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Day: October 10, 2011

Urban renewal could pay off developer’s bond debt

Extending the urban renewal district to pay off a developer’s outstanding bond debt will ultimately save the city’s financial future from draconian cuts, the city manager said Monday night.

The move would most likely mean the end of River Road Renaissance, the city’s business corridor improvement program that built sidewalks and helped finance facade improvements. The city may foreclose on the properties where bond payments are past due.

The Keizer City Council has yet to take action on the proposal. Formal votes cannot be taken at a work session. A joint meeting of the planning commission and the city’s urban renewal advisory committee will meet Nov. 9, and councilors will take up the matter again at their second formal meeting in November.

“The ultimate goal being to sell it as was intended by using it as security, and take the proceeds to pay down the debt … or reimburse the overlapping jurisdictions for the foregone urban renewal revenues,” City Manager Chris Eppley said.

Details of foreclosure won’t be discussed in open session, said City Attorney Shannon Johnson.

Extending the urban renewal district past its anticipated sunset date in 2012 affects taxing jurisdictions like fire districts, counties and others. School districts are reimbursed by the state for any lost funds. The city must get agreement from jurisdictions contributing a total of at least 75 percent of the revenue; any combination of school, fire and library districts, as well as Marion County, reaching that total will do.

Joe Van Meter, president of the Keizer Fire District Board, said he had told board members “don’t hold your breath” expecting the urban renewal district to end next year “because that’s kind of been our history.

“I certainly don’t think it’s the history we want,” Eppley said.

Developer Chuck Sides is more than a year behind on local improvement district payments, with past due payments totaling about $858,246 on land he owns or leases at the shopping development.

Sides was an original partner in creating Keizer Station; much of the development has since been sold to Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Donahue Schriber. He was not in attendance at a Keizer City Council work session Monday night to discuss the city’s options.

Mayor Lore Christopher said she “believes we owe it to (Sides) not to vilify him. … I’m not defending him, but I am saying I wholeheartedly believe he has tried everything to get this money.”

“Nobody forecast all this coming down,” added Councilor Jim Taylor. “He doesn’t want this to happen.”

The city is ultimately responsible for the debt because the Keizer City Council voted in 2008 to borrow $26.8 million in bonds to build infrastructure like streets and sewer at the shopping development. Landowners are then charged installments twice a year.

“They asked us to do it, and after doing an exhaustive analysis of their financial capacity and the value of the properties … it appeared as though it was a decent risk for the city to take to jump-start that development,” Eppley said.

While bondholders get regularly-paid interest installments, the principal is not due until a giant balloon payment in 2031. The city has yet to collect more than $24.3 million of that principal because it isn’t yet due.

“What we don’t want to have happen … is basically take a step back, do nothing and wait until 2031, and push off the problem to a future generation of city staff and city councilors,” Eppley said.

Eppley expects any extension to last between 18 months and two years.

City fires longtime employee, First Citizen

KEIZERTIMES/File Photo

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A 19-year City of Keizer employee – who in 2010 was named Keizer’s First Citizen – was fired last week by City Manager Chris Eppley, but the reasons have yet to be revealed.

Per union contract an arbitrator will ultimately decide whether the city was correct to terminate the employment of Roland Herrera. His attorney called the firing “tragic” and said he “intend(s) to press for his reinstatement.”

Herrera was placed on administrative leave by the city before he was fired. City officials cited conditional exemptions in state public records law in refusing to provide the reason, how long he was on leave and how much, if any, he was paid during that time.

Human Resources Director Machell DePina refused to provide his salary – a request the city has routinely honored in the past. State law does not allow governments to withhold employee salaries from the public. Formal records requests are pending.

Herrera held a mid-level position in the public works department.

David Tischner, a union representative for the union representing Herrera, declined comment.

Herrera’s attorney, Clark Williams, wouldn’t go into specifics but said in a statement he and Herrera “have a much different view of the facts than does the city.

“The evidence is conflicting, and we believe that the City is not weighing the evidence correctly,” Williams said. “In fact, we believe that the City is overlooking more credible evidence that contradicts the City’s own findings. We believe that the isolated incidents complained of do not deserve termination for someone such as Roland, who has been a loyal and effective employee of the city for 19 years.”

Williams went on to describe Herrera as “well-known and loved by people throughout the City, as proven by his selection as Keizer First Citizen last year by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.”

