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

Day: December 2, 2011

State champ choir offering Carol-A-Grams

File Photo

Members of the McNary High School choirs are hoping to sing for your suppers, and business parties, and holiday gatherings this month.

The program is offering Carol-A-Grams between Friday, Dec. 16 and Thursday, Dec. 22. A $35 contribution will bring a three-song performance to your doorstep and a $50 contribution will buy five songs. Each Carol-A-Gram features eight singers from the Celtic choir program. Students are available at any time during the week-long fundraising drive.

“Part of the money will help us pay for upcoming trips to compete and the other part goes to a local family with a child facing kidney failure,” said Jacob Cordie, a McNary senior and an organizer of the effort.

To reserve a Carol-A-Gram time, call Cordie at 503-871-6644.

Bunco tourney supports cancer research efforts

Play for a Cure is sponsoring a Bunco for Boobies tournament Friday, Dec. 9, at Knights of Columbus Hall, 725 Shipping Street N.E., in Salem.

Tickets are $20 per person or $15 for cancer survivors. Bunco is an easy-to-learn dice game and no prior experience is necessary. Tickets are available by calling Stephanie Nelke, 503-400-2280.

Businesses interested in donating prizes for the event can also contact Nelke.

Court upholds LUBA’s Area C decision; city must reconsider development

Of the Keizertimes

The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state land use board’s ruling that the city must reconsider its decision allowing the next phase of Keizer Station.

The decision from the Land Use Board of Appeals was affirmed without opinion on Wednesday, November 30.

It may well further delay a project likely to include Walmart along with possible offices and apartments. It’s come to be known as Area C. The Keizer City Council will have to reconsider the issue with the guidelines LUBA referees outlined in its decision from earlier this year.

Appeal options for the city and developers were not immediately clear.

One root of LUBA’s decision harkens back to a council decision made in early 2008, when councilors modified the mixed use section of city development code to allow a store larger than 10,000 square feet; indeed, stores up to 120,000 square feet were allowed after the change. Councilors required that a store bigger than 80,000 square feet could be built only with a corresponding amount of mixed use structures; those could be anything from office space to retail to apartments.

But LUBA referees ruled a condition councilors later approved – one that required construction only begin on surrounding buildings before the large-format store can open – contradicts the intent the same body wrote into the code in 2008.

The decision also states the city erred when opting not to use local traffic data in making its decision. The city and developer argued the city can waive or modify required aspects of a traffic impact analysis. But LUBA referees felt the city failed to explain why staff used traffic data from the Traffic Engineer’s Trip Generation Manual that was for a building smaller than the one proposed, and opted not to use local traffic statistics.

More later; parties involved could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mystery solved

The developer of a new retail building on River Road deliberately let people wonder what was going in there. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

The owner of a new commercial building on River Road revealed this week it would be a party supply store.

Doug Gray, a Keizer resident who owns Party Mart stores in south Salem and Tigard, plans to open his Keizer store in January 2012.

The $1.1 million project includes a 6,000 square foot retail building at the corner of River Road and Evans Avenue NE. The former on-site building was torn down to make way.

It answers the question Gray and contractor Dale Van Lydegraf set in motion when they filed plans for a new building with the city’s community development department. Plans showed little more than a retail building.

“I thought I’d build the suspense, since people are curious about a new building,” Gray said. “I thought it would be fun to have people talk amongst each other and wonder about it.”

Gray said he kept passing the corner of River and Evans and thought the parcel would be a good place to expand his business. In addition, Gray said it’s right behind Lancaster Drive and Commercial Street South for traffic count.

“(The old building) was tired and worn out, an this puts a brand new building in that spot,” Gray said. “It adds to the aesthetics of River Road in Keizer.”

Party Mart carries all manner of costumes and party supplies, including seasonal merchandise for every holiday, balloons, discounted greeting cards and gift wrap. This new spot is slightly smaller than his south Salem store, but he said he will carry all the same merchandise.

