New City Attorney, new year, new disagreements

The Keizer City Council met on Jan. 2 to discuss topics leftover from the previous year and approve the onboarding of a new City Attorney, though disagreement appeared as another main topic of the night. 

With current City Attorney Shannon Johnson stepping down soon, a new attorney has been chosen, Joseph Lindsay. 

After an 11-year tenure as Canby’s City Attorney, Lindsay now brings his municipal expertise to Keizer. 

The council described interviewing references with one interviewee remarking that Lindsay, “would always be the one to throw the staff parties and as soon as we learned he was leaving we knew the fun was leaving too.”

The council first disagreed over the process counselors must go through to place an item for discussion on the agenda, resulting in a split (3-3) decision with Councilor Robert Husseman absent and Councilors Soraida Cross, Kyle Juran and Dan Kohler dissenting.

Due to previous confusion over a lack of supporting information and who entered a specific item, the council moved to enter a rule requiring that all agenda items have supporting documentation as well as approval from at least two other council members to become an item for discussion. 

Reasons for dissent revolved around limiting council members by making them vote to gain approval for items to be discussed would hamper the process as it restricts councilors from bringing up an idea that came from a discussion. 

Kohler remarked that the council has brought up a number of issues quickly before and gave the example of the leash ordinance passed June 2023. 

Clark described how that example, like others, had a great deal of discussion beforehand such as public comment gathering and council work sessions. 

The crux of Clark’s argument appeared to rely on the notion that by including these rules, both councilors and the public can be prepared for topics of discussion as well as maintaining transparency. 

The council also encountered disagreement over whether or not to change the name of the “Keizer Community Center” to “Keizer Event Center.”

The council passed the motion 4-2 with Councilors Juran and Cross dissenting. 

Reasoning for the dissent revolved around how removing “community” from the name would take away what the building was originally conceived for, the community. 

Lily Von, director of the Community Center, spoke to the name change saying the name: “Keizer Event Center” was more concise and said how Keizer community events, such as Neighborhood Association meetings, are given rooms free of charge. 

Von also spoke to an advertising campaign the center will be creating and how will also be another avenue to address the community aspect of what the center represents. 

Juran brought up the point about marketing and that if the center intended to bring in more business then it would also need to think about the issue of parking in the area. 

Another issue brought up revolved around the possible threat to other businesses that the center posed. Von responded that the center’s relationship with other businesses in Keizer was amicable as they often refer customers to one another. 

Starr commented towards other counselors that this debate over the name change had already happened in previous meetings and that they should respect the expertise of Von and her determination. 

City Attorney Shannon Johnson commented after that in fact no actual consensus had been reached therefore discussion about the name was prudent. 

The council unanimously approved Keizer residents David Philbrick and Matt Myers to positions 5 and 7 respectively on the Traffic/Safety and Pedestrian Committee. 

Deborah Sisco was unanimously approved for position 7 on the Public Arts Commission. 

The council unanimously approved a motion to exempt CompuNet Inc. from the competitive bidding process and enter into a contract with CompuNet Inc. to upgrade the city government’s phone system. 

According to Assistant City Manager Tim Wood, this serves as a crucial step for the improvements the city is attempting. 

The city’s current phone system is from 2005 and has run its course, according to Wood.

The upgrade will cost around $109,700 for upgrades to the hardware, installation of the system as well as follow-on service to it. 

The council unanimously approved two council actions dictating their policies for recognition of the minutes as well as what the standard is for public record materials on social media. 

The council had three public comments during the next resolution to determine if the the City of Keizer will enter into a franchise contract with Salem Electric, PGE and Northwest Natural in terms of both gas and electric utilities. 

Zachary Sielicky, from Northwest Natural spoke first and described how cities that enter into franchise agreements with utility services often generate more stability though what this stability was towards was unclear. 

Wendy Veliz from PGE spoke next and described the long and fruitful partnership Keizer and PGE have had and how the past good relationship should serve as reason enough to sign a new contract.

Tony Schacher from Salem Electric spoke last and described his support for the council to enter into a new franchise agreement and how these agreements, in conjunction with supportive ordinances, streamline a utility’s ability to provide services to an area. 

The council made a motion to enter into negotiations with the service providers with Clark noting how the industry standard for these agreements is 10 years and whether any other council members opposed that reasoning. None did. 

An application for a partition of the north section of Loren’s Sanitation at 1141 Chemawa Rd. NE was approved unanimously. 

The ordinance allows for the rezoning of the northern acre of the lot, which runs south of Willow Lake Road, from a commercial to a medium density residential area. The tentative plan discussed for the partitioned lot is to put in a 20-unit apartment complex. 

The Keizer First Citizen banquet was approved for a waiver to host the event on Jan. 20 from 5- 9 p.m. according to Keizer Chamber director, Corri Falardeau. 

The event will have food, guest speakers as well as an award ceremony. 

The council next approved two ordinances for Pacific Excavation Inc. and Cascade Waterworks LLC for the 2024 replacement and installation of the waterline in Keizer as well as installing a new well pump for the city. 

The council’s other business included a new emotional support animal being hired by the Keizer Police Department. The pup will stay with Lt. Chris Nelson as it continues to undergo the hiring process. 

Chief Andrew Copeland also described how the Keizer Police Department will be losing several veteran officers this year and will be accepting applications from those interested in joining the force. 

Kohler queried about bringing back concerts in the park for the summer. 

Youth counselor Grayton Woodard discussed the upcoming McNary play this year will be the classic, Mama Mia. The play will show from Jan 24 – 27 and Feb 1-3 from 7-9 p.m. each night. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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