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Month: July 2010

Is your chili the best? Find out on Saturday

Of the Keizertimes

Florence Carter’s suggestion has grown from a little wine tasting into a full-blown chili cook-off at her son John’s restaurant, Tuff Ranch BBQ, at McNary Golf Club.

The first Spicy Pepper Chili Cook-off and Wine and Beer Festival will take over the patio at Tuff Ranch from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 31.

The public is invited to bring their best chili or salsa to the cook-off.

Local rock band Lush will perform at the Spicy Pepper Chili Cook-off at Tuff Ranch BBQ on Saturday. (Submitted photo)

There will be no cooking at the event; contestants will cook prepare their chili at home and bring their entries to Tuff Ranch BBQ.

Entrants should plan on bringing “a few gallons of chili to sample,” said Carter.

Those entering a salsa should also bring enough for 150 people to sample.

Admission and sampling of the chili and salsa entries is free.

Cost to enter the cook-off is $5 for each entry with an unlimited number of entries per person.

Along with the chili and salsa contest more than 10 area wineries and four breweries will display their products.  A 5-ounce beer or a 3-ounce wine will each cost $4.

Each winery will have bottles of several varietals for sale.

Food Services of America (FSA) and Sysco have donated ribs, chicken, and pork for the event.  Food will be sold throughout the day aside from the cook-off entries.

The evening will be capped with live music from the band Lush in the lounge. The restaurant will be serving its regular menu in its dining room and lounge on Saturday.

There will be a panel of celebrity judges as well as People’s Choice winners.  The winning chili and salsa chosen by the judging panel will be put on the Tuff Ranch BBQ’s restaurant  menu from September to the end of the year.

John Carter and his wife,  Alaina Santana, a teacher at South Salem High School,  hope to grow the cook-off into an annual fundraising event with the sole purpose of clothing school-age children in the Salem-Keizer school district.

All the proceeds benefit the Assistance League’s Operation School Bell which raises funds to buy and distribute school clothes for students whose families are struggling financially.  It is a project that John Carter is passionate about.

“It’s a terrible thing for a kid to start school without a pair of shoes, a jacket or a backpack,” he said.

He related a story he had heard about a recipient of Operation School Bell’s prograrm.

“This little boy got shoes and he carried them around in the box.  When asked why he wasn’t wearing them he explained that they were the first pair of new shoes he ever had.”

So far this school year, Operation School Bell has clothed more than 2,600 Salem-Keizer school children.  The project began in 1960 and is now a national project of the Assistance League.

Carter and Santana want the cook-off to grow over the next few years.  “There should be no reason why, we as a community, can’t make sure our children have clothes to wear when they go to school.”

KNOW YOUR PARKS: Chalmers-Jones Park a great place to splash, skate or sit

Of the Keizertimes

In a nutshell: Chalmers-Jones Park is a well-manicured park on the civic center campus with some of the newest amenities, including a splash fountain and Carlson Skate Park. Budget cuts mean the splash park won’t run as often as planned this year, but it’s available on hot days. Not much for younger kids to do if the fountain is closed.

Time visited: 1:30 p.m. on a Thursday

Size: 2.9 acres, which includes the skate park.

Who was there: A half-dozen or so children and their families were cooling off in the new splash fountain. Older kids were using the skate park.

Where is it: Behind the Keizer Civic Center, with access from Rickman Drive NE and Chemawa Road NE. A separate parking area for the skate park is on Rickman Drive. [MAP: 6]

Mowing level: Very good, although weed control was spotty around light posts. Dry grass indicates the park could use some irrigation or sprinklers. Lots of young trees and shrubs planted as part of civic center project; it is likely the most landscaped park in Keizer’s park system.

What’s there: A brand new splash fountain opened this summer and will be open limited hours. Visit for the details. It’s free and open to the public. Water shoots up from fountains built into the concrete (it doesn’t have a pool where water accumulates).

