Council divided over service fees

With a full bench, the Keizer City Council met on Dec. 4 to vote on several resolutions for the Keizer Holiday Parade and Keizer Rapids turf fields though, one subject appeared to create tension and divide them: how to add new service fees. 

Councilor Dan Kohler proposed that instead of the council voting on fees, the citizens of Keizer should vote on whether or not novel utility service fees would be added. 

Kohler did not specify if this proposal would affect adding entirely new fees or simply increasing existing ones. 

Mayor Clark appeared to be confused by this as no explanatory document had been created for the council to which Kohler responded that City Attorney Shannon Johnson advised him to bring up the ordinance for a council discussion first. 

When asked by Clark about what service fees would be affected by this ordinance, Kohler gave a hypothetical example of Keizer creating a Parks and Recreation department and how the cost would be paid. He described how rather than the council deciding what citizens should pay to fund things, the amount of financial support for departments like this would be left entirely to voters. 

Clark retorted speaking of the situation Keizer recently faced with the development of their stormwater fund in order to address an issue where Keizer was not compliant with a US regulation which would have cost the city roughly $25,000 per day. 

Kohler responded saying that this voting restriction on new fees would be only for “optional” fees and not for mandated fees such as Clark described. 

Clark continued to ask for more clarification about what types of fees exactly would be restricted to voting due to no supporting documentation and not understanding examples given by Kohler. 

Councilor Reid noted that putting optional new fees to a vote would be a “horrible way to limit our options [as] it is our responsibility as a council to provide services that the city needs and that it is disingenuous to put that onus on the public to understand things that is our responsibility as a council to understand.” 

Cross responded, saying it was “not horrible or disingenuous to want people to vote.” 

Clark appeared to shake her head at the comment. 

Clark continued on then stopped and said “I am allowed to speak,” directed at Cross who retorted “I am allowing you to speak.” 

Clark responded, “Fantastic.” 

No motion was made to determine this issue though Kohler was tasked with creating more documentation for the ordinance for a following discussion at a future council meeting. 

The council discussed two resolutions to allow street vendors at the Holiday Lights Parade. Issues arose when discussing how the vendors would be placed for the parade as well as the process for permit approval. 

Corri Falardeau, Executive Director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the Holiday Parade, noted she was not aware of a food truck ordinance in the city of Keizer. 

“If that was something I [needed] to be aware of it would be nice to have that information before I submit my application,” Falardeau said. “That’s a continuing issue between the city and myself when coming to permits.” 

Falardeau noted she also had no knowledge of the insurance increase vendors would have to pay. 

Falardeau described how it is the city’s responsibility to call the chamber of commerce and tell them of new ordinances in place so the chamber can “actually do their job and make sure it’s done correctly,” according to Faladreau. 

City Attorney Johnson noted that the food truck ordinance in place does not hinder vendors as having a permit to vend for one event is transferable to all events in Keizer that require a vending permit. 

The first ordinance for the parade vendors passed with dissent from Husseman and the second motion passed with dissent from both Husseman and Clark though no reasoning for dissent was provided. 

The meeting began with a proclamation to declare Dec. 10 Human Rights Day in Keizer, and to present Thais Rodick of the Community Diversity Engagement Committee with the Human Rights Day proclamation for her work on the committee. 

An award was also given to Chris Patterson for winning the 2023 Keizer Public Arts Commission holiday card contest. 

A public hearing was held to look at a plan to partition and rezone 1141 Chemawa Rd. N. from a commercial area into a medium-density residential zone so that more housing could be added to the area. 

The applicants party spoke to fulfilling all conditions for approval and no appeals were made. A motion was made to prepare an ordinance for the zone change and was passed unanimously. 

Two public comments were made. The first from Carol Doerfler dealt with a story about her trip to Winston, OR and the town newsletter they found there. The newsletter, which included information about the town such as the best restaurants, was created by Winston Middle School students 

The second comment came from Elinnizzy Rodriguez who described her goal of helping those less fortunate, ensuring that free clothing gets to them. Rodriguez also described their Facebook group, Giving Hearts, is based in Salem and is looking for those interested to join. 

The council discussed the installation of a rectangular rapid flashing beacon along Lockhaven on streets leading to both Keizer Elementary and McNary High School. 

A study conducted by DKS for this beacon showed the most likely and most effective placement for it would be on the corner of McClure Street and Lockhaven Drive. 

The project will cost the city around $100,000 to install the lights at a corner that has a painted crosswalk, a crossing guard and is within a school speed limit zone. 

Due to the cost and the inability of the city to pay for it this fiscal year a motion was made and approved unanimously to find the funding for it in the 24-25 city budget. 

Benchmark Contracting Inc. was awarded the project to put in two turf fields at Keizer Rapids Park. The contract includes placing the fields, lighting, fencing as well as additional parking. 

A total of 14 bids were made for the contract with Benchmark Contracting Inc. winning with a bid of $3,279,000. 

Around $2 million is already allocated for the project from this year’s budget and Public Works Director Bill Lawyer noted that the last portion of funding may require fundraising as well as state grants to complete. 

A motion was made to award Benchmark Contracting Inc. the contract and was approved unanimously.