000,” Smith said.
Smith expressed more disappointment later.
“I didn’t realize the $3,500 for the Rotary match comes from our $20,000,” he said. “Part of the idea with the matching grant is leveraging our money. I think we can more than double the value. There was no discussion of the $3,500. I wasn’t expecting that to come out of the $20,000. It’s unacceptable to cut this from $20,000 to $10,000 when we didn’t even get started with the program. The $20,000 was going to be a small amount. You’re cutting us off at the knees by cutting it down to $10,000.
“The reason this is unacceptable is the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association discussed having a special work session (next Thursday) to talk about this because they are so excited about the grant program. It will be a workshop to prioritize projects. They want to plan to best utilize the money. I don’t know if other groups already have things in mind because of this.”
Herrera, who will help lead that meeting, shared Smith’s view.
“When I first heard this (grant program), I thought it’s great. I thought the money would go fast. The $20,000 is not much but it’s a start. It gives incentive for someone to get going. The $10,000 is also a start, but it’s not going to be very much. I would still make the pitch for $20,000. In the long run it will benefit everybody. We were kind of excited about that.”
After hearing of additional parks revenue coming in, board member Richard Walsh made a motion to bump the grant program back up to $20,000. The motion was approved unanimously.
Later, Lawyer mentioned a difference between what was in his budget and what he expected to spend. Smith jumped on that and made a motion to bolster the grant program funding to $33,000. That motion was approved unanimously.
“We thought we would have $20,000, then we got punched in the gut down to $10,000,” Smith said. “Now hopefully we’ll walk out with $33,000.”
Meanwhile, Walsh continued his longstanding push for an additional parks system full-time worker. After Lawyer said the total cost for such an employee would be $60,000 to $65,000, Walsh extolled the virtues of such a person.
“My idea is there is such a backlog of maintenance at all parks,” Walsh said. “Ivy is growing on trees and we don’t have the ability to do anything. We need work done on parks before they deteriorate.”
Lawyer agreed having a new full-time person would be a “big, big help.”
“Parks are still tremendously underfunded compared to other cities,” Walsh said. “We didn’t water some park acreage last year because then it would be green and we would have to mow it. We can’t deliver a service to the citizens. We can deliver more acreage with an extra person out there.”
A motion to add a full-time parks person was approved.
Walsh acknowledged afterwards the action still has to be approved by the Keizer Budget Committee and then the Keizer City Council.
“I’m optimistic if the money is available, this should be one of the highest priorities,” Walsh said. “There’s a great need in the parks system.”