Parks and police fees begin in November, what will happen between now and then?

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Two weeks ago, the Keizer City Council approved the first fees for city services other than utilities.

The fees will total $8 per month ($4 for police and $4 for parks) and begin in November. The fees will mean roughly an additional $625,000 for each department per year.

Between now and November, not a lot is expected to change, said Chris Eppley, Keizer city manager.

“We are currently in a holding pattern until the effective date of the ordinance is reached,” Eppley said.

Even though the onset of the fees is a few months away, the ordinance is technically in effect beginning next month.

After the fee collection begins, it could be several months before the first new police officer is on the streets. Eppley said it will likely take 60-90 days to go through the recruitment process at any rate, but the city wouldn’t have to collect enough funds to pay for an officer’s entire salary before beginning to hire.

“Since the fee is collected on a monthly and ongoing basis, we should have the funds necessary to hire police right away since monthly revenues should match monthly expenditures,” Eppley said.

Training might also take an additional several months if the new hires haven’t been through police training.

“Depending on whether those new employees are lateral transfers who have already been certified through the (Department of Public Safety Standards and Training) or are new recruits who need to go through the police academy will determine how quickly they will be put into our field training program and, eventually, soloing in their new positions to augment our capacity,” said Eppley.

The Keizer Police Department plans to hire fire new officers with the fee: two officers will be added to the night patrol shifts, and one officer each would be added to the Community Response Unit, the detective unit and the traffic unit.

Chief John Teague said his first priority, at the moment, would be to hire a motor-certified officer to add to the traffic team.

Teague suggested during the council meeting when the fees were approved that the department would be looking to its reserve officers as prime candidates.

“They are very, very good cops and I look forward to giving them the opportunity to work for us without having to do a year’s worth of training,” Teague said.

After the meeting, Teague said it would be an open recruitment with a priority given to Spanish-speakers.

“For all (the reserves’) advantages, which are many, we desperately need Spanish-speaking officers — having lost three in the past four years and another with a looming retirement — so we will give preference to Spanish speakers,” Teague said.

On the parks side of things, Eppley and Mayor Cathy Clark said to expect slower progress, and both want to engage the community before committing to project priorities.

Given that the fee will go into effect during the parks’ slow season, “we should have plenty of time to converse at the Parks Board level with the community, develop a plan of action, and then be ready to implement in the spring, which will work well for timing purposes,” Eppley said.

Regardless of a specific project list, Clark said the immediate needs in terms of maintenance and replacement would be addressed first.

“The maintenance that is needed ongoing after that will be much clearer once the system is more caught up with basic needs,” Clark said. “Once the park system has a clear maintenance schedule and cost basis, we can work with the parks board and entire community on prioritizing what comes next in carrying out the adopted (and likely updated by then) Parks Master Plan.”

Earlier this year, Keizertimes asked Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson what he sees as the top five safety priorities in Keizer’s 19 parks. Carlson Skate Park repairs and renovations topped the list; a replacement for the play structure at Meadows Park was No. 2; replacing sports courts at Claggett Creek Park and Northview Park came in third; replacing or resurfacing pathways was fourth; and replacing/infill wood chips at older playgrounds – like Meadows, Northview, Claggett, Country Glen and Bob Newton – rounded out the list.

While those projects come with larger price tags. Maintenance issues like pruning and removing unsafe trees in parks all around the city also loom large.

Maintenance took priority over new amenities in responses to a parks survey earlier this year.