By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Mayor Lore Christopher warned of the uphill battle, but complimented Keizer Parks and Advisory Board members on their desire to add a city parks employee.
At their meeting last month, Parks Board members made a recommendation to add a utility worker to the parks department, citing the workload on department supervisor Robert Johnson. Several nights later, board chair Brandon Smith and newest board member Roland Herrera gave their pitch at a Keizer City Council meeting.
“We made a motion and it passed for another parks employee,” Herrera said. “There’s a great need for that. There’s a backflow of maintenance, which is way too much work for Robert.”
When the mayor asked what the cost for such an employee would be, Smith responded the cost would be about $60,000.
“The Parks Board understands it is just a recommendation,” Smith said. “There is a need for that; there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. That is our recommendation as park advocates.”
Such a recommendation will be discussed by the Keizer Budget Committee this spring, which will pass along recommendations to the council. In recent years there has been a push to add between one to four more officers for the Keizer Police Department.
Adding an officer was a top push last year, but ultimately that didn’t happen as councilors approved a budget that was largely status quo for personnel.
“I applaud you for keeping in front of us the need being there for an employee,” Christopher said. “That is a heavy lift, but that’s your job. It’s our job to determine the best use of public dollars. It’s a big rock up a steep hill. We also have officers, information technology and code enforcement (positions).”
Another Parks Board topic of discussion was the matching grant program first discussed during the board’s February meeting. The idea behind the program is to help match monetary efforts pledged by citizens for various parks projects.
Christopher mentioned her desire to see projects already in master plans for the various parks taken care of, which Smith said was his preference as well.
“What we like is the ability to spread it around,” Smith said. “We see this as a chance for the smaller parks that don’t get the attention. For example, at several meetings a group of citizens from Hidden Creek came to us. A group of guys go to their park and do cleanup work. I said wouldn’t it be great to get them some money for gas, gloves and hatchets. It wouldn’t be a ton of money.
“We think there’s a potential for a huge demand,” he added. “It could be a big failure, but I don’t think it will be. I’m hoping at our meeting in July we can have a stack of applications. I think there are ways to double or triple the money.”
Christopher agreed, with a caution.
“I would like to see some parameters,” she said. “It makes sense to take care of what we’ve got. My concern was doing something a neighbor wanted to put into the park. We took a lot of input for the master plans. I really like the idea to support sweat equity. Look at the work done lately at Keizer Little League Park. I just want to see parameters.”
Smith said such parameters are being worked on.
“We’ll have that be part of the outline,” he said. “We’ll be publishing those. Groups (who are applying) will need to know that.”
Councilor Jim Taylor was at the February Parks Board meeting when the matching grant program was first brought up.
“It was revolutionary, but not really because this is the way we did RRRAC (River Road Renaissance Advisory Committee), but on a smaller scale. This is a way for citizens to be saying, ‘This is what we want at our parks.’ I think it’s a great idea. It will get things done and create a lot of good will.”