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Day: May 4, 2012

Keizer woman’s death spurs federal drug indictments


Of the Keizertimes 

A Keizer woman’s death of a heroin overdose led to federal indictments against five men, it was announced Friday.

Laurin Putnam, a 21-year-old Keizer resident, was discovered at her home dead of a heroin overdose on Monday, April 16. Her death was the fourth fatal heroin overdose in 2012, and highlights a startling trend statewide.

“The tragic death of Ms. Putnam was the fourth heroin overdose death this year in Keizer and it highlights the growing heroin problem in our area,” said Keizer Police Chief Marc Adams.

At the current pace, federal officials said more than 100 lives could be lost due to heroin in 2012. Statewide heroin deaths jumped nearly 60 percent last year, to 143. The year with the second-highest number of heroin overdose deaths was 131 in 2000.

In the four days after Putnam’s death, officers from Keizer and Salem police, the Salem Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force and numerous other agencies made arrests and conducted searches throughout Marion, Washington and Multnomah counties along with Vancouver, Wash., finding more than four pounds of heroin along with methamphetamine, cocaine, guns and more than $20,000.

“Those responsible for Laurin Putnam’s overdose are distributors of death and despair, from the source and his runners, to his wholesalers and retail level street dealers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “This is an exceptional case wherein we were able to follow the heroin supply chain from the victim’s arm to the doorstep of an out of state source of supply whom she had never even met. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue our efforts to combat drug trafficking at every level.”

Indicted in federal court in Portland were Sergio Quezada Lopez, 33, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31. Each were charged with distribution of heroin that resulted in death. Lopez was arraigned Friday, and others are expected to appear in court in the near future. All citizens of Mexico, they are also on hold from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency.

“Our partnership with the DEA and area law enforcement in this investigation shows that we can and will track down those who are linked to her death and hold them accountable,” Adams said.

Those with prior felony drug convictions face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with a $20 million fine, while those without would see mandated sentences of 20 years in federal custody and a $10 million penalty.

Putnam was a graduate of West Salem High School, where she played on a softball team that won the Central Valley Conference championship in 2008.

Other agencies playing a role included the Marion County Sheriff’s Office; Oregon State Police; the Washington County Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN); the Portland Police Bureau; the Oregon State Medical Examiner; the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force; the Oregon Department of Justice; and, the Portland based Highway Interdiction Team.

Lady Celts rebound strong from two losses

Lady Celt Hailey Decker pops a ball to left field during McNary’s game with West Salem High School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

After a week that included two losses – the team’s only two of the season – the Lady Celts of the McNary High School varsity softball program was looking for a bit of retribution this week.

McNary faltered in a 8-0 loss to South Salem High School and a 3-1 loss to West Salem High School, but rematches with both opponents were on tap.

“I think it gives us a better idea of how good they are and we sort of underestimated them,” said senior Brooke Bauer. “Coming back we’re going to bring a little more heat. We all need to just come together as a team.”

After losing to the Saxons on Monday, April 23, McNary rebounded in a major way to seal up a five-inning, 10-0 shut out over the Sprague High School Olympians.

The star of the game was sophomore Dani Saunders, but she shared the spotlight with teammate Olivia Yarbrough.

Saunders had a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run double in the second. Yarbrough went three for three with a double,  two RBIs and two runs scored.

The next day, the Lady Celts lost, 3-1, to the Titans.

“It was a tough luck game with West Salem. We had eight hits and they had eight hits, and we had a bunch of balls that were struck really well, but hit right at people,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach.

The Lady Celts had runners in prime scoring positions in nearly every inning, but couldn’t drive them home.

“They had two people on the team who just seemed to be right in front of it every time,” Saunders said. “It hurts at the time, but we use it as a drive to be better than we were before.”

McNary bounced back again to take a 16-0 win over McKay in a game where Bauer and Hailey Decker both hit home runs.

“Brooke slapped a homer to deep left field. Hailey had a big homer and a five-RBI day. Paige Bouska scored four times, and it was good to end the week on the big win,” Auvinen said.

On Monday, April 30, the Celts met North Salem High School and walked away with a 19-0 win in five innings.

Kianna Villareal notched four hits, including a home run and a double, and four RBIs in the game that included a nine-run fourth inning. Bouska had three hits, including a double, and four RBIs for McNary. Yarbrough and Saunders also hit doubles against the Vikings.

