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Day: June 1, 2010

New training chief starts at Keizer Fire

Hector Blanco is on the job for the Keizer Fire Department (Submitted photo).

The Keizer Fire District has a new face of training.

Hector Blanco, formerly of Nevada , started as the division chief of training, health and safety late last month. He comes to Keizer Fire with 29 years of experience in fire service along with seven years served in the Air Force.

Blanco will move to Keizer with his wife Christine and youngest daughter Emma, age 11. His eldest daughter Jennifer works in Arizona as a police officer and his son Andrew works for the Division of Forestry in Reno, Nevada.

The training chief position has been vacant since Deputy Chief Kevin Wickman retired in March of 2009. Retired Battalion Chief Ken Dawson of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue has been the interim training chief since December. He has been coordinating and planning training.

“Chief Dawson did great work during the interim and we now look forward to working with Chief Blanco,” stated Chief Jeff Cowan. “I am very excited about his future here at Keizer Fire.”

Memorial service Wed. for boy, 13

A memorial service will be held Wednesday for a Whiteaker Middle School student who died Friday, May 21.
A celebration of life for James Mattiazzi, 13, will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, in the McNary High School gym. The public is invited to attend.
Meanwhile, contributions to the family are being accepted through Clearlake Elementary and Whiteaker Middle schools.

Residents question street light district assessment

Residents of Benevan Court testified before the Keizer City Council last week that they felt a street light assessment on their property taxes was unfair since there are no lights on their street. They asked to either be removed, or that other nearby homes be added.

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Some residents on Benevan Court in Keizer weren’t thrilled when the city proposed a lighting district for their street.

Their primary beef? There aren’t any lights on Benevan Court. [MAP: 1]

The street is tiny, only about 300 feet long with five homes. The lights are actually on Harmony Drive, and some street residents felt they were getting shortchanged or paying for lights benefiting others as well.

Street lighting districts are created when a subdivision or partiion is built. The developer is required to create the district, and an engineer certifies how much installation and maintenance would cost. Once the lots sell and houses are built on them, residents pay back the city for the infrastructure plus electricity for running the lights.

At last week’s Keizer City Council meeting, several said they wouldn’t benefit from the lights.

“It doesn’t even come close to our house,” said Cheryl Johnson.

Her husband, Mark, said they “weren’t opposed to paying their fair share, but the issue is we feel the parcels aren’t the only beneficiaries of the lights. We’re down at the end of that and we don’t even really get the light.”

Wade Buckmaster, who also lives on the street, doesn’t particularly mind that the street lights don’t reach his house, saying he enjoys watching the night sky with his daughter.

“If we want lights on in our subdivision, we have to turn the front lights in our garage on,” he said. “… It’s not really benefiting our property.”

Councilors postponed the matter until June 21 after Public Works Director Rob Kissler said he wanted to find out more information.

Lights were installed for the area, said City Attorney Shannon Johnson, but for reasons yet unknown the developer didn’t form a street lighting district and the matter “slipped through the cracks” at the city.

It appears Portland General Electric has been footing the electricity bill, Kissler added.

“PGE has been asking for a collection of the bill, which raised this issue,” Kissler said Monday night. He added on Tuesday that he “tends to agree” with testifiers saying the assessment as written was unfair.

Chamber tosses sign issue back to city hall

File photo

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Your move, City Hall.

Last month the Keizer City Council asked a group of cosmetologists seeking amendments to the sign code – particularly on temporary signage – to go before a Keizer Chamber of Commerce committee for suggestions.

On Tuesday, the same committee kicked the notion back to city staff, who were asked to recommend a path of action for the Economic Development and Government Affairs (EDGA) committee to consider.

Kim Lewis, who rents a chair at a Keizer salon, has led the charge for some sort of change. She said her A-frame sign is not allowed by the sign code, but it also drives a significant portion of her business.

“I am independent, and I rely on foot traffic and people coming in,” Lewis said. “If I don’t have people coming in, like anyone else I don’t make any money.”

She also expressed objections she picked up from asking local business owners, like relaxing rules that only allow electronic signs to change their message every 15 minutes and allowing businesses to use props like balloons to entice customers.
Yet Community Development Director Nate Brown said all the temporary signage could end up causing clutter.

“I think it’s an aesthetic issue,” Brown said. “If there are balloons everywhere, it looks like trash.”

Lewis suggested perhaps alternative modes of signage – like flags that double as commercial signs – or allowing them on certain days, or only for a set number of hours. But she also questioned some of the intricacies of the ordinances – for example, she said, some signs are allowed only if they are fastened to the ground.

Melissa Shepherd, who like Lewis rents a chair at a local salon, said she had received conflicting information from city staff on which signs are allowed, and that people still ask if her salon is new, despite it being on River Road for more than 20 years.

Other issues came to the forefront as well. Dennis Koho, who owns a law firm in Keizer, said his business was down since a massive “For Lease” sign was erected to help find other tenants for the office building housing his business.

Rich Duncan, serving as chair of EDGA, said he wanted to see some minor changes recommended, but didn’t seem to embrace a full-on debate about the city’s sign rules.

“It would be very heated and long, and no one would be happy,” he said.

Shelly King, a committee member, said the sign code “makes Keizer look as nice as it is. It’s become a pleasant place because our city has taken the time to create a standard.”

Brown said the struggle is to try to meet the needs of businesses while also keeping aesthetics in mind and being fair to all involved.

“When you allow one person to have a bigger or flashier sign, it simply puts pressure on those other businesses to stay at that same level,” he said.