Herrera has been well-known to participants in youth sports. He coached Keizer Little League for many years and until recently was part of the McNary High School Chain Gang, a volunteer group who carried the yardage chains during Celtics football games.

In 2010 he was honored with the Keizer First Citizen award, bestowed upon a person who “exemplifies service to the Keizer community over the past five to 10-plus years,” said Chamber Executive Director Christine Dieker.

A memorandum from Human Resources Director Machell DePina provided by the city upon the Keizertimes’ request states Herrera was “prohibited from contacting others” about the investigation during its process. The document was addressed to the city’s department directors. It goes on to “strongly urge” city employees to “limit your comments only to known facts.”

“The issue is not what Roland did to be named Citizen of the Year or how well-liked he is in the community,” DePina wrote in the July 13 memo. “The issue is whether he engaged in conduct that violated City policies.”

McNary restarts athletic booster efforts

KEIZERTIMES/File Photo

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

Ron Richards, McNary High School’s athletic director, finds it strange, considering the level of support the Celtics have in the community, that there is no organized sports booster club.

“Most all 6A programs have a booster club, and I’ve had many people ask about one so we’re trying to lay the groundwork for a sound booster club for all McNary athletics. Not because of current times, but because successful programs have that support,” Richards said.

Richards set a first meeting for 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17, at McNary. McNary has not had an athletic booster club for two years, but several individual sports have clubs that raise funds for specific needs. Richards views the new club as one that will tackle projects that support all athletics at the school.

“I want to help create a club that will draw in the people who could fund-raise and organize activities that bring the community of Keizer and McNary closer together,” Richards said.

One of the first projects Richards would like to see the club coalesce around is improvements to the Celt training and weight room.

“McNary has a training room like none I’ve ever seen,” Richards said, indicating that it was not up-to-snuff with the facilities at other 6A programs. “I see the booster club as helping us make improvements, but I want the projects to originate with them.”

While recent budget cuts are part of the reason for the relaunch, Richards said the club will be more crucial in insulating McNary athletic programs from future cuts. Salem-Keizer School District officials are already warning that the district may take a $20 million hit next year on the heels of a $56 million cut imposed for this school year.

The district raised athletic participation fees to fill in gaps for individual sports, but transportation budgets withered in the budget crunch. Richards foresees facility and equipment issues as the biggest ones for a holistic booster club to tackle.

For the first meeting, Richards is hoping to attract community members willing to organize efforts around specific needs. He doesn’t envision mandatory meetings as necessary for all who choose to be involved with the club. Interested members also needn’t be alumni or have students at McNary to participate.

“Mostly, I just want to lay the groundwork for building the group and talk about goals for the coming year,” Richards said.

For more information about the club, contact Heather Latham at McNary, 503-399-3238, or track down Richards at one of McNary’s games.

 


McNary alum invites you to Bathe in Bette

Cassandra Hohn, a 1995 McNary High School graduate, is bringing her well-traveled ‘Bathing in Bette’ show to Portland. (Submitted photo)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes 

Cassandra Hohn can trace her love of performing to a single formative incident.

“I remember seeing a production of My Fair Lady that my sister was in. I’d been on stage, but it was the first time I really sat in the audience. The girl playing Eliza Doolittle was singing I Could Have Danced All Night and she was so great and I stopped and looked at everybody in the audience and their faces were glowing in the light of the stage and I just saw them smiling,” Hohn said.

She thought to herself, Wow, is this what it’s like when I’m on stage.

Hohn, a 1995 McNary High School graduate, took the audience’s applause as affirmation because they did the same thing whenever she finished performing. To her credit, she’s never given up the dream. Hohn returns to Oregon next week to perform her one-woman cabaret Bathing in Bette at Portland’s Headwaters Theatre Oct. 13-16.

The show is a tribute and retelling of Bette Midler’s historic performances at the Continental Baths in New York City.

“It’s a bit of fun, a bit of sass and a bit of vulgarity all in one featuring some of the great Bette Midler standards and some great classic tunes,” Hohn said.

Here are some YouTube clips of Hohn’s performances:

“Delta Dawn”

“I Shall Be Released”

Hohn conceived the show after watching a Bette Midler biography on the Biography Channel and discovered the part Midler played in the early year of the Baths as “a place where people came out of their closets and found out who they were. It was the first gay establishment to treat gay people as equals and not exploit them,” Hohn said.