Its hours of operation are limited this year due to budget constraints – due to its water recycling system, from a public health perspective it must be treated the same as a public swimming pool. There is bench-type seating available near the fountain.

Paved sidewalks provide easy movement between the skate park, splash fountain and the civic center. At 21,000 square feet, the skate park is popular and consistently used. Just make sure you or your children wear helmets while using it, or risk a citation.

An attractive, well-maintained gazebo is open to the public and can be rented for $35 for a two-hour minimum. Call 503-390-3700 for more information.

There are numerous benches and picnic tables on site, but none are covered.

Portable toilets are available on the side of the skate park nearest Rickman Drive. Indoor bathrooms at the Keizer Civic Center are available during the city’s normal business hours.

Free public wireless Internet is available inside and may reach outside.

The park is bordered to the north and west by the Keizer Civic Center, to the east by a parking and a private residence, and private homes to the south.

All houses are either fenced off or have high hedges.

Parking: Ample parking both by the skate park on Rickman Drive and in the civic center parking lot.

Park history: Land was purchased on July 1, 1986 after extensive deliberations as part of Salem Private School campus purchase for the Keizer City Hall and police department. It was named City Hall Park.

A wood-chip walking path was later added, and it was renamed to honor Keizer resident Chalmers Jones. Skate Park was completed in July 1999. Oregon National Guard Civil-Military Projects group completed the gazebo in 2001.

The Parks Master Plan calls for: Permanent restrooms and concession stand. A previous master plan calls for a play area next to the skate park.

Staff comments: “I think this park is in good shape. We still need to install some additional irrigation on the south and south west side, but that’s about it. The strength of this park lies in its versatility and proximity to the Civic Center.” – Terry Witham, parks supervisor.

Chamber lays out vision for freeway visitors center

Of the Keizertimes

A vision for a visitors center near Interstate 5 is becoming clearer.

Top officials from the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, which acts as the tourism agency for the city, say it would dramatically increase visibility and aim to double visitors to Keizer if the facility is built.

There’s been no decisions made, but some hope to establish a partnership with Salem-Keizer Transit, which plans to build a transit center on Lockhaven Drive at Keizer Station Boulevard.

Any expansion would be contingent on funding. While no one’s sure yet where money for building would come from, officials believe grants from organizations like Travel Oregon and even contributions from youth sports groups could be used to operate it once it’s built.

Transient occupancy taxes (TOT) could also come into the equation. The Chamber received $16,118 from the city of Keizer in TOT, more commonly known as a hotel/ motel tax, in 2008-09.

Their proposal calls for hiring one more full-time employee, increasing fulltime staffing to three. The visitors center would serve to “promote Keizer as a destination to stay, play or shop … or to live and work,” it states.

Christine Dieker, executive director of the chamber, acknowledged doubling tourism in three to five years is ambitious – but she thinks it’s doable.

Chamber President Joe Egli said attracting more tourists – be it for a youth sports tournament or acting as a hub to get to destinations throughout the Willamette Valley – is key to growing the local economy.

“Essentially we need to get more money in town instead of trading dollars around town,” Egli said. “… It’s a food chain effect. If we feed our retail businesses with new money, our businesses will grow. … They will need more insurance, they’ll have money to buy bigger houses and will need more professional services.”

He said the Chamber’s current home in the basement of the Keizer Heritage Center “does nothing to bring more business to River Road. … If we’re out (at Keizer Station) we will bring more business to Keizer by nature.”

Dieker believes proximity to area attractions – the coast and wineries to the west, mountains to the east and Portland to the north – will be a big selling point to augment what’s already here, like the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

“Location, location, location is something we’ve always said to be special of Keizer,” she said. “… Actually staying in Keizer puts you less than an hour’s drive to so many things that are special about the Willamette valley.”

She also said efforts in recent years to emphasize the area’s history, along with programs like public art, would give travelers one more reason to stay in Keizer.