Gray emphasized the store’s local ties.

“We’re not a corporately-owned company from back east, or another part of the country,” Gray said. “We have a vested interest in the community.”

An opportunity to own the building – he leases his other two locations – played a role.

“You have something at the end of the day,” Gray said. “Whereas with a lease you basically walk away from it. Here I have an income piece of property that if I want to do something after Party Mart, it’s a nice building in Keizer that can be leased to someone else.”

He lives in town with wife Maryanne and sons Sam, Jon and Dan.

Dale’s Remodeling was the contractor, while Key Bank provided financing.

S-K Budget committee tries to balance waning resources, student progress

For the Keizertimes

Struggles with scarce resources and student performance in the face of those problems were discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Salem-Keizer School District budget committee.

The question of double counting came up early in the meeting. Mike Wolfe, assistant superintendent, said the administration was avoiding it.

Noting that dollars move from the general fund to the general services fund and the debt services fund, he said, “We’re tracking the movement of that dollar.”

Directors of the elementary, middle and high schools pointed out progress in their students’ performance but noted that improvements were still needed in some areas.

Ron Speck, one of the elementary directors, said that reading and mathematics scores in his schools have been rising in the last five years but that there have been “flat lines” in writing and science. Meera Kreitzer, the other elementary director, noted that the district’s strategic plan has provided a data warehouse that principals and teachers have been using effectively.

Melissa Cole, middle school director, reported consistent progress in the schools, with the priority of making sure students graduate.

“They’re full of hope, confidence and dreams,” she said of her students, noting that on average they were outperforming students in Oregon as a whole.

Kelly Carlisle, high school director, began by stating his vision: “All students graduate and are prepared for a successful life.”

He described reading performance in the high schools as “closing the gap with the rest of the state.” He mentioned frustration but some progress in other areas.

From the audience, Jon Chinburg of Keizer, who teaches at Stephens Middle School, raised a question about instructional coaches, who are certified as teachers but, rather than teach students directly, are consultants for teachers.

“How do we leverage our dollars,” he asked, “to bring the greatest instructional practices to the students?”

The committee will not meet in December. Its next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Support Services Center in Salem. Presentations will cover the curriculum, instructional services and student services.

Wrestlers hit mats with title to defend

Edgar Jimenez attempts to take down Jeremy Lowe in the Blue/Gray wrestle off. (Photos by Jim Sweigart)

Of the Keizertimes

In past seasons, McNary High School wrestling coach Jason Ebbs has had a fairly accurate forecast for his team’s future. This season, the future is foggier but no less invigorating.

“If things go the way they’ve been going, I don’t know where the top end is for this team. It may be eighth in state, it may be a state championship,” Ebbs said. “We would need some really big things to go our way, but it’s in the realm of possibility.”

McNary returns a legion of wrestlers with experience in the state’s biggest tournaments and more than a few he expects to surprise opponents.

“It’s impossible to think that you’ll just keep growing every year, but we have managed to be a steady, improving program and our challenges are taking new shape,” Ebbs said.

Seven wrestlers with experience in the state tournament will hit the mats again for the Celtics: Devin Reynolds, Andy Downer, Edgar Jimenez, Jeremy and Justin Lowe, Tyler Brown and Anthony Flores.

Of that contingent, Reynolds, a junior at 126 pounds, and Jeremy Lowe, a senior at 145 pounds, are top-ranked wrestlers in a recent preseason survey of statewide talent.

“I get confidence from it, but I want to work hard and keep that spot,” Jeremy said.

Reynolds, who rapidly made a name for himself as a sophomore, is hoping to build on the lessons he learned from the 2010-11 season. He lost to rival Peter Russo of Newberg High School in the final round of state competition, a match which saw him docked for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I let my emotions take hold of me. So, I’ve been working on my mental game and knowing what I have to do to become that better wrestler,” Reynolds said.

