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Month: August 2010

More than 130 pot plants seized; man arrested

A man was arrested on Hazelgreen Road as authorities seized more than 130 marijuana plants from a home there.

A man was arrested just east of Keizer after police said they found 136 marijuana plants in his Hazelgreen Road NE home.

Detectives from the Keizer Police’s Community Response Unit along with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit served a search warrant at a home in the 5500 block of Hazelgreen Road NE at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31. MCSO spokesperson Don Thomson said the warrant service was “the culmination of an investigation into marijuana cultivation.”

Deputies reported seizing 136 marijuana plants in varying states of growth, along with growing and packaging equipment. They estimate the street value at $408,000.

Two juveniles not related to the suspect, aged 14 and 16, were referred to the Department of Human Services. Officers arranged a caregiver for an elderly man with a medical condition who lived on site.

“Thousands of children and families in Marion County are impacted by the use of illegal drugs such as marijuana,” said Chris Baldridge, a deputy in MCSO’s Street Crimes Unit. “Our office is very pro-active in detecting and prosecuting people involved in the manufacture and delivery of illicit drugs. I’m glad to see that this marijuana won’t end up on the streets in Marion County.”

Arrested was Stephen Eric Fendley, 40, for manufacturing a controlled substance, delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, using a minor to deliver marijuana and possession of marijuana. Bail was set at $100,000.

Methods haven’t changed, results have for Volcanoes coaching staff

Ryan Scoma takes a cut for what turned out to be a foul ball in the Volcanoes’ Aug. 18 game with Spokane. (Keizertimes/Herb Swett)

For the Keizertimes

Tom Trebelhorn’s strategy and practice sessions have changed little if at all from the last two seasons.

The Volcanoes, who made the Northwest League playoffs in 2008 and won them last year, have struggled in the second half of this year after going 17-21 in the first half.  Their manager, however, said after the end of last week’s home series against Spokane that he is doing much the same things.

“Same old game,” Trebelhorn said. “Just haven’t done it as well.”

Trebelhorn has been able to get better early innings from his pitching rotation, and a few of his hitters, such as Ryan Scoma, have improved during the season. However, as he noted at the start of the season, he was starting with a mostly new roster as usual, with many question marks.

His players, even with their limited experience, know that the club has done much better in recent years. However, they have not seen changes in the way the Volcanoes are run.

Infielder Adam Duvall observed simply that the club has shown less talent than before. Stephen Harrold, a relief pitcher, said, “We just ran into a lot of bad luck.”

SPARKLEs awarded to Whalen, Esser

From left to right: Garry Whalen, Vickie Hilgemann, Dennis Esser

Two men who donate lots of time to Keizer’s parks were recognized at RIVERfair last weekend with the SPARKLE awards.

The awards are given out by the Keizer Parks Foundation, a nonprofit established to improve parks in Keizer.

Garry Whalen, a parks and recreation board member, “has been there to help the Keizer Parks Foundation from the very beginning,” said Vickie Hilgemann, who is on the foundation’s board. “He has said yes to any request for help we had from making paw pavers, to working on development of the Wild, Wild Rec program, to coordinating and doing a lot of the work on irrigating the Whittam Gardens.”

The other award went to Dennis Esser, who has built seven kiosks at city parks, assisted in Whittam Gardens and made “many” paw pavers, which raise funds for the Keizer Rapids Dog Park, Hilgemann said.

No alarm, no surprises in municipal election

file photo

Residents will have one new face – and a whole host of familiar ones – representing them on the Keizer City Council after November’s election.

Presuming there’s no massive write-in campaign, all the incumbents who sought re-election will continue on the council.

Joe Egli, president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, was the only candidate to file for Position No. 5, currently held by Councilor Richard Walsh. Walsh opted not to run for re-election this year.

Mayor Lore Christopher was the only candidate to file for mayor. She is finishing her fifth term in office. Councilor Cathy Clark is unopposed for her second bid at Position No. 4, and Jim Taylor faces no opposition in his bid for a third term on council in Position No. 6.

Council terms are for four years, while mayoral terms are for two. Councilors David McKane, Brandon Smith and Mark Caillier are not up for re-election this year.

Inspirational theatre is filling hearts, roles in upcoming plays

SKIT Theatre
Photo from Salem-Keizer Inspirational Theatre’s production of “Holes” in January. SKIT is expanding the program to younger students and slating auditions for its upcoming production of “Facing the Giants. (Submitted photos)

For the Keizertimes

Lights! Camera! Action!

Okay, okay. Maybe director Lori Hammer’s dream is centered on the stage, but who’s to say one of her budding stars or starlets won’t end up on the silver screen some day. For now, however, the buzzwords are “fun” and “learning.”

