By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Withholding nearly $30,000 in payments to Keizer Little League complex proved to be nearly a break-even proposition for the organization running it during a meeting of the Keizer City Council July 16.

Two months ago, it was revealed that Keizer Little League (KLL), the organization charged with the maintenance and management of the park fields, kept $13,434 of concession sales it was contractually obligated to reinvest in the facility itself. During the past eight weeks, the city’s finance director assisted the league president and secretary, Brad Arnsmeier and Lisa Buik, respectively, with compiling complete financial data on the group’s activities. When the report was released last week, it turned out KLL owed more than double the initial amount. KLL also kept $15,030 in slot fees and tournament revenues amassed in 2017. According to the contract, those revenues should also have been put into the account of the park complex.

Offering no apologies, Arnmeier told city councilors that the KLL board concluded that a 50/50 sharing of concession revenues was “an equitable split. I hope that when we finish the process tonight that you agree.”

Arnsmeier said he told City Manager Chris Eppley in January of the plan to keep the concession revenues while waiting to see if the city would retroactively amend the park management contract to include concession revenue sharing with the management group.

Arnsmeier did relatively little talking during the meeting, but city staff made that easier. Before getting into the detailed review City Finance Director Tim Wood heaped effusive praise on Arnsmeier and Buik.

Eppley also stepped in to defend the KLL organization.

“When we first started looking at this, I asked (Wood and City Attorney Shannon Johnson) the ugly question: does anyone think that KLL was embezzling money?” said Eppley. “Tim was able to say, ‘no.’ None of us believed that it was the case. This is an issue of transitory boards who are not professional bookkeepers. If kids weren’t playing baseball and the fields weren’t in great shape, I would be a lot more concerned.”

In exchange for the retroactive change to the contract splitting concession sales and permitting the managing organization to keep tournament fees, Arnsmeier offered to repay the delinquent KLL slot fees, amounting to $13,550. Any group using fields at the complex pays a slot fee for the time they spend there, but KLL paid only $410 in 2017 while KLL teams were, by far, the most predominant users of the facility.

“I strongly feel that whoever is in charge has an obligation to invest back in the complex. The 50 percent (of concession revenues) is a safeguard to make sure the hard work that is being put in now is maintained,” Arnsmeier said.

The members of the city council approved a motion – in a 6-1 vote, Mayor Cathy Clark was absent – to forgive the concession stand debt on the condition of payment of the slot fees within 10 days.

Prior to the approval, Councilor Amy Ryan, the sole “no” vote, made a motion to forgive the entire $28,464 sum “for the hard work and hours they (KLL) put in.” The motion died in the absence of other support from council members.

Councilor Roland Herrera, recalling his days as a field manager for KLL, said, “I am in favor of the 50/50 and I appreciate being in that role at one time. I think moving forward we will know where all the money is going.”

Arnsmeier and Buik were all smiles as their time in the hot seat ended, but Eppley offered one last admonishment, saying, “I would encourage that each year, you coordinate with Tim (Wood) so we don’t end up here again.”