Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: August 27, 2010

Large pot grow found in farm field

Marion County Sheriff's deputies took out a 42-plant marijuana grow found in a field just north of Keizer Friday morning. (Photo submitted by Marion County Sheriff's Office)

A farm hand discovered a marijuana grow on a farm just northwest of Keizer.

The grow was discovered Friday, Aug. 27, in a field on Windsor Island Road near Simon Street. A field manager there with Chapin Farms showed Marion County Sheriff’s deputies a field where they found 42 marijuana plants growing.

The plants ranged in height from one foot to more than seven feet tall. Authorities believe the street value is about $126,000. There is no suspect information at this time.

Authorities urge all farmers to check fields regularly, including looking for unexplained trails. The sheriff’s office asks anyone who discovers such a trail – or a pot grow – to call the department’s Street Crimes Unit at 503-588-5112.

Medical office, transit plans will be reviewed next month

At far left is a medical imaging facility planned. At far right is a footprint of the Salem-Keizer Transit center. At top is a plan for a small park. The three other white shapes are footprints for possible future structures. (Photo Illustration by Andrew Jackson of the Keizertimes)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Plans for a two-story medical facility and a Salem-Keizer Transit station are set for review by Keizer’s planning commission and city council in September.

A master plan for Keizer Station’s Area B – which encompasses the area north of Lockhaven Drive, east of McLeod Lane, south of Dennis Ray Avenue and west of the Union Pacific railroad line – will be before the planning commission Sept. 8. [MAP: 1] Should it be recommended or otherwise passed forward by the commission – that board’s opinion is advisory only – the Keizer City Council would consider the matter on Sept. 20.

The doctor’s office has been reported to be an imaging facility run by Salem Radiology. The facility there would be two stories tall with a footprint of 13,269 square feet.

“They are in preliminary design,” said Sam Litke, the city’s senior planner. “They probably will start construction next year if all goes well.”

Also planned are a half-acre park and the Salem-Keizer Transit center. The transit building’s design has yet to be decided, but a preliminary estimate of 3,040 square feet was included in the master plan documents submitted to the city.

Plans include extending a wall currently in place along Keizer Station Boulevard to block existing homes along Dennis Ray Avenue from the development.

In addition, a small park is planned for the rear corner of the property. Litke said it would be primarily for stormwater detention, with a trail connecting the park to Dennis Ray Avenue and the transit station.

“With a transit component we assume people will want to walk to it,” Litke said.

As far as traffic, the complete plan would include a stop light on Keizer Station Boulevard at the transit center entrance and what Litke called a “de-celeration lane” on the north side of Lockhaven Drive headed west from Keizer Station.

Up to three additional buildings – including one possible restaurant pad – are included in the plan, but these won’t necessarily be built right away, Litke said.

Steve Dickey, director of transportation development for the transit district, said only about 1,200 feet would be necessary for the district’s needs – primarily a break room and restroom facilities for bus drivers.

“The rest will be for joint development – if the chamber and the city are interested in doing a joint development,” Dickey said. “… And if that were the case we would look to coordinate with them to possibly have a customer service presence as well.”

The transit district still has to purchase the 2.7 acre site, which sits between Keizer Station Boulevard and Lockhaven Drive. Dickey said the district plans to pay the city approximately $1.77 million for the property, per an appraisal obtained by the district. Rules associated with the federal and state monies appropriated to build the center require paying the appraised amount – no more, no less, Dickey said.

Since state and federal dollars will build the center, Dickey said, the current woes at Courthouse Square will not affect its construction. The transit district’s offices are in the building and must relocate due to structural deficiencies that have recently come to light.

As for operating funds, he said, the cost to actually maintain the transit center won’t be huge once built.

“Until we made a major change in our system design, it would be additional maintenance (like) picking up trash … that’s what our maintenance crews do now,” Dickey said. “So it would just be another stop on their route cleaning stops and shelters.”

The area’s master plan must be approved before the district obtains permits and does other work to prepare for construction. Dickey said not to expect site excavation to start until late spring or early summer “at the earliest.