Salem-Keizer Inspirational Teen theatre kicks off its third season next month. SKIT, as it’s called in the biz, is open to students in grades 6-12. They are taught acting, dancing and singing although some prefer directing or improvisation.

There’s also something for the even younger set. SKIT-Little is open to students in grades 1-5. This offshoot became a reality last year when Hammer heeded her parents’ requests.

“I have a heart for teenagers. So I was very excited to start SKIT. But parents kept asking: ‘My little guy is in fifth grade. Can he join?’,” said Hammer. “And we thought why not? They do a bit of dancing class, a bit of acting class, and a bit of singing class. It’s a two-hour program and they get to do a little bit of each, and then they put it all together to make their own show at the end of the season.”

Expansion gained even greater steam when other volunteers offered their assistance.

“We were able to expand our program and create our own jumping off point. So we give our younger kids an introduction to theater, and if they want they can move up into SKIT,” said Hammer. “It’s early, but I’m already seeing that in that I’ve got parents e-mailing me so-and-so was in SKIT-L last year and now they’re going to be in sixth grade. Can they audition for the big play?”

Twenty youngsters enrolled in SKIT-L last year. But Hammer said more is welcome this year. The program features instructors in three disciplines: dancing, singing and acting. Youngsters are divided by age, so there are 1-2, 3-4 and 5th grade classes.

“There’s like eight kids in a class,” said Hammer. “We’ve got these small classes and we can work one-on-one with the kids. So we get nice small intimate classes and (students) get a real chance to grow and figure out who’s the crazy person inside (each one) is, along with recognizing what their individual talents are.”

Both programs are offered at New Harvest Church, 4290 Portland Road NE, in Salem. Sessions last 10 weeks and costs $100 per child. Scholarships are available. Registration is 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

SKIT classes begin Thursday, Sept. 16, and are from 5-7 p.m. SKIT-L classes are Wednesdays beginning Sept. 15, from 4-6 p.m.

SKIT Theatre began three years ago at Dayspring Fellowship as an outreach. Hammer was the church’s drama leader and directed teen plays.

“We created ‘Narnia’ for the Salem River Fest, and it was a lot of fun. Seventy kids auditioned for the play,” said Hammer. “I thought it was a one shot deal … And then the kids kept e-mailing me going, okay, what are we doing next year? So obviously there was a need.”

SKIT has since grown into its own non-profit theatre company. Last season audiences were treated to “Holes,” performed at Claggett Creek Middle School, and “Beauty and the Beast,” complete with tea party, at the Historic Grand Theatre in Salem.

This season’s first play is more inspirational. “Facing the Giants,” the football movie, is being adapted into a crowd-cheering play. Auditions are open to Salem/Keizer teens in grades 6-12, and are slated for Saturday, Sept. 25, 10-11:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., or from 1:30-3 p.m., and on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2-3:30 p.m. or 3:30 to 5 p.m..

Rehearsals are Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons from October through January.

“Oklahoma!” will be featured in the spring.

Hammer is not surprised by the program’s success.

“I tend to be a real positive person, so I just assume, oh, it’s going to work and it’s going to be fabulous,” she said. “Obviously that doesn’t happen in the real world. But I was hoping that SKIT, and then SKIT-L, would fill a need. We’ve never had less than 70 kids audition for our shows. For ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ 87 kids auditioned. That’s just crazy.”

E-mail [email protected] for more information.

IN THE RING: Should the city work to create a downtown district in Keizer, complete with affordable housing, office and retail space?

Each week the Keizertimes asks community leaders a question about current events.  To see more of this week’s answers or answers to past questions log onto and click on In the Ring.

This week’s question: Should the city work to create a downtown district in Keizer, complete with affordable housing, office and retail space?

Kimberly Strand, owner, Willamette Valley Real Estate—
Multi-use is a great idea close to where all services are.  Apartments or loft space above retail and office would be great along River Road, if done properly.   Our plan is to beautify the downtown—River Rd corridor and the multi-use, like recently done on Broadway St. Salem would be a nice addition to Keizer.

Roy Duncan, retired state of Oregon analyst—
No.  I don’t remember this in the constitution and if it is wanted it should be done with private money.

Phil Bay, former city councilor—
I have shared my views on many occasions that I believe it is important to maintain the core of Keizer(River Road) if that you are referring to as downtown.  I do not think it is good to see large retail space empty, and we should encourage business development to fill all vacant spaces, and that includes office occupancy.  I do not think that the city should try to develop more affordable housing, as I believe that would over work the city staff and would only expand our spending in the effort to do so, as we can not afford to spend more in implementing that kind of a plan.

Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting—
The idea has many possibilities but I do not see this as a workable option for some years to come. Based on current economic conditions, I don’t see how this type of plan could pencil. Keizer will generate significant affordable housing in our current economy. Building a core downtown with new housing options will only continue to depress the current supply.

