Tempers boil over Lava Dome at City Council

There was something for everybody at the nearly five hour Keizer City Council meeting on Monday, June 5. Pride, history, dogs, budgets, fees and domed playing fields and more were on the agenda. 

The most contentious item facing the council was the proposed Lava Dome at Keizer Little League Park. 

Marlene Parsons, a former councilor, spoke before the body as a member of the board of directors of the non-profit organization. Specifically, Parsons wanted to clear up communications about when Keizer-based kids would be able to use the fields under the dome. 

At issue was a Letter of Intent of support The Lava Dome wants from the city to begin attracting corporate sponsors and grantors for the $10 million project. A Letter of Intent is a non-binding document that would show support of the Dome from the city. 

Parsons received a cool reception from several councilors, especially Shaney Starr who had questions about Keizer kids’ opportunity to use the dome. In frustration Starr avowed she was a no vote on approving a Letter of Intent from City Manager Adam Brown to The Lava Dome, L.L.C. 

“Why do the answers keep changing?” Starr asked Parsons at one point, regarding if Keizer kids would get priority with field use. 

Without more information, Councilor Starr said she could not support the Dome. “I just don’t feel I have the whole story, the full picture,” she said. 

Councilor Soraida Cross announced from the dais she was not interested in pursuing the project. 

Councilor Daniel Kohler said a Letter of Intent could be written to address all the concerns the council has about the Dome.He warned about adding too many operational details in a letter. “I don’t think we can dictate minute details,” he said. 

“There have been multiple incidences throughout this discussion, you have not been as fully transparent with the city and you could have been to bolster your case,” said Councilor Robert Husseman, addressing his remark to Jamie Hoagland and Paige Zizzi, co-founders of The Lava Dome, who were in attendance but did not address the council. “Your lack of transparency to this point has not done you the service of building a relationship you want with the city of Keizer,” he added. 

No vote on a Letter of Intent was taken at the meeting. By consensus, the council sent the issue back to Brown and city staff for fine tuning. 

In public hearings the council approved a 4% hike in the city’s water fee effective July 1. 

The council also approved an increase in the police fee on the city services bill to $6.90 per residential unit effective Jan. 1, 2024. The increase will add $25,000 to the police budget. 

Election to receive state shared revenue funds was passed unanimously after a hearing.The funds total more than $400,000, come mostly from liquor sales. 

After a public hearing, including a report from Finance Director Tiim Wood, the council approved the city’s 2023-234 fiscal budget of more than $64 million. 

The council attempted again to pass a leash law for dogs in the city. After discussions of exemptions and penalty fees, the issue was sent back to city staff to incorporate suggestions for additions and changes. The ordinance is expected to be back before the council later in June. 

In a unanimous vote the council directed the staff to amend an ordinance to require public participation for special events that occur in a neigborhood that go over 24 hours and impact more than five homes. 

The issue came up after the 2022 Gubser neighborhood’s Miracle of Christmas light display changed the route, angering some residents who said they were not included in the decision to have their homes on the new route. 

In December and January some Gubser residents came before the city council to complain and seek help. 

The role the city plays is to accept an event permit and approve the final plan. 

Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association president Patti Tischer spoke on the issue after waiting hours for the agenda item to come up. 

An amendment to the ordinance would require organizers to reach out to households that would be impacted by a special event to inform them and get their views on the event. 

She said the association appreciated the city taking resident’s concerns about route changes seriously. She said the way the route for the light display was done in 2022 did not include input from houses on the new route. 

“All of the neighbors affected need to have their voices heard,” said Tischer. “People want direct communication.” 

Clark said that if the association or any residents have suggestions on outreach and communication with Gubser neighbors they should submit them to Adam Brown. 

Clark made two proclamations, one to mark June as Pride Month and one to mark Juneteenth on June 19. 

The council accepted the annual reports from the Southeast Keizer and Northwest Keizer neighborhood associations, expending the city’s recognition of both groups for an additional year. 

Beth Melendy of the Keizer Public Arts Commission told the council that a project to wrap traffic signal boxes with vinyl art from McNary students is in the works. She also announced that a dedication ceremony for Rosalie’s Cows art in the Verda-Chemawa round-about will be held at the city’s 40th birthday celebration on Saturday, June 17. 

During public comments 17-year old student Emerson Carella addressed the council on the issue of youth representation in city government and the issue of youth suicide, especially for males aged 18 to 24. 

Just before the meeting was gaveled adjourned at fifteen minutes to midnight, Clark reminded the live and viewing audience of Keizer’s 40th birthday celebration at the civic center on June 16 and 17.