“But we’re excited because it will bring not only our project to the area, but development for all of Area B that, I think, will have some real added benefits,” Dickey said. “I think it will be a good match.”

Keeker steps into Nick’s cleats

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For Larry Keeker, the decision to take up the  challenge of running the McNary High School baseball program was all about family.

Larry Keeker

“Our program is a real family and, after nearly 60 years, it has members throughout the nation,” said Keeker.

Keeker was tapped as head coach of the varsity baseball team last week. He succeeds Craig Nicholas who coached the team from 1999-2010. Keeker’s teaching and coaching career spans more than 20 years and programs at North Salem High School and McNary. He started as the junior varsity coach in the Celtic program before moving to the freshman team. He became an assistant varsity coach three seasons ago. He is also an assistant coach for Celts’ varsity basketball team.

While Keeker expects a competitive season out of the varsity baseball team next spring, he doesn’t expect to be making many changes in the immediate future. He will need to flesh out his coaching staff to replace Chad Booth, another assistant baseball coach who stepped down when Nicholas opted for retirement, and fill his now-vacant post.

“After that the first order of business will be sitting down with the coaching staff and going over the game plan from offense to defense to philosophy to see where improvements can be made,” Keeker said.

He’ll be relying on his staff and colleagues to build on the knowledge imparted by Nicholas and former varsity basketball coach Jim Litchfield as he finds his own method of building the program.

Among the great lessons he hopes to impart on his athletes is one he picked up from Nicholas: students can be taught the game of baseball, but you can’t compromise what’s in their hearts. Put another way, love of the game will shine through every time.

Keeker was a part of the coaching team that led the Celts to the state title in 2009. McNary captured the state title on two other occasions, 1989 and 1992, the most state titles of any Celtic athletic program. He is the fourth head coach of the varsity baseball team in the school’s history.

Vic Backlund coached McNary from 1966 to 1975 and from 1979 to 1998, Mike Jesperson from 1976-78, and Nicholas from 1999-2010.

Keeker, who grew up playing in Keizer Little League and took to the field for Backlund in 1981-82, is a homegrown talent and respectful of the program’s rich history.

“It’s a challenge and a privilege to continue the tradition of McNary baseball, but at the end of the day it’s about putting the best team on the field and a team that represents the school and the Keizer community,” Keeker said.

Keeker lives in Keizer with his wife, Angie, a teacher at Whitaker Middle School, and daughter, Taylor, a senior at McNary. His son Jordan is attending and playing baseball for Linn-Benton Community College.

Kent Allen Michaelson

Mr. Michaelson, of Keizer, died Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010. He was 69 years old.
Born Oct. 16, 1940 in Ladysmith, Wash., he moved to Hillsboro, Ore. with his parents at age 2. He attended school there, then worked in farms, as a custodian and at the General Foods Corp. cannery in Hillsboro.

He loved old cars, visiting with friends, and pitching in wherever he could. He spent his last 10 years at Sherwood Park Nursing home in Keizer. The family wishes to thank their staff for their care of Mr. Michaelson.

He was preceded in death by his father, Freeman L. Michaelson; and mother, Opal M. Michaelson. Survivors include: his sister Patricia L. Pitts and husband Carl; Nieces Amber L. Lowi and David of San Francisco, Heather M. Hallman and Nick of Ivins, Utah, Mandalyn M. Gulbrandsen and James of New York City, and Ethan M. Pitts of Salt Lake City. He also is survived by his great nephew, Jaxton S. Pitts, and great nieces Taylor Hatch Hallman and Samantha M. Gulbrandsen.

Visitation and a memorial service were held Monday, August 23, at the Keizer Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Interment was at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Portland.

Arrangements are by Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.

Ambulance fees rise starting Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, a ride in one of these will cost more. Keizer Fire officials say their rate increase came in part due to surrounding agencies doing the same. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

An ambulance trip will cost more beginning Sept. 1 when fees for some Keizer Fire District services increase.

The rates are climbing in response to fee hikes by Rural Metro, a private contractor that provides ambulance services in Salem. The City of Salem approved a rate hike for Rural Metro earlier this summer and both Keizer Fire District and Marion County Fire District are raising their rates to keep costs in line throughout the area.