The other problem is where will you get the money? Urban renewal would be a bad option. That would mean you would be adding additional debt to an already depressed surplus of existing housing. For now create the idea. The economic indicators are no where to be seen. City leaders should keep working on the dream but live and operate in our current economic reality.

Pat Ehrlich and Jim Willhite, vice presidents, Gubser Neighborhood Assoc.—
We don’t think this is what Keizer needs to focus on.  We have so many empty buildings now which need to be filled and there is really not a good location to create a “downtown” district.  It seems to be a problem in Area C of Keizer Station to create something along this line.  What would be torn down to create a downtown district?   Let’s just work with what we have and make River Road and our other shopping areas successful.

Simonka community garden grows where weeds once flourished

Darren Kinnird
Darren Kinnird, 10 and cousin Haley Lenhart, 9 admire the large tomato growing in the garden they helped build during a weekend in June for the Simonka Place. (Keizertimes/JOCE DEWITT)

For the Keizertimes

For several Salem area organizations, blessings have arrived in all shapes and sizes in the last couple months.

The Simonka Place in Keizer became the target of abundant community outreach efforts during the month of June as several Salem and West Valley nurses groups decided to apply their annual gift funds to a good cause.

The Simonka Place, located at 5119 River Road, is an arm of the Union Gospel Mission for women and children in need of shelter and outreach due to abuse and homelessness.

The nurses groups, including Salem SHAPES, Salem inpatient and West Valley SHAPES of Dallas, gathered their gift funds and gained contributions from local businesses to convert a weedy area of the Simonka Place’s backyard into a healthy garden full of vegetables, herbs and berries.

“Literally, the weeds were enormous,” says Michelle Slattum, Assistant Nurse Manager of Salem and West Valley SHAPES. “We came on a Sunday and pulled the big weeds. A week later we came back out with the youth group and started planting.”

Bridgeport Community Chapel of Dallas played a big part in the success of the event as members of the youth group volunteered to help build the garden.

“At one point we had 50 kids out here working like you wouldn’t believe,” says Kathy Smith, volunteer coordinator and case manager at Simonka Place.

“Thank goodness for the youth group. It was nice to have younger people involved,” says Slattum. “It’s important at that age to give back.”

People expected the economy to have a negative effect on how much the community was willing to contribute because “not everybody has what they’ve had in the past,” According to Brandy Lenhart, a CNA for Salem SHAPES who brought her kids to help.

That reality seemed irrelevant during the project, however, as various local businesses generously donated plants, bark chips and other supplies.

“The volunteers were given a budget of $500 from Salem Health for the entire project,” said Slattum, “Instead of keeping the gifts we are given every year for ourselves, they challenged us to do a project.”

So why choose to plant a garden?

Finished June 26, the plot of land portrays a space of complete restoration. Two months later it still provides Simonka residents with lush, nutritious valuable foods.

The evolution of the garden can be compared to those of the patients of the Simonka House, in which desperate women and children are taken in, transformed and upheld by caregivers of the community.

“The goal is for this to be a place for women to come and enjoy the outside. They all come out and work in the garden and are assigned a certain section,” says Smith. “It provides normalcy; it’s therapeutic.”

Among all the other benefits, the garden project also unified the city remarkably.

“Everything we do is dependent on volunteers, so maintenance can be difficult,” says Smith. “This got the whole community involved.”

“We’re caregivers, and most of us are women, so this project really hit home,” says Slattum. “Once we got involved it was so rewarding.”

Council considers creating sidewalk assistance program

file photo

Of the Keizertimes

A program to help homeowners pay for sidewalk repair and installation is in the works.

There’s been no official decision to create it, but Keizer city councilors asked staff at a work session earlier this month to create a framework for either a city-wide or smaller local improvement districts (LID) to do the work.

A pilot program with residents of Hornet Court would be launched under the council’s proposal.

Some issues still to shake out include the size of the sidewalks being installed, what contribution the city’s street fund might make and how often the opportunity would be offered.

City Manager Chris Eppley and Kevin Watson, assistant to the city manager, touted a local improvement district as an option that could lower costs via economy of scale and possibly a lower interest rate than a homeowner could get otherwise. The idea could make sense for everyone involved since homeowners are responsible for maintaining their share of the sidewalk.

“If the economies of scale are correct, then you can move forward with it,” Watson said.

Models discussed included very localized LIDs, where neighborhoods would request by a two-thirds majority to create one; or cycling city-wide LIDs where any homeowner would join.

Like any public project, the sidewalk projects would be bid out per public contracting standards.

One issue would be collection; LIDs must be assessed separately from property taxes. And Councilor Richard Walsh pointed out some may not want to participate in the LID.

“Some people have sidewalks in front of their homes that they paid for that are perfectly good,” Walsh said.

Eppley described the process as “a tool for people to take advantage of if they wish to use that program.”