Other ranked Celtics include junior Hector Maldonado, No. 19 at 120 pounds; Downer, No. 8 at 126 pounds; Justin Lowe, No 6 at 132; Jimenez, No. 8 at 138; Ajay Urban, No. 12 at 152; Grant Gerstner, No. 12 at 160; Flores, No. 4 at 195; and Brown, No. 5 at 195. McNary’s team was ranked fifth in the state.

“As a senior, I’m really just hoping to influence and motivate the team to be able to get our attitude where it needs to be to for us to be a top team in the state,” Jimenez said. “In order for us to be one of those top teams, we need to fight hard, keep our heads in the game and give up one point not two.”

Skillwise, the team members need to get to the point where taking shots is a reaction rather than a gameplan that may, or may not, unfold as they expect, he added.

McNary hosts a seven-team tournament Friday, Dec. 2, beginning at 4 p.m. The Celts will face some of the top talent throughout the state with teams from the 6A, 5A and 4A divisions attending.

Leading up to the tournament, senior Joel Hunter said, “We all need to just work hard. Our varsity and junior varsity squads are looking pretty tight and the freshmen are really stepping up. I think we just need to drill harder and drill faster.”

Hunter hopes to place in the the team’s big tournaments at Reser Stadium and Cleveland High School and cap the season with an appearance in the state tournament.

Looking at the bigger picture, Downer wants the team to be the one to bring back a trophy from the state tournament – only the top four finishers take home trophies.

“We’ll know more after this week,” he said. “Our cardio needs to get better and need to be able to go three rounds with everybody, but right now it’s just getting our technique down.’

Ebbs is trying not to overreach with goals at the moment, but he gets a gleam in his eye when talking about that foggy future.

“We got a couple of secrets in our bag,” he said. “We have some snakes in the bushes.”

He singled out Rob Phelps, who got off to a promising start last season but succumbed to injury before the regional tournament, as one of them.

“He should have been in the state tournament and there’s a guy nobody knows about and if he’s working hard and doing the things he needs to do, he’ll make his presence known real fast,” he said.

Swimmers dive in to new season

Lady Celt Laura Donaldson cruises through the Kroc Center pool during practices Tuesday, Nov. 28. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Last year, the McNary High School boys varsity swimming team pulled off a remarkable feat. The team captured the Central Valley Conference title winning only two events.

This year, the girls want their time in the spotlight.

“It would be pretty cool if we could do that this year,” said Laura Donaldson, a McNary senior. “We have a pretty strong girls team, we have a lot of incoming freshmen who are backstrokers and breaststrokers. I think we’ll have a pretty good all around team this year.”

“We have a good variety,” added Rachel Hittner. “We have a lot of hope for our relay teams in the district competition.”

In addition to Hittner and Donaldson, two of the teams stalwarts, Lady Celts Jade Boyd and Morgan Kuch are also returning to the ranks. Donaldson, Boyd, and Hittner were part of a 200 free relay team that went to state last season.

On the personal level, Donaldson wants to improve her times and avoid the illness that sidetracked her near the end of her junior season. “I want to get :55 in the the 100 free and I want to get low :25 or high :24 in the 50 free,” she said.

Hittner wants to improve her times in the 200 and 100 individual freestyle races.

“I want to get a 2:03 or 2:04 in the 200 free and also place in the 100 at districts,” she said.

Given that there were questions as to whether the swimming programs would survive budget cuts in the Mid-Valley, even getting into the pool to practice for another season is a major win for all involved.

“We had a group of parents raise $84,000 for the CVC swimming programs,” said Kim Phillips, McNary head coach.

The Salem Keizer Swim Boosters are still accepting donations at their website, The funds primarily cover the cost of pool usage at the Kroc Center in Salem, but each team received $1,000 in discretionary income. Phillips plans to use that money to help McNary athletes purchase swimsuits.

