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Day: February 28, 2012

Police nab two suspected of burglary

Two would-be burglars were arrested after trying to break into an adult foster home around midday Tuesday.

The suspects, a Keizer man and a 15-year-old Salem boy, may also have been involved in a burglary on Linda Avenue earlier in the day, said Keizer Police Sgt. Andrew Copeland.

Police arrested the two after a call from a home in the 4000 block of Arnold Street NE. The caller, who operates an adult foster home out of her house, described seeing a juvenile opening her back sliding glass door at about 11:40 a.m. She had gone into the room to see why her dog was barking, she told authorities.

The suspect fled after seeing her, she reported, met up with another person and left the area on foot.

They were spotted shortly thereafter in the 4000 block of Gary Street by Ofc. Kevin DeMarco, and arrested without further incident.

Arrested was Nicholas Stehlin, 19, of Keizer on several counts, including attempted burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.

The 15-year-old Salem boy faces counts of burglary, attempted burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.

BURNING QUESTIONS: Fired up about annexation? Here’s what you need to know.

KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

Of the Keizertimes

Local voters will be asked on March 13 whether to annex the Clear Lake neighborhood into Keizer Fire District via Measures 24-325 and 24-326. Emergency services in the neighborhood are currently provided by Marion County Fire District No. 1.

While keeping in mind some of the issues presented are likely to be solved in court, here’s answers to many of the common inquiries we’ve heard about the election.

What will my property tax rate be if these pass?

Currently residents in Clear Lake pay taxes and bonds of Marion County Fire District No. 1 (MCFD1), while the rest of the city of Keizer pays taxes and bonds to Keizer Fire District (KFD).

If the measures pass, those inside the Clear Lake are will pay taxes assessed at the lower Keizer Fire District rate and a cheaper KFD local option levy – a savings of about $90 per annum based on an assessed value of $250,000 – the average home value in the area.

If you live outside the Clear Lake area, your tax rate will not change.

Who will pay which bonds?

State law says that while territory withdrawn from a particular taxing district no longer pays taxes to it, the property owners are responsible for any bond debt issued before the measure passed.

Both fire districts have outstanding bonds. Marion County’s is 35 cents, while Keizer Fire is 14 cents. According to an explanatory statement from the city of Keizer, Clear Lake residents will keep paying the 35 cents from Marion County, but not existing bond debt from Keizer Fire District. The remainder of the city would keep paying the Keizer Fire bond debt.

It is still unclear precisely how much of the MCFD1 bond debt Clear Lake residents will be responsible for. The MCFD1 Fire board has issued its entire $10 million bond debt, but only $5 million had been issued at the time the City of Keizer officially withdrew Clear Lake from the protection of MCFD1. Attorneys for Keizer Fire District contend that the withdrawal shields Clear Lake residents from liability for the second $5 million, but MCFD1 officials say the matter is still under dispute. Like some other questions, a final determination will likely be made in the courts.

Clear Lake property owners would be responsible for paying their share of any future KFD bond debt, just like other residents within Keizer Fire’s territory.

Where is Clear Lake?

Residents north of Parkmeadow Drive NE between Wheatland Road NE and River Road NE are the properties proposed for annexation into the Keizer Fire District. West of Wheatland Road, homes north of Hazelbrook Drive N. (and its cul-de-sacs) are part of Clear Lake for purposes of this election.

What happens if the measures fail?

Nothing. Services will continue as already established. And in the unlikely event one passes and one fails, nothing happens.

Leadership at Keizer Fire District has said the battle is over if they lose the election.

How many ambulances serve Keizer now, and how many would if the measures pass?

Currently Keizer is served by three ambulances during the day and two at night. Both fire districts have one 24-hour ambulance each at their stations in Keizer. Keizer Fire District operates a second ambulance during the day.

If the measures are approved, MCFD1 would no longer operate an ambulance in Keizer. KFD intends to staff two 24-hour ambulances, one of which would be at the Clear Lake station.

Keizer Fire District draws a distinction between how the two agencies’ ambulances are staffed. KFD uses two career paramedics on each run, while MCFD allows qualified students to man ambulances along with a paramedic.

Service at night would remain unchanged.

How many jobs will be affected?

