Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley (right) answers a question during a Keizer City Council work session last month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley (right) answers a question during a Keizer City Council work session last month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

New Keizer City Councilors don’t officially begin their terms until next week.

But Brandon Smith, Amy Ripp and Roland Herrera are ready to hit the ground running.

The trio took part in a council work session last month to look at short-term and long-term council goals, and to look at possible goals they would want to establish. City Manager Chris Eppley ran most of the meeting.

After discussing short-term goals (covered in a recent Keizertimes story), Eppley turned to long-term goals set by councilors in March 2013.

One goal was to take necessary steps to liquidate Keizer Station Area A property that was foreclosed upon and refund the River Road Renaissance program. The Rawlins properties were foreclosed upon last year by the city.

“We’re hoping beyond hope they are able to buy it back from us,” Eppley said in reference to the Rawlins family. “If they are able to buy it back and do development, that would be fantastic. We would just as soon be out of the development business. Once we do sell the property, it would come back to you to see what to do with the money.”

Under terms of the deal agreed to between the city and the Rawlins family last year, the Rawlins family can purchase the land back from the city between 13 and 16 months after the sale at a cost of $3 million. The purchase price increases $500,000 approximately every year, topping out at $5 million after 50 to 60 months. The total still owed on the properties is $7 million, though the real market value was assessed at $2.2 million.

City officials were the only ones to bid on the properties during the public oral auction last April.

Eppley suggested reviewing the old RRR plan.

“A lot of what hadn’t occurred was beyond our work platform,” Eppley said. “Our work was done when we developed the grant program (for River Road businesses). There was a whole slew of items the Keizer Chamber was to do but didn’t occur. There was a downtown business group to oversee the marketing of the River Road area. Those things didn’t occur. We could encourage the chamber to do that and provide funding for it.”

Mayor-elect Cathy Clark is chair of the new Economic Development Commission.

“One charge of the EDC is to dig into the River Road development plan,” Clark said. “My intention is to have them take a hard look at where we can make strategic investments. We need to make sure they are a good return on investments. It will be up to the council to review those recommendations.”

In terms of public safety funding, Eppley noted some police positions have been unfrozen and he feels the situation will be resolved in the coming years.

“We’re not going to be able to add cops every year,” said Eppley, who noted current police chief John Teague’s need for staffing is “much less” than former chief Marc Adams. “Over the next five to eight years they should be able to get to where they are needed for the next 20 years.”

Eppley also referred to park funding, a cause Smith championed the past two years while on the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

“There’s a greater interest in the parks system now than in the past,” Eppley said. “There’s a lot more focus on parks than was the case in 1982. There will be tough decisions, like do you float a bond or float a levy for ongoing maintenance?”

Smith noted there were many such discussions at the Parks Board level in 2013, but got the message from council at the end of the year to drop the topic.

“The Parks Board tried to ask the questions last year, but we were told now is not the time,” Smith said. “Now, I think sooner rather than later should be the time to at least have a discussion.”

Clark went over some of the ideas she would like to see implemented, including expansion of the youth councilor program and having a roundtable discussion among all youth sports providers.

“Let’s get people talking at the table about how they’re going to connect and leverage resources,” Clark said. “Let’s bring them together to talk.”

Ripp pointed out she and Herrera have extensive history with various youth sports and youth sports organizations in Keizer.

Eppley feels Urban Growth Boundary expansion will be “one of the biggest discussions we’ll have in the next 20 years” and also noted staffing – in particular at the police department – is up for ongoing discussion.

The new council will have a work session early in the year — likely sometime around March — to come up with new long-term as well as short-term goals for the next two years.