Another issue was the extent to which sidewalks upgrades and repairs would have to comply with modern standards per the Americans with Disabilities Act. Any new sidewalk or replacement must be upgraded to five feet wide; replacing only a panel or two would not necessarily trigger that requirement, said Bill Lawyer, public works superintendent.

And some may not even want a sidewalk in their neighborhood.

“Unless it’s part of a land use decision there’s no requirement to put in a sidewalk,” said City Attorney Shannon Johnson. “But if the sidewalk’s there you have to maintain it.”
This may not sit well with some, warned City Councilor David McKane.

“When you talk about sidewalks that don’t exist … not that sidewalks are a bad thing, but I think it’s going to open up a whole can of worms,” McKane said.

Councilor Cathy Clark said improving sidewalks in the Palma Ceia neighborhood where she lives “would improve our property value and definitely improve safety and accessibility.”
But McKane opined many homeowners may be able to get a better home equity loan interest rate than the city could on an LID loan.

Cheer squad captures unique energy

McNary’s special needs cheerleaders are one of two such squads in the area

Of the Keizertimes

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

That’s the mantra coming from the McNary Youth Cheer (MYC), and that mantra is a big reason why the program has grown from 12 to 45 members in just two years.

This figure doesn’t count those who cheer for McNary High School. But it does count those enrolled in five other programs: The coed tiny (ages 5 and under), mini (8 and under), youth (11 and under) and junior (14 and under) teams.

The fifth squad consists entirely of children and adults with special needs. Seeds for its formation were planted when MYC attended a competition in Eugene earlier this year and watched a performance by the Emerald All-Stars special needs squad. Today, Keizer-based MYC is one of two special needs cheer squads in the Salem area.

“They’re learning cheers, jumps, stunts and tumbling. Every aspect of cheer they learn,” said Deirdre Veenker, the program’s director. “We have kids that are autistic, deaf, visually impaired. So we have to attend to a variety of different needs. We practice the spectrum of visual learning, of auditory learning, of kinesthetic learning. We have to adapt to each of their needs.”

Practices are Saturday mornings in the McNary gym. The girls and young ladies – the oldest member is 22 – will join the program’s other squads when they perform at selected high school games throughout the year. The first joint performance is at a McNary football game.

“The first thing that captured my eye is that the program did come recommended from Developmental Disabilities Services,” said parent Jen Sutton. “The second thing is the approachability of the staff. They understand that special needs children have different needs and so they’re better able to meet the (members’) social and physical limitations. They see the strengths and weaknesses in our children. Staff knows they have different energies, different enthusiasms, different possibilities and imaginations. They know special needs kids are like everyone else. When you encourage them they blossom.”

And they love an audience.

“I can tell you honestly that my daughter is so excited for the chance. She’s a total ham. So the chance to have fun and be special without being ‘special ed’ is something she is looking forward to,” said Sutton.

Angela Oelhafen is Sutton’s daughter. She sports red hair, an infectious smile and a strong affinity for cartwheels.

“We practice to learn and do the cheers and stuff,” said Oelhafen.

Tumbling is also practiced each week.

“I am actually super excited to work with this group,” said tumbling coach Chris Pereyra of Eugene. “It’s like working with the younger group because we work on the basics the same. We just make it more exciting for them.”

Pereya coached cheerleading and tumbling since high school. He sees something in the McNary quintet that he doesn’t see in some of his other squads.

“They just seem more appreciative and they seem to work harder. It’s easier to work with a group like that because they want to work hard,” said Pereya. “So the more willing they are to work hard, the better they’re going to get. Rather than me trying to push them to get better, they’re pushing themselves.”

Raven Gesch, 22, is one of Pereya’s hardest workers, and one of his most excited. She calls to her brother every time she is about to tumble under Pereya’s physical guidance. Her enthusiasm is appreciated.

“You watch Raven and know that she’s trying hard, and that’s what’s most important,” said Pereya. “That’s what I want to see instead of somebody who doesn’t have a good attitude.”

There’s room for more budding cheerleaders with special needs.

“We think this is such a great opportunity for kids and young adults with a mental or physical challenge to be able to be involved in such a competitive and fun sport,” said Veenker. “There are a lot of sports and activities that don’t give these kids a chance to be involved, so we are really excited to see how this plays out. Even someone in a wheelchair may be able to do hand motions. We really want to see the numbers for this team grow. We have so many volunteers for this.

“It’s just a blessing to have them here because they have a great spirit for what they’re doing, and they enjoy what they’re doing. We love working with each one of them. They work real hard and I just enjoy doing this program because it’s where my heart’s at; I taught students with special needs for years.”

Initial registration for each member of the special needs squad is $250 along with monthly fees of $45. Sponsorships are being sought. Write [email protected] for additional information.