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Day: October 25, 2011

Councilor has plan to pay debt while urban renewal sunsets

KEIZERTIMES/File Photo

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Councilor Joe Egli has an idea to pay down outstanding bond debt without extending the urban renewal district.

It got a cool reception from City Manager Chris Eppley, who said the consequences could be “catastrophic.” Nevertheless, city financial staff plan to run a scenario that would show how the numbers work.

A sense of urgency pervades the debate, with Community Development Director Nate Brown explaining the option to use urban renewal ends when the district expires.

While Egli’s proposal would include spending about $1 million in unspent urban renewal dollars, he said part of some $572,000 coming back annually to the city after the urban renewal district ends could be dedicated to making bond payments.

Urban renewal currently pays a portion of some city employees’ salaries and pays some civic center expenses. After those are absorbed into the general fund Egli expects about $332,000 would be left over.

The situation results from a local developer’s apparent inability to make payments on local improvement district bonds the city issued on behalf of Keizer Station. Local improvement districts are a government-backed way for property owners to build public improvements like street, water and sewer service.

Extending the urban renewal district means entities like Marion County, fire districts and the like receive less money than they would have otherwise. No final decision has been made about whether or how much to reimburse those taxing districts.

While a vote on extending the district isn’t expected for about another month, councilors voted Monday night to take about $35,000 from the capital outlay portion of urban renewal to pay for attorneys and consultants in preparation.

The vote was 4-1, with Egli voting no, and Mayor Lore Christopher and Councilor Mark Caillier absent.

Councilor Cathy Clark amended the resolution’s wording to note the River Road Renaissance program was not being discontinued – but it’s not getting funded, either.

Egli, a former Keizer Chamber of Commerce board president, said he wants to end what he portrayed as the city council’s habit of using urban renewal dollars to cover unexpected expense.

“It comes down to a curse and a blessing,” Egli said. “We’ve got this pot of money we go to every time we’ve got a problem. Every time we go over on city hall, we run to this bucket. At some point we told the people we’d stop doing this.”

Plans from both Egli and city staff depend on eventually foreclosing on and selling five properties owned or controlled by developer Chuck Sides. He’s currently about $858,246 past due on bond payments.

And while councilors will be asked to vote on the option next month, Councilor Brandon Smith said  private discussions have been taking place for several months.

Eppley also took umbrage with media coverage of the situation, saying Sides is not receiving a bailout.

“The entity we are theoretically bailing out is the city,” Eppley said. “Understand that in this process the developer, who is responsible or the default … is going to be forfeiting property, the ownership of all of his parcels that are in default at (Keizer Station Area A), which is a significant penalty.”

In other business, the council:

• Authorized an interloan transfer to buy a police media storage system. City staff said it could keep up with the current rate of file accumulation for a decade.

• Gave permission to spend $750,000 in grants for the Keizer Rapids Park boat ramp.

• Authorized the city manager to enter into a contract for financial management software. It could lead the way for online utility billpay.

• Recommended liquor license applications for Mommy and Maddi’s along with an amended license for Plaza Morelia.

Public works leader to retire

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

City of Keizer Public Works Director Rob Kissler is retiring.

While his last day of work is officially November 30, Kissler said talks are ongoing for him to work on contract about 90 days afterwards to assist with the transition.

A retirement reception will be held from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Iris Room B at the Keizer Civic Center. The public is invited

If you’ve taken a sip from a Keizer faucet in the past 28 years, then you know his work. He is responsible for the city’s water system Kissler started out his public sector career as a water operator trainee for the Keizer Water District in 1983, moving over to the City of Keizer when the city took over the water district in 1985.

He moved up through the ranks to become water supervisor, and was named interim public works director in 1997. He got the job permanently the next year.

“As the city grew over the years, the water department kind of evolved into a public works department,” Kissler said. “Calls would come in that, prior to incorporation, would go directly to Marion County.  Then we found our role changing a little bit, where we were water folks, but, I guess we could go put up that sign. We’ve just kind of evolved.”

City Manager Chris Eppley said Kissler’s tenure is one you just don’t see often anymore.

“Rob has had an amazing tenure with the city,” Eppley said. “It’s just not that common to see people stay with one company for 30 years anymore. He has been part of so many good things having to do with the development and maturing of the city that it’s hard to imagine him not being part of it into the future.”

Outside city government, he was a Keizer Fire District volunteer firefighter from 1982-1995 and has served on the fire district’s budget committee.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens,” Kissler said. “I’ve always been supported by the elected officials and the community, and that’s definitely made the job easier.”

Eppley added that Kissler’s knowledge was key when he started as the city manager.

“He was very patient with me when I first arrived in Keizer as I was learning my post with the city and has been a source of great wisdom as we have worked together on so many projects through the years,” Kissler said.

While much of his department’s work happens behind the scenes, the city’s water system pays tribute to Kissler and the department. Water connections have grown from about 5,200 to more than 10,000 during Kissler’s tenure in the community, and in 1997 the water earned the Best Tasting Water in Oregon distinction from the Oregon Association of Water Utilities.

“The city is fortunate to have a ground source of drinking water that is of such high quality, reliable, and affordable without the need of expensive treatment processes,” Kissler said. “The city’s water division team is a group of dedicated, well trained individuals that a manager can be very proud of. If fact all of the public works team providing street, storm sewer, parks and water systems maintenance and improvements is a group a manager can very proud of.”

Kissler, who is married with three children and two grandchildren, plans to stay in the Willamette Valley.

Kissler said he’s been planning his retirement for about 18 months. He didn’t disclose his age but said he was “old enough to retire. Let’s just say that.”

He holds a water distribution III certification from the State of Oregon.