“There’s a history behind this area that’s pretty special in Oregon,” Dieker said.

A new community center open for rentals, along with youth sports facilities, could be another draw, she said.

There’s another amenity – public restrooms – Egli thinks could be a draw.

And Egli thinks the chamber continuing to act as a tourism agency puts Keizer front and center, rather than outsourcing to other outfits like Travel Oregon .

“They’re not going to be pushing Keizer as much,” he said. “They’ll be pushing regional things. But we want to be a player.”

Raises abound at Keizer Fire District

Of the Keizertimes

Non-represented staff at Keizer Fire District will receive 2 percent raises in fiscal year 2010-11, a unanimous board of directors decided at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The pay increase is retroactive to July 1.

Non-represented staff will also receive 2 percent raises in 2011-12 and another 2 percent in 2012-13.

These raises are consistent with what union represented employees received earlier this year following contract negotiations with the board.

According to Fire Chief Jeff Cowan, it’s the practice of the district to have benefits offered to represented and non-represented employees mirror each other.

Union employees also received a more generous benefits package, specifically as it relates to the monthly accumulation of sick leave and vacation. But non-represented employees will have to wait at least a month before they receive similar benefits after Director Greg Frank requested more time to review the policy changes proposed by Cowan.

A survey of similar-sized districts from throughout the state showed district staff were underpaid by about 10 percent.

In other news:

• Deputy Chief Randy Jackson estimated the district will receive half of its ambulance service billings for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Jackson said while $2 million was billed, an estimated $1.1 will be written off as bad debts.

Medicare and the Oregon Health Plan pay set fees that average about half what the district charges for ambulance services.

Jackson added it’s against the law for the district to charge patients covered by these health plans for the difference.

“It’s mandated that 50 percent of what we charge is not collectable,” said Jackson of the two government health plans..

The board directed Cowan to look into whether or not an ambulance service rate increase is warranted.

One possibility that could bear further study by the board is annual rate increases based on some economic indicator, such as a cost of living adjustment.

The district last raised ambulance service rates a year ago.

Surprise! Start of compost program moved up

Of the Keizertimes

The city’s two sanitation haulers are starting a food waste composting program a month earlier than expected.

Representatives from Valley Recycling and Loren’s Sanitation announced Tuesday the program would start August 2.

If you already have garbage service through either company that includes yard debris pickup, you won’t notice much of a change. The Keizer City Council voted for bi-weekly pickup, which maintains the current schedule already set by the haulers and doesn’t include a rate increase.

“We were ready to roll as soon as we had a permitted facility,” said John Sullivan, general manager of Loren’s Sanitation. “… I hope people kind of catch on to it and take advantage of it because it is a good thing.”

“It doesn’t affect anyone’s rate and the facility is already permitted to take the materials, so there doesn’t seem much point to hold off until September at this point,” said Greg Dittman, operations manager at Valley Recycling.

Both are happy about diverting more waste from garbage taken to the county’s Waste to Energy plant.

“Those of us that have experimented with it already at our homes are finding it’s actually quite a bit of material by the time you include the napkins, pizza boxes and stuff like that,” Dittman said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Sullivan still has small compost bins available to customers at Loren Sanitation’s Chemawa Road N. office. [MAP: 2]

Compostable items like bread, coffee filters and grounds, dairy products, egg shells, produce, meats, pizza boxes and seafood shells could be disposed of in the green yard debris can, instead of in the trash.

Plastic bags, animal waste, foil, grease, metals and personal hygiene products would continue to go in the garbage.

Motorcycle rally may become annual event

Of the Keizertimes

Final numbers aren’t yet in, but Good Vibrations organizers are happy with the turnout at last weekend’s motorcycle rally.

Organizers estimate some 600 motorcyclists registered for VIP treatment at the festival, and hundreds more made their way to Riverfront Park in Salem or to Keizer Rapids Park for rally events.

