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

Day: March 1, 2012

Group withdraws support for Keizer Fire

File Artwork

Of the Keizertimes

A backer of two annexation measures on the ballots currently in voters’ hands has withdrawn their support.

The board of directors for Vineyards Phase II Homeowners Association sent a letter to the Keizertimes rescinding support for measures that would allow Keizer Fire District take over emergency services for the Clear Lake neighborhood. If approved the measures would remove about 1,000 homes from Marion County Fire District No. 1.

“After a better understanding of the issue we are formally withdrawing our initial letter requesting annexation of the Keizer Fire District for the Clearlake area. We are completely satisfied with the service that Marion County is currently providing our community,” states the letter signed by Vineyards II board members David Voorhies and Clay Rushton.

Keizer Fire officials were planning to meet with the group.

No specific reasoning behind the decision was given and the letter is a reversal from the board’s stance a year ago.

In a letter to the Keizer Fire District in February 2011, Rushton and Voorhies, along with Sandy Gilstrap and Ruth Markham, said, “We strongly believe that [annexation] would benefit our neighborhood by providing more immediate service in the event of an emergency.”

With rescinding of their support, it leaves the measures without the support of either of homeowners associations in the Clear Lake area.

KFD and MCFD1 are currently at odds over who should provide services to the Clear Lake area. Property taxes collected on the homes in the area are at stake for both organizations.

“The battle with the Keizer Fire District and City of Keizer has put a black eye on all fire professionals … My appreciation to the staff at Clear Lake Station #6 for being an active part of the Clear Lake community. Your efforts are why both Vineyards 1 and Vineyards 2 Home Owner Associations support keeping MCFD#1 as their fire and emergency medical response provider,” said Randy Franke, president of the Marion County Fire Board.

Keizer Fire Board president Joe Van Meter said Keizer Fire District officials acted on the original letter from the Vineyards II Board requesting KFD look into possible annexation.

“Keizer Fire has been transparent in its process regarding what’s best for all of keizer in regard to emergency services,”  Van Meter said.

School budget committee eyes new option levy

For the Keizertimes

A local option levy as an alternative source of revenue was mentioned by Mike Wolfe, assistant superintendent of the Salem-Kaiser School District, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Salem-Keizer Budget Committee.

Wolfe urged that the committee consider such a property tax, which at $1.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation would raise an estimated $18 million. He said that although the process of establishing the tax would take too long for it to take effect in the next school year, school officials should look ahead.

Committee member Ron Daniels, a former Morrow County School District superintendent and former president of Blue Mountain Community College, said that the longer the district waits to seek funds, the less its chances are of obtaining them.

Much of the meeting was taken up by presentations from administrators on what some of the district departments were doing. They included one by Kristen Duun, information technology director for the district, on technical advances for which she urged district personnel to keep up with the students. For example, she said cash and credit cards are outdated for students who flash iPads to pay for restaurant meals. Duun noted that 17.5 percent of the computers in the school system are at least eight years old, and she asked: “Can we go to 10 years old? It’s getting difficult.”

Another presentation, by Wolfe, focused on business issues, including district transportation. Daniels said that, having worked for a private bus company, he did not think the district could save money by contracting out transportation. Committee Chair Chris Brantley, a School Board member, said that contracting could be necessary if enough buses were ready to be replaced.

Brantley, noting that he has been a teacher and principal, gave his fellow committee members an assignment for the next budget meeting, which has been moved from March 20 to March 12. Each member is to go through all the proposed budget items for 2012-13 and indicate what he or she considers the three most important and the three least important.

Drift Crown sponsors have Keizer ties

Tom Dourgarian and Curtis Clevenger, a McNary High School grad, are sponsoring Portland International Raceway’s first ever Drift Crown Series. Both are hoping for a sucessful run that gives drivers a long-term home for safe, legal drifting competition. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Curtis Clevenger and Tom Dourgarian have been driving sideways – more commonly known as drifting – for a long as they’ve been able to drive.

In Dougarian’s case, the passion for cars and racing and, later, drifting has taken him to the other side of the country.

“I’ve gone to the extent of driving all the way out to the border of North Carolina and Tennessee to drive on a famous road called the Dragon’s Tail on U.S. 129, it’s like a rollercoaster of a road,” said the McKay High School graduate.

The road boasts 318 curves in 11 miles.

Clevenger is no less enthusiastic about the sport, but maybe slightly more unlucky.

“I lost my license two weeks after getting it and it’s been downhill ever since,” said Clevenger, a McNary grad.

Drifting refers to a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels. The drift occurs as the car’s rear end swings to the side, which means drivers are often looking out driver and passenger windows as they steer. It requires a car with rear-wheel drive and typically some moderate conversions as well as some deft footwork like heel-and-toe downshift and clutch kicking.

The two formed a bond over their love of cars 15 years ago, but it’s as business partners in Levelride Concepts that they’re seeking to draw attention to the sport of drifting, and hope to take it from the illegal passion of their youth to the safer confines of Portland International Raceway.

Clevenger and Dourgarian will be participating as drivers and sponsors of the first-ever 2012 Drift Crown Series at PIR, which kicks off March 17 and 18 and continues once a month through August.

The goal is to convince PIR officials that drifters can be safe, responsible and respectful of the venue, which Dourgarian and Clevenger hope will pave the way for continuing the program in the years to come.

As they approach their mid-thirties, both Clevenger and Dourgarian look back on their younger days with a bit of disbelief and admonishment.

“If you’re out drifting on a city street or rural road you’re putting yourself in danger and your putting other people in danger. The person coming around the corner could be someone you’re related to,” Dourgarian said. “This is an opening to take it off of the streets.”

In addition to being drivers, Dourgarian drives a Nissan Skyline and Clevenger drives a version of the Nissan 240sx, they are also sponsors of driver James Wiklund through Levelride Concepts, which produces custom stainless steel parts like brakes and shift knobs.

Clevenger, a metal machinist, makes each piece by hand, so each one is unique. They started the business last year after attending an auto show.

“I started looking around at the parts and what they were charging and realized I could make a lot of them as long as we could afford the metal,” Clevenger said. “I freehand everything so it’s more of an art.”

On a whim, Dourgarian had a friend set up a website for the business and they had their first order the next day.

“We’ve shipped stuff to Canada and across the U.S. Oddly enough, we’re big in the Philippines,” Clevenger said.

The duo’s rapidly rising profile has led to other unexpected opportunities. Last weekend, they traveled to Portland where the NBC crew filming Grimm in Portland shot their first promo video.

The driving and drifting is still their first love, however.

“You can’t just jump into any rear-wheel drive car and just start drifting, you have to feel the car and almost in a way have to talk to the car,” Dorgarian said. “But when it’s done right, it’s like you’re in a rollercoaster you can drive.”

For more information about the Drift Crown series, visit Admission to the Drift Crown Series events will be free. For more information about Levelride Concepts, visit,