“Because all three districts end up responding to calls in the territory of the neighbors, we’re trying to avoid patients calling in and requesting ambulance response from the cheapest district,” said Randy Jackson, deputy chief of the Keizer Fire District.

Following Rural Metro’s increase tactics, the Keizer Fire District is implementing hikes on select services rather than an across-the-board increase. That translates into some services more than doubling in cost while others are getting a much smaller bump.

“Our fee for a transfer is going from $270 to $586, but those are infrequent. We might only make 3-4 transfer calls in a month,” Jackson said.

Transfer calls are typically non-emergency calls that involve transporting patients from a care facility to the hospital.

“Even on those calls we still have to send out an ambulance and another vehicle to carry EMT/paramedics to assist with the transfer,” Jackson said.

The fees for emergency basic life service calls – typically falls, headaches and seizures – will increase from $586 to $740.  Such calls comprise more than 60 percent of all the district’s services.

While some fire districts and departments charge a flat fee for ambulance services, KFD’s rates are more varied because the district is partially supported by tax revenues.

Most are unlikely to notice the increase since about 70 percent of the Keizer Fire District’s clientele are covered by either Medicare or Medicaid. The remaining 30 percent are covered by either private insurance and pay only a deductible or are uninsured.

Uninsured patients are billed individually, but the district works with such patients to create installment plans.

Residents living within the region covered by Keizer and Marion County Fire districts or Salem Fire Department may also enroll in Capitol FireMed for an annual fee of $50 which covers ambulance transportation everyone in a household. Information on Capitol FireMed is available at the Keizer Fire District office, 661 Chemawa Rd NE.

Of immigration and groceries

Rep. Kurt Schrader speaks while U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks on at a USDA forum last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Tom Vilsack, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, was in Keizer Friday, Aug. 20, for a rural development forum at the Keizer Civic Center.

Vilsack was in town along with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D – Canby, and delivered remarks before the two headed off to the Oregon Food Bank in Portland with Reps. Earl Blumenauer and David Wu, both Democratic congressmen.

The seminars at the morning forum were aimed at issues like rural energy and loan opportunities. Vilsack and Schrader gave brief speeches and the ag secretary took questions.

“Rural Oregon has been in a recession for 20 years,” Schrader said while talking of today’s economic climate. “This is not a new thing for those of us in rural areas.”

Immigration was a key topic of Vilsack’s remarks, as the former Iowa governor and presidential candidate said immigrants play a crucial role in the rural economy – namely in the price of food here.

“We are very, very fortunate consumers. When we go to the grocery and buy food we spend 5 to 10 percent less of our income than any other country,” Vilsack said. “They do it in a way that allows us such a degree of flexibility with our paycheck.”

He said the jobs filled by immigrants – granted, many of whom are here illegally – are the ones few apply for: “Twelve hours a day in the hot sun. … We would have to pay people significantly higher wages.”

The only alternative, without significantly higher food prices, is importing food.

He was also asked about cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, that will help fund childrens’ nutrition.

He said it would help improve food in schools, such as using low-fat milk, and cited pay-go rules in Congress as a reason cuts and other revenue sources needed to be found to offset the increased cost. He also noted cuts to the SNAP program won’t take effect until 2013.

“I wish we didn’t have to make those choices,” Vilsack said, but he said he was concerned a revised bill that didn’t cut into the SNAP program might never make it out of Congress.

He also cited improving opportunities for rural Americans to participate in the global economy via increasing the reach of broadband Internet and finding ways to help young people stay where they grew up.

“The average age of farmers in this country is rapidly increasing,” Vilsack said, saying the average farmer in the United States is 57 years old, up from 55 years old just five years ago, and that 28 percent of farmers are older than 65.

That said, the future may be small: He said that, while large-scale farms are consolidating left and right, tiny operations with less than $10,000 in annual sales are popping up across the country.

The goal, Vilsack said, is that “if you want to pursue the American dream, you don’t have to leave home – or you don’t have to go very far from home.”