The park played host to two concerts, while the Keizer Civic Center had breakfast for VIPs and the Renaissance Inn was the registration hub. [MAP: 3]

And, of course, there was a parade of hundreds of motorcyclists roaring south on River Road Sunday morning.

“We were excited to see the parade going down River Road,” said Christine Dieker, executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. “I could see it being an event that could grow.”

Motorcycles roar down River Road last weekend in a parade as part of the Good Vibrations street rally. KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox

Carol Infranca, a publicist for Road Shows Inc., estimated at least another couple hundred motorcyclists came out to enjoy some of the festivities but didn’t actually register for the event.

“And to have nearly 600 registered at a first-year event is pretty impressive,” Infranca added.

Road Shows Inc. is the company which coordinated Good Vibrations.

Randy Burke, president of the company, said support from Keizer’s mayor and city councilors were vital to making the event successful.

“And it was successful in that we had great support, great turnout by the bikers, and great sponsorship,” he said. “As far as the ability to know whether we raised enough revenue to pay the bills, I won’t know that for a couple of days.”

Whether the event returns depended in part on whether Road Shows Inc. was invited back, Burke said. On Monday the Keizer City Council agreed by consensus to do just that.

Keizer Police Capt. Jeff Kuhns reported no problems related to the rally.

“There was a good crowd on hand to observe the parade on Sunday morning.  The crowd was nothing like the numbers we see for the annual Iris Festival Parade, but at the same time there was a decent showing of individuals who watched the motorcycles, and boat with wheels, drive past the Chemawa Road and River Road areas,” Kuhns said.

Traffic was disrupted for only about 10 minutes while the procession moved through Keizer and Salem, Kuhns estimated.

“I got pretty tickled with the parade,” Burke said. “Parades can be pretty dicey, sometimes, to produce. We had to coordinate two police departments – and it was seamless.”

One question on many minds has been where all the motorcyclists came from. What organizers do know is there were attendees from Oregon, Nevada, Washington, California, Canada and Idaho. What they don’t know yet is how many came from where.

Sherrie Gottfried, sales manager at the Keizer Renaissance Inn, said the hotel sold out for two nights while the festival was in town.

“A nice quiet group – real mellow, very courteous,” she said.

Facing $23M shortfall, school board outlines cuts


For the Keizertimes

Proposed budget cuts to address a $23.8 million shortfall in state funding were presented to the Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday.

Superintendent Sandy Husk, who had announced at the June board meeting that the reductions, as outlined by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, would cut the 2010-11 budget by $18 million for a total of $23.8 million in budget cuts, made a powerpoint presentation on proposed cuts to reach the new shortfall figure.

Husk outlined the following breakdown of reductions:

• $10.1 million by reducing the ending fund balance to 4 percent and reducing the school startup fund and the risk management reserve.

• $4.6 million by cutting employee compensation through four unpaid days.

• $2.8 million by a hiring freeze.

• $2.93 million by cutting funding for supplies, materials and purchased services.

• $870,000 by eliminating funding for new textbooks and career-technology education expansion.

• $2.5 million by transferring the general fund item for capital maintenance to the bond fund.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal Aug. 10.

In other business, the board elected Rick Kimball as its new chair and Nancy MacMorris-Adix as its new vice chair. They took their positions immediately after the election, which was one of the earlier items of the meeting. Kimball succeeds Steve Chambers, and MacMorris-Adix succeeds Ron Jones.

The board approved a three-year contract for Husk. Her salary for 2010-11 will be $189,666; it will be at least that for each of the remaining years.

The board approved a 30-month contract for Assistant Superintendent Mary Cadez, a 36-month contract for Assistant Superintendent Salam Noor and a 24-month contract for Michael Wolfe as assistant superintendent for business and support services.

Other personnel actions approved by the board included:

•Changing the status of Ron Wiebe, mathematics teacher at Claggett Creek Middle School, from contract full-time to contract part-time.

