The Rotary Club of Keizer and city officials appear to be nearing a deal for continued use of a room inside the Keizer Civic Center to host the club’s weekly meetings.
The Keizer City Council addressed the dispute at a meeting Monday, May 20. The council voted unanimously to approve a version of Rotary’s preferred agreement, but negotiations are continuing.
In a letter sent to the council earlier this month, Rotary President AJ Nash and Rotary Foundation President Marc Adams took the city to task for demanding $10,000 a year for continued use of civic center spaces.
“We do not believe we are properly using the funds entrusted to us by paying rent to the city for improvements … which now primarily benefit other government agencies,” the letter stated.
As an alternative, Rotary was willing to pledge $10,000 a year toward projects directly benefitting the city and 700 verifiable hours of community service.
In addition to the letter, Adams had since submitted an accounting of the financial donations since 2006. The figure was more than half-a-million dollars and covered projects ranging from park and school improvements to Keizer Police Department efforts and support of other local and international non-profits.
A memo prepared by City Attorney Shannon Johnson stated the Rotary proposal to use the rooms without direct payment could be seen as preferential treatment of Rotary over other non-profits and eliminates an opportunity to capture revenue that could pay for the continued upkeep of the civic center.
The memo offered three options: continue along the lines of Rotary’s proposal, require that Rotary pay established usage rates or establish a new rate taking into account the work Rotary members perform in the community at large.
From the outset, councilors Roland Herrera and Marlene Parsons sided with Rotary members, many of whom were in attendance at the meeting.
“As I look out I see pillars of our community out here. I want us to consider that. There are four first citizens out here. They’ve put so much time in and I want us to keep that in mind,” Herrera said.
“I think the service they give is something you cannot put a price tag on,” Parsons added.
In the earlier letter, Rotary alleged that city staff said the projects the club backs fall into the area of “wants” rather than “needs.”
Mayor Cathy Clark said the wrangling over the types of projects Rotary backs in return for usage of the rooms is a matter of clearing lines of communication.
“I also think it’s important to have the conversation about projects as they develop. If we can communicate early about projects you are interested we can determine where they fit in with the things we have in master plans,” Clark said.
Councilor Laura Reid said it wasn’t simply a matter of waiving fees for a preferred group.
“I think it’s important that we look at the nonprofits themselves and the work they do. This is not just a fiscal question, it’s a matter of what Rotary does. We are trusting that Rotary will multiply this benefit and make it work in many ways throughout the community,” Reid said.
Members of Rotary, city staff members and Councilor Dan Kohler are working through the final details of the agreement.