On the boys’ side, Celts Kevin and Perry Groves were hoping the team would find ways to improve individual performances because the team lacks the depth it had last year.

“We’re still trying to figure out the goals, figuring out where the holes are in our line-up and where we need swimmers,” Kevin said. “We still have good swimmers, but we have a lot fewer people, so we’re going to have to win more races.”

Phillips said the team will be helped along with good performances from sophomore Seth Miller and Alex Fox. Miller was a standout as a freshman and she said Fox has grown by leaps and bounds.

“[Alex] swims the individual medley and the breaststroke, but he might be swimming some more freestyle,” she said.

Perry hoped to find the right combination for a successful 200 free relay team and make a return appearance in state competition.

“I also want to get to get in the low :23 in the 50 freestyle and get second in districts behind him,” Perry said, gesturing to his older brother.

Kevin had his sights set on district championships in the 100 and 50 freestyle races.

The teams’ first meet is slated for Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Kroc Center. The starting bell sounds at 3 p.m.

Until then, the gameplan was steady improvement, Perry said, “We need to be trying hard every day, working to get better and keeping our goals in mind so we don’t give up.”

Second place means first trophy for Celtic Mat Club

Photo by Bob Burows

The McNary Mat Club took second place at the Willamina Elementary Duals Saturday, Nov. 19. It was the only chance the team will get to wrestle in a team format this season and its first ever team trophy.

In the first round, the Celtics faced Dallas and won 58-46. In the next match-up, they faced Lebanon and won 72-30 and lost the championship round to Tillamook 78-30.

Representing the club were: Sarahi Chavez at 45 pounds, Alex Rodriguez at 50 pounds, Brooke Burrows at 55 pounds, Giorgio Chavarria at 60 pounds, Tony Costaneda at 63 pounds, Grady Burrows at 66 pounds, Cameron Parks at 70 pounds, Damian Tavera and Tony Rodriguez at 80 pounds, Nick Hernandez at 83 pounds, Soren Ochsner at 88 pounds, Mason Merideth at 90 pounds, Jose Mirand at 95 pounds, Baylee Ward at 100 pounds, Ryan Paul at 110 pounds, Griffen Bonife at 130 pounds, and Zack Milstead. Marcus Hess, at 63 pounds, and Javier Calderon, at 55 pounds, also wrestled. The latter two wrestlers were part of a team made up of alternates from all the competing teams.

Council actions are curious


If you watched the last Keizer city council meeting you must be as curious as I.

The topic of extending the Urban Renewal District took up most of the time. I believe the renewal district should be extended to give the city some needed breathing room. The city is in a predicament that was not foreseen when Keizer Station was conceived. The city has debt because a developer has not paid his Local Improvement District (LID) bills. The city will eventually recover the delinquent money but it will take time. Unfortunately, there are very bad times ahead for the city. It was stunning when Mayor Lore Christopher kept the public hearing open. Why the delay? Does the city not have necessary support from the other taxing districts? The other districts have had plenty of time to examine the extension and have had official meetings. They must want better terms.

Let’s get something straight. When an Urban Renewal District is formed, local taxing districts suffer the loss of income. In Keizer, this means the Keizer Fire District, Marion County Fire District One, Chemeketa Community College, Marion County, and the Transit District. In theory, the taxing districts will receive more revenue when the Renewal District goes away because of greater property values. Unfortunately, that is in the future and revenue is needed in the present. The loud cheerleaders for Urban Renewal say your tax bill is the same with or without Urban Renewal and they are correct. They love to use other people’s money. They also conveniently fail to mention that we all receive less service from the other taxing districts as their lost revenue is used by the city for both city improvements and for city personnel and material expenses. In order to provide needed services those taxing districts have to ask us for more money.