If the measure passes, MCFD1 Chief J. Kevin Henson has said his district would have to lay off as many as six full-time personnel. Keizer Fire has said they will hire three additional full-time staff if the measure is passed, and will recruit more volunteers to staff the Clear Lake station.

According to KFD union officials, laid-off staff from MCFD would be the first considered for new positions.

What happens to the Clear Lake station, and the property in it?

Under state law, both fire districts must agree to a plan distributing all assets of Clear Lake’s station within 90 days of the territory being withdrawn from MCFD. All indications are MCFD will not agree to any distribution plan that involves losing equipment or property, which means the two districts go to arbitration. That result can be appealed.

State statutes add that any asset division plan may in no case cause the remainder of the fire district to have a less favorable fire insurance (ISO) grade than the district had at time of withdrawal.

Why does a majority of the city council support Keizer Fire?

Votes on this issue have passed 6-1, with Councilor David McKane in opposition.

The mayor and supporting city councilors have cited several reasons. Mayor Lore Christopher has cited loss of confidence in leadership at MCFD, citing “reckless and frightening” actions by the district. Some, like Councilors Brandon Smith and Cathy Clark, believe it just makes sense for one fire district to serve the city.

“Given the questions that have been raised during the debates, it is clear to me that the taxpayers are savvy consumers and should make a decision about which service they choose to purchase with their tax dollars,” Clark said.

McKane asserts the city failed to take responsibility for how the remainder of MCFD’s territory could be adversely affected, and isn’t convinced the move will make Keizer safer and could possibly reduce current service levels.

And some openly question why MCFD has been invited, but not participated in, emergency planning and drills in the city of Keizer. Henson denies having been invited.

The city staff has done no analysis of how Keizer would be better served by KFD instead of MCFD.

What is Keizer Fire’s plan for staffing the Clear Lake station?

KFD’s Chief Cowan says an engine with a full crew and an ambulance — staffed with two paramedics as opposed to MCFD1’s one paramedic/one qualified student ratio — would be housed at Clear Lake. Cowan says KFD is ready to take over operations with a phone call.

Read the Keizer city councilors’ comments on the annexation measures.

Couple honored for keeping local history thriving


Of the Keizertimes

The transformation of the old Keizer School building into a community center was just the beginning.

A community-wide effort to save the local landmark was critical. So was a match of urban renewal dollars and a cheap place to put the building when all was said and done.

Al and Anne Rasmus got involved on the ground floor. Anne volunteered in the city manager’s office and they lived across the street from Les Zaitz, a Keizertimes publisher who helped raise $250,000 in 90 days to spare the Keizer School from the bulldozer.

Al had recently retired after selling his title business, and at age 52 was looking for something to do. Anne had been in engineering and was volunteering in her own right.

“I’m the second of 12 children,” Anne said. “I’ve been busy all my life. It was an opportunity to learn, to work with the community.”

Al drafted a business plan and Anne helped with the fundraising effort. Soon enough the money was raised, the building moved and restored.

“If there hadn’t been the plan, we wouldn’t have this (building),” said JoAnne Beilke, a former Keizer Heritage Foundation president and its current strategic planner. “He pulled together a plan that was workable for the fundraisers to get behind.”

But once the fanfare died down, someone had to run the thing. Al and Anne have never accepted a dime to ensure the Keizer Heritage Center was something the community could all be proud of.

The results are evident. It gave a home to some of Keizer’s long-standing and fledgling cultural organizations, like the Keizer Art Association and the Reading Connection (now the Keizer Community Library). It gave rise to the Heritage Museum, where monthly exhibits entertain and offer insight into our history.

Beilke said it all goes back to Al’s original plan, which included leasing space to nonprofits and using an upstairs room for rentals to keep the building looking fresh.

Thanks to their efforts keeping the facility booked for everything from weddings to community forums, the rent charged to those organizations is nominal. And taxpayers haven’t contributed a dime to the building in more than a decade.

“They are passionate, resilient, and humble while they tend to the our town’s oldest public building,” said Keizer Chamber of Commerce President Rich Duncan, who presented the Chamber President’s Award to Al and Anne at the chamber banquet Saturday night.

Duncan has had a chance to see their handiwork up close and personal. He was the foreman on the restoration project, and the chamber was in the building for many years until its recent relocation to Keizer Station.

“The time and commitment to that building – there’s hundreds of hours,” he said.