City Council votes on new budget items, fireworks ordinance

The Oct. 3 City Council session focused primarily on new supplemental budget items which the council has reviewed, including $395,000 for city employee and police pay raises and combined benefits.  Mayor Cathy Clark was excused from the meeting along with Councilor Roland Herrera, so Council President Smith led the regular session.

“Nobody wants to talk about all this money we’re about to spend?” asked Council President Elizabeth Smith upon discovering nobody had registered for the Oct. 3 public hearings and nobody in the audience had any comments. “Okay then, we’ll hopefully make this quick.”

With no objections, the council then approved all seven supplemental budget items.  These include $150,000 for the Sewer Fund resulting from the regional sewer rate increase, $500,000 for the purchase of Vac Con street-service vehicle, $450,000 each to the Water Facility Fund and the Street Fund for upcoming projects, $395,000 to cover pay raises a leave cash-out settled on during the a recent collective bargaining agreement and $55,000 toward police vehicles in the General Fund. 

With the exception of the raises resulting from the collective bargaining with city employees and the police union, the money will all be coming from the city’s General Fund.  The council approved the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the pay raises and leave cash-out, in which union members can trade in leave they don’t expect to use for cash.

According to Oregon law, the city must hold public hearings before supplemental budget items get approved if they combine to form more than 10% of the already-approved official budget.  Since nobody registered or made an official comment, all seven passed quickly and with little discussion.

The council also took up the issue of an ordinance regulating the use of fireworks within city limits.  The issue has been on the agenda before and was tentatively approved at the prior council meeting, but changes to the proposed ordinance required a review and an official vote.

At issue was a question Councilor Dan Kohler had asked when the issue first came up at the Sept. 19 council meeting, which was that the ordinance seemed to imply to him that homeowners can be held responsible for illegal use of fireworks that someone else sets off in the street in front of their home.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said they had discussed the issue both during the meeting, and he had discussed it also with Police Chief John Teague.  The situation is highly unlikely to occur, he said, and Keizer residents shouldn’t be worried about citations for the conduct of other people.  Johnson added that the wording had been changed to clarify that issue.

The ordinance will enable the city council to enforce existing fireworks regulations through the municipal court system with civil penalties.  It further restricts use of any kind of fireworks, including legal ones, during “Red Flag” warnings, and also penalizes “any person who authorizes or permits such conduct.”

The penalties for violating the new ordinance will be a minimum fine of $300, a presumptive fine of $400, and a maximum fine of $500.  The same fines will be imposed for violating the Red Flag warning stipulation.

The same fines will also be imposed in order to control the hours for permitted fireworks use in general.  The “use, ignition or explosion” of any fireworks between the hours of 10 p.m. and 10 a.m., with the exception of Dec. 31 and July 4, will be prohibited under the new ordinance.

Other issues on the Oct. 3 agenda included two proclamations, one identifying Oct. 10 as Indigenous People’s Day and another acknowledging October as National Disability Awareness Month.