Midler was a regular at the venue in the late 1960s shortly after it opened. Hohn’s show found success in NYC, but she’s since toured it in Florida and now is bringing it to her former home. She’s got dates scheduled in Sydney, Australia, later this year.

While her talent has taken her far afield, Hohn attributes much of her growth to teachers she met in Keizer. She remembers vividly starting sixth grade at Whiteaker Middle School and being faced with choosing her own classes for the first time. Her fondness for performing led her to the choir class of Emmanuel McGladrey.

“If wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have known I was a good singer,” Hohn said. “He was the one who heard something in my voice.”

He introduced Hohn and her parents to his wife, Cynthia, a vocal coach for college students. Cynthia chose to take her on as a student despite her age.

“I started taking lessons in the seventh grade,” Hohn said. “It was the best gift.”

In the summer of her eighth grade year, Hohn enrolled in the Argonauts summer theater program, the brainchild of former McNary drama director Ken Collins.

“We butted heads sometimes, but [Ken] was very good for me,” Hohn said. “He didn’t just let you into the show if you were talented, you had to work.”

While the show has found success, it’s also become a bookend for more personal challenges. Shortly after she started getting rave reviews, Hohn took time off to be with her father who was stricken with colon cancer. He lost his battle 10 months ago.

She draws her strength from the audiences she performs for be they large or small.

“I love singing and I love performing and it’s the place where I feel the most like me and the most at home,” Hohn said. “Even if I have a small audience, I’m going to go up there and have the time of my life.”

Hohn performances at Headwaters in Portland are slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13; 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15; and 2 p.m. Oct. 16. Tickets are $20 at the door or at brownpapertickets.com

Proposed tax is town hall topic

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Two town halls aim to shed light on a public safety fee on the ballot next month.

The events are both at 7 p.m. and on Thursdays: One’s October 13 at the Keizer Civic Center, and the other is October 20 at Gubser Elementary School.

Voters will be asked in November whether a $4.86 monthly fee will be assessed on residential and non-residential units like businesses. About 69 cents of each dollar would go to Keizer Police and the other 31 cents to fire districts operating within the city.

The forum on Oct. 13 is sponsored by the West Keizer Neighborhood Association, while the event on Oct. 20 is backed by the Gubser Neighborhood Association.

Members of the Keizer City Council will also be on hand to answer questions.

Weak starts lead to netter losses

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The biggest story out of McNary High School’s varsity volleyball matches last week wasn’t the differences between games with West Salem and South Salem high schools, but the similarities.

The Lady Celts lost opening matches in both games. They battled back in the second matches to blowout or close scores and continued to compete tough throughout. Both ended in Celtic losses.

“It’s been one of those things that if we clean up some of those mistakes, it can turn into positive points for us. We just weren’t able to do it,” said Dustin Walker, McNary head coach.

“We haven’t won a first match yet this season, but if we started strong we could kill them out,” added senior Megan Holland.

McNary’s week started with a five-match loss to West Salem. The Titans, favored to win the Central Valley Conference this year, went on long runs while McNary scrambled to find footing in the 17-25 opening match. The Celts rebounded with momentum in the second match and won 25-15.  McNary took the third match 25-23, but ended losing the final two with scores of 24-26 and 13-15. It didn’t help that the team had 14 missed serves in the outing.

Celt Megan Holland passes the ball to the front line during the game with West Salem High School. (KEIZERTIMES/ Eric A. Howald)

“We had parts during the game where we’d all be energetic. Those were the games that we’d won. When we got down we’d lose,” Holland said.

Deven Hunter had 20 kills in the contest, Holland had 19 digs, and Hunter and Hailey Francke had four blocks each.

The Celts’ match with South Salem was nearly identical. South took the first match 21-25, the second match 23-25. McNary won the third match 25-22. The Saxons took the win in the fourth match with a score of 22-25.

“We go out in the first game and we don’t play like we can. Then we realize that we have to work to win,” said Dani Saunders, Celtic setter who had 34 assists in the game. “We need to stay with it from the first hit and find out what we’re made of.”

Hunter had 22 kills and four blocks. Holland made 19 digs and Carley Eggleston served up four aces.

McNary finished its first run through the Central Valley Conference this week with a match against McKay High School Tuesday, Oct. 4. Wins have eluded the team thus far, but Hunter said there were still many lessons to be gleaned from the struggles.

“We can always improve on everything we do, but we have to stay strong throughout every game and, if we get a lead, don’t let the other team back in,” she said.