Another topic discussed during the last council meeting was whether to close River Road from Lockhaven Drive to Plymouth Drive to all traffic from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, for a fun run and a holiday parade. Luckily, only Mayor Christopher, Mark Caillier and Joe Egli thought it was a great idea. They voted in favor of the extended closure in spite of the fact that several River Road merchants attended the council meeting and said it would be really bad for business. The original plan for a parade closure was for 6:30 to 9 p.m. The merchants indicated they could live with that closure but four hours was too much. It appears the Chamber of Commerce and the fun run sponsors tried to do an end run around the parade sponsors who did not favor the run this year because of insurance consideration. I don’t know why the Chamber and those councilors who voted for the extended closure wanted to hurt River Road businesses in this economy. What were they thinking? I hope they tell us someday!

Bill Quinn lives in Keizer.

It’s time for change


It has been said that hindsight is always better. Who could have ever known that we would be faced with difficult decisions resulting from a sudden downturn of our economy? But in all fairness I recall hearing warnings about excess spending and unmanageable growth. Somewhere in all of this we have attempted to guild over the top of an over inflated bottom line. The truth is that we took great risk with money that may not have been there tomorrow.

Here in Keizer we are faced with some tough decisions in the future. We have part of Keizer Station which is in default, we also have both the Clear Lake annexation and the Urban Growth Boundary issues as well.

Regarding Keizer Station, we know now that we took a risk that at the time may not have been fully understood. It came right before a time of economic downturn, when warnings and caution towards unsustainable spending on a national level were already in place, warnings which were being voiced by the Fed itself. The motivation for Keizer Station was centered on the hopes of continued, and what turned out to be, short term rapid economic growth. Its creation was put forward in hopes of asserting a greater level of independence and self sufficiency, accompanied by an aim to move Keizer away from being a bedroom community to an identity of its own. It was at this point that the economy changed and our sustainability began to leave us. For a limited government with a limited budget, we went on a spending spree as we took great risk investing in property development that has and continues to have lost substantial value. The worst part is by having created more jobs, in the event of a recession we actually make things worse when following the same old policies of the past.

Next comes the Clear Lake issue. By seeking further expansion we have hoped to make up in part for the unexpected losses in the overall economy. Then comes the Keizer Station default situation. This fundamentally offsets and furthermore creates an added burden of sustainability against the gains that we otherwise supposed to begin with. On top of all of this, at least for the short term we may be seeing the beginning of a trend in our economy.

This brings us back to the Clear Lake dilemma. We would now have the added responsibility of management with an ever-decreasing budget. We also have the pressure of bringing Clear Lake up to the equality of standards associated throughout Keizer, creating even more of an economic impact. Our overall losses outweigh our gains at this point. By guaranteeing services to additional areas, we take much needed services away from the greater population at large. We create a greater level of need and dependency as well.

The main incentive behind the unexpected growth in Keizer has been, among other things, due to its livability. Originally its low property tax base has corresponded to its “bedroom community” status. We cannot expect this advantage to remain. It is also supposed at this time that any future excess expansion would be a liability to property values, and with an already limited government the values will not be able to keep pace with the appreciation of our debt obligations. This would create the need for a higher tax base. Also, the forecast for property values and a continued change in our economy leaves us very limited at this time.

This finally brings us to the Urban Growth Boundary issue. By seeking the rapid expansion of the past and adding further responsibility, we would further delude the overall market value of Keizer’s net worth. We essentially would create more of a liability at this time. Commitments would further tie us into unsustainable spending which may jeopardize the ability to meet the needs of our more settled and innate self worth. In my opinion, by splitting the boundary with Salem we would cut ourselves off from the vitality of the region at large. This would cause pressure on our central and core values, creating further recession in the process.

The good news is that by making adjustments to our major policy initiatives, we may be able to stabilize our expenses per capita and relieve pressure towards our debt obligations as well. Some say that we need to expand, on the other hand, given over inflation it makes sense to bring down pressure while preventing over-elasticity which speeds up recessions. Let us not continue to over-extend ourselves any further, the time for change is now.

Matthew Chappell lives in Keizer.