•Hiring Michele Condello as a reading teacher at Forest Ridge Elementary School; George Thomson as a first-year probation full-time orchestra teacher at McNary High School; Melissa Houston as a second-year probation full-time learning resource center teacher at Claggett Creek Middle School; and Kelsy Bowers as a third-year probation full-time English teacher at Whiteaker Middle School.

•Accepting the resignations of Jana Fitzpatrick as a first-grade teacher at Gubser Elementary School and Erica Kerr as a literacy teacher at Weddle Elementary School, and the retirement of Debra Fiscus as a physical education teacher at Keizer Elementary School.

“Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant” by Darold A. Treffert

“Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant” by Darold A. Treffert
c.2010, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
$29.95 US & Canada
302 pages, includes index


Your checkbook’s a mess.

It’s not really your fault. For some reason, you just don’t “get” numbers. Math eludes you completely. You have other talents, of course, but addition and subtraction aren’t among them.

So would you believe there’s a chance – albeit a very slim one, but a chance nonetheless – that you could wake up tomorrow and easily do advanced algebra? Read more about it in “Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant” by Darold A. Treffert.

Surely, it shocked a few parents: their autistic son (or, occasionally, daughter) suddenly understood music, art, or mathematics. Overnight, he was a virtuoso on the piano, an instrument he’d never seen due to blindness. In an instant, she understood time but couldn’t count. He was unable to talk, but his artwork was museum-quality.  His IQ tested well below normal, but he was a mathematic genius.

For nearly fifty years, Darold Treffert has studied these people and the condition called Savant Syndrome, “a rare but remarkable condition in which incredible abilities… coexist side by side, in jarring juxtaposition, to certain disabilities within the same person”; abilities that most “neurotypical” (i.e., normal) people wouldn’t possess unless extensively trained. Rare (it describes about one in 10 autistics) and stunning to behold, Savant Syndrome holds secrets that make scientists scratch their heads.

There are, Treffert says, three main ways for someone to become a savant. Most are born with the syndrome, but it may lie dormant for years. Piano prodigy Leslie Lemke, for instance, was 13 years old when his parents were awakened in the middle of the night by their blind son’s musical brilliance.

Artist Alonzo Clemons falls under Treffert’s second category. Clemons was a normal baby, but was injured by a fall at age three. While in a group home, his gift of sculpture was discovered. Clemons is an acquired savant, meaning that his ability presented after injury.

The third, Sudden Savant Syndrome, occurs without prelude and can happen to “neurotypical” people at any time. It comes unbidden, bestows incredible talent, and can leave quietly or remain for years.

Walk through a bookstore or library these days, and you’ll find several dozen books on the workings of your brain. I believe, though, that this one is quite likely the most intriguing of all.

Using case studies, reader-friendly medicine, and contagious curiosity, author Darold A. Treffert leads his readers on a tour of one facet of brain science that even Hollywood seems taken with, but about which few books are written.

Treffert challenges us to maximize what we have in our craniums by proving that even “neurotypical” brains are malleable and under-utilized.  Furthermore, not only is his an impossible-to-put-down, amazing collection of warm human-interest stories, but this book also offers parents of autistic children a ray of hope in a few chapters specifically meant for them.

Armchair scientists, parents, educators, and anybody with an interest in brain works will find “Islands of Genius” fascinating and fresh. For you, savoring this book is a true no-brainer.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Presented by Copper Creek Mercantile

Town & Country Lanes owner Don Lebold and Carleen Natividad after she rolled a perfect game.

Carleen Natividad, 35, bowled her first 300 game in the sanctioned Bar League Challenge on Thursday, July 8, at Town & Country Lanes in Keizer.

“It is only the second perfect game ever bowled by a woman at the lanes” said owner Don Lebold. “It’s a truly remarkable feat.”

Don added he knows of only three women in Salem-Keizer who have ever bowled a 300 game, until Carleen bowled her game last week.

