How Your City Works

HOW YOUR CITY WORKS: How your streets, traffic lights and sewer systems are managed

The street division of Keizer’s Public Works Department oversees the city streets, lighting, traffic signals, sidewalks and bike paths. 

Through intergovernmental agreements (IGA), the city contracts striping services with Marion County, while traffic signal system operations are contracted through the city of Salem.  

Street sweeping is an essential part of reducing litter, improving safety on the roadways and keeping waterways healthy. 

All city streets are cleaned on a regular basis and are currently sub-contracted out to Wheat LLC, a division of Loren’s Sanitation.

Keizer’s sewer system is operated and maintained by the city of Salem in another intergovernmental  agreement.

The city maintains the water system in Keizer. The water system is managed by the city and provides drinking water drawn from 15 wells located throughout Keizer.

Each residence and commerical building receives a city services bill that invoices for water, sewer and storm water services, totaling  more than 10,000 accounts.

Federal, state and city regulations address the protections and restorations of water that sustains the  community, economy and vitality through the Clean Water Act. Keizer has three water bodies to protect: Claggett Creek, Labish Ditch and the Willamette River. 

Most of what enters the waterways is rain. Rain washes what is on our streets and sidewalks to the gutters into the stormwater system that ends up in our streams and rivers.

Keizer’s Public Works Department oversees this entire system, including adherence to rules that regulate what goes into the city’s storm drains. 

The Stormwater Division operates and maintains 125 miles of stormwater pipes and hundreds of other stormwater assets such as catch basins, manholes, vegetated stormwater facilities and outfalls. 

The Environmental Divison develops and implements plans and programs to ensure compliance with water quality regulations.

The (Stormwater) Division’s goal is to provide a storm drainage system that is safe, clean and effective; that requires daily inspections, repairs and cleanings to reduce local flooding, prevent pollution from entering our waterways and prevent infrastructure failure. 

“Stormwater is water from storm events like rainfall  or any type of precipitation that falls outside of your home,” explained Keare Blaylock, Keizer’s Environmental and Technical Division Manager.

Water inside of a home is different—it goes to the sewer, whereas the water outside your home goes to the storm drains. In urban areas, impervious surfaces such as pavement and roofs prevent rain from naturally soaking into the ground. 

“It’s important to make the distinction because water from inside a home goes to a treatment plant and it’s treated before it’s released to the waterways. Water that falls outside of your home goes to a storm drain or a street drain, and that goes directly to the river without treatment. That is kind of the big picture of storm water,” said Blaylock.

The pipes that eventually carry stormwater to the Willamette River are separate from the city’s sewer system, which is maintained by the City of Salem. The pipes range in size from as narrow as four inches up to 36 inches.

The more than 100 miles of stormwater drainage pipes are under every neighborhood in Keizer, except for private communities such as Inland Shores and McNary Estates, which have their own private stormwater systems.

A Keizer homeowner is billed a 5% license fee for stormwater and one equivalent service unit (ESU) which translates to about $16 every other month. ESU is a configuration of development or impervious surface estimated to contribute an amount of runoff to a city’s stormwater system which is approximately equal to that created by the average developed single family residence within the City. One ESU is equal to 3,000 square feet of impervious surface area. 

Expansive parking lots and large roofs on houses and buildings impede rainwater from going to the ultimate location: into the ground. Every commercial development is required to have a stormwater system, some in which collected water is injected directly into the ground.

Those funds are used exclusively for stormwater projects which include inspections of the pipes, drains and catch basins. There are more than 2,000 catch basins in Keizer and each needs to be cleaned out by the operations employees, using the large vacuum truck.

Those catch basins catch a lot of litter. 

“You find lots of soda drinkers,” said Jenny Ammon,  the city’s Environmental Education Coordinator. “You have cigarettes, lots and lots of cigarettes. Masks have been a big component of litter in our Trashy Tuesday public litter clean-ups. There’s a lot of alcohol containers that do not make it into the recycling bin, along with plastic bags.  It goes out there to the storm drains.”

“People should remember, this is their community. Just leave it better,” said Blaylock. What we do on land affects our waterways. “Stormwater is connected to the water that we play in, that we want to fish in, that we want to recreate by. I think  everybody can and should recognize the role they play in and be part of the solution.”