Caretaker nixed at Keizer Rapids

A home formerly designated for a park caretaker will become a city-owned rental property.

Despite calls to maintain a park host program at Keizer Rapids Park (KRP), the Keizer City Council opted instead to rent out a home in the park at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3. 

Potential legal entanglements decided the issue according to a staff memo from Keizer City Attorney Shannon Johnson. 

Johnson had the city’s labor attorney, Kathy Peck, review the possibilities of establishing an official park host program and returned with enough information to dissuade the council from pursuing it. 

Peck’s assessment was that both state and federal law might not look kindly upon listing the position as a volunteer in exchange for something as potentially valuable as housing. 

“Although volunteers are allowed some nominal expenses and still remain truly volunteer, the housing would appear to be compensation, could cause some risks,” Johnson wrote.

An argument could also be made that the position would be covered by the collective bargaining argeement with city workers. 

“If a volunteer later brought a claim, the City could be liable for up to three years

wages/overtime and attorney fees, plus significant penalties,” Johnson wrote. 

A volunteer cannot waive such claims even under the provisions of a contract and no insurance will cover the potential liability, Peck reported. 

Instead of maintaining the property as a caretaker home, it will be converted to a rental property. 

Johnson said City Manager Chris Eppley is working with other city staff and the police department to address safety concerns raised by residents when the caretaker program was originally slated for nixing earlier this year. 

“We also looked at having a regular park employee in that house but the downside was too much to handle,” Johnson said. 

Eppley added that there is an exemption in the law for designated campground hosts, but the only camping in KRP – aside from occasional special events – is boat-in camping. 

Councilor Laura Reid made certain to note that a considerable amount of time was expended on the matter after residents brought concerns forward. 

“It’s not something that we’ve taken lightly,” Reid said.