With regards to her 300 game, Carleen said she wasn’t nervous going into the 10th frame.  Her dad, Ted Natividad, an avid bowler and assistant coach with the McNary girls high school team, kept her calm, she said. Her only thought before throwing the final strike was, “OK….here it goes.”

On throwing the last strike she turned and ran to her dad and burst out in tears. Trying to calm down and with shaky legs, she went outside to get fresh air until reminded by a team mate she needed to come back in and bowl the third game.

Carleen’s last three balls were solid shots, perfect pocket strikes.

Due to an accident in 2008 Carleen has not bowled regularly on a team until this summer’s league; her current average is 164.  Her previous league average was 198.  Recently she competed in the “Bowl Down Cancer” tournament in Portland and won $500.

Carleen lives in Keizer and has been bowling with her family since the age of nine.  She is a graduate of McNary High School.

She is also a member of the bowling Natividads. The family has accumulated its share of perfection over the years.

As reported last year in the Keizertimes, Ted Natividad, Jr., or TJ, has two sanctioned 300s;  Ted, Sr has one 300, though it wasn’t sanctioned (bowled in a Monte Carlo game). Bill Secco, who is married to Carleen’s sister Christina, has two, as does one of Carleen’s nephews.

– Submitted by Bill Griffith

To expand or not

Mayor Lore Christopher has cited the expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as one of her goals for her self-imposed final term if she is re-elected this fall.

Others also talk about expanding the boundary for the sake of future growth of Keizer, both residentially and commercially.

Before dicussion of the expansion of UGB gets too far, Keizer will need to take a step  back and decide what is most important for the future of the city.

One can assume that if the UGB is expanded then the next obvious step is to expand the city limits, opening hundreds of acres for development.  Adding new subdivisons with hundreds or thousands of homes will cost millions of dollars in required infrastructure—sewer lines, power lines, streets, curbs, etc.

More expensive than the cost of all that expansion is the danger of Keizer losing its biggest current selling point:  small town quaintness.  It is what draws people to Keizer, it’s what current citizens say is why they love Keizer so much.

Even though McNary High School is overcrowded, having one school draws the community together—we are all Celtics.  The addition of thousands of homes would mean more schools and probably a second high school.  Results from the Keizer Compass report on Keizer’s future showed that most people didn’t want another high school because it would divide loyalties within our city.  Two high schools and divided loyalities do not foster a community or small town feel.  Cross town rivalries never do.

Who would benefit most from an expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary?  Landowners and developers would top the list.  The fact that they would make money is not a reason to consider or not consider an expansion.

Current homeowners of Keizer would benefit if the boundary was not expanded which would mean no large scale housing development.  Supply and demand would dictate home prices rise as Keizer continued to be one of the most desirable addresses in the Willamette Valley.

Any expansion of the UGB will have to be decided on a regional basis, involving Keizer, Salem and Marion County.  Keizer can make a very good case for expansion to the other governments.  But it will have to make the case to those who like Keizer the way it is.  As city councilors know very well, current residents are very protective of the status quo (of course, Trader Joe’s is welcome).

Keizer will eventually face the issue that many towns and cities face:  how to assure that we don’t become a victim of our own success.  As it stands today, people clamor to find a home in Keizer.  They enjoy our cleanliness, our volunteer spirit and our family friendly community.  All the things that define Keizer could be vulnerable with a doubling in size.

With a static tax rate Keizer would be hard pressed to find the money to maintain miles of new streets and sewers.  The police department would find itself stretched.  The city can not afford new subsdivisions today; future growth and infrastructure must be paid for, either with a tax base increase or a new Urban Renewal District to pay for them.

Proponents of a UGB expansion will have to convince citizens who like Keizer as it is, why it is good for the future.  And then, they’ll have to convince the other regional players.  It’s a tall order but one that a leader shouldn’t shy away from.