“We hit really well and when one person started hitting we all kind of stepped it up and getting the rallies going,” Bauer said. “We also have a good sense of friendship on the field that leads to getting things done.”

Titans edge out Celts in first track and field loss

McNary’s Garrett Hittner rounds a corner during a race at the dual meet with McKay High School earlier this season. (Photo by Bill Donaldson)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity track and field teams took their first dual meet losses of the season against West Salem High School, but several star athletes were taking on a lighter load in preparation for district competition.

“We want to compete in dual meets, but our ultimate goal is to send as many kids as possible to state. If that means our kids aren’t as competitive in our dual meet, we’re okay with that,” said Frank Gauntz, McNary head coach.

The boys lost their side of the meet 86-59 while the girls barely missed the opportunity and lost 73-72.

Sophomore Evan Rummerfield, who won the 3,000-meter for the boys with a time of 10:20.10, said the upside of the loss is that is shows there’s room for improvement all around.

“No one’s plateaued yet and everyone is pacing themselves and hanging in and staying strong despite the loss,” he said. “The good thing is there’s still two weeks left before district and that’s a lot of time.”

Taking time to heal from a brilliant start to the season is also part of the plan, said Gauntz.

“Each coach designs their program to peak toward the district meet and state meet. It’s a matter of giving them the tools they need to meet their goals and any goals they have in life,” Gauntz said.

The girls’ meet came down to the 4×400 relay and the Titans edged out McNary by just more than a second to take the one-point win.

“Despite that race, the relay team is doing really well,” said Celt Aerial Rice, who ran the third leg. “The nice thing about the team this year is we all have specific goals in mind and it helps us push each other toward them.”

Winning contestants for the boys in the West Salem meet were: Amadi Amaitsa in the 400-meter with a time of 52.94; Tony Goemaere in the 1,500-meter with a time of 4:21.27; Daniel Brattain in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles with times of 15.76 and 41.21, respectively; Jesse Wilson in the shot put with a personal record toss of 47-09.5; Austin Hejny in the discus with a personal record of 152-8; Perry Groves in the high jump with a leap of 5-10; and Jake Herndon in the pole vault clearing 12-00.

For the girls, winners were: Rice in the 100-meter with a time of 13.41; Deven Hunter in the 200-meter stopping the clock at 27.12; Laura Donaldson in the 400-meter with a time of 1:01.85; Ashley Burger in the 1,500-meter with a time of 5:22.18; Courtney Repp in the 3,000-meter with a time of 12:12.9; Hunter, Rice, Liana Patton and Ashlee Koenig in the 4×100 relay with a time of 51.53; Stacey Titchenal in the javelin with a throw of 123-10; Danielle Lovejoy in the pole vault clearing 9-00; and Koenig in the triple jump with a distance of 29-05.50.

Celt baseball stumbles in losses

Celt Travis Klampe winds up for a pitch in the Celts’ game with West Salem High School Tuesday, May 1. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

North Salem High School continued to be a thorn in the side of the McNary High School varsity baseball team.

The Vikings picked up their third win, 4-3, of the season over the Celtics. McNary managed to knot the game at 3-3 in the fifth inning, but North plunged ahead with a run in the bottom of the seventh. Twelve strikeouts didn’t help the Celtic effort, but McNary’s Justin Gardner doubled in the outing.

The game was another notch in what’s become an uneven season for the Celts, who hoped to get things going again on the heels of a 22-9 win over McKay High School.

“Our goal was just staying strong for the whole game and we showed we were able to do that against McKay,” said McNary senior Garren Robinett.

Robinett homered and tripled in the game with McKay leading the team in an offensive onslaught. Jon Stong, Conor Suing and Robinett shared duties on the mound allowing 13 hits between them, but the Celts put runs on the board in every inning including five in the second and fifth innings and seven in the sixth. Gardner and Sterling Becktel doubled in the game.

Prior to the game with the Royal Scots, the Celts fell to Sprague High School in a 4-2 loss.

“That was a game we should have won and we were in it,” said Robinett. “The first inning we started strong, we just couldn’t get anything going after that.”

While the team’s hopes for a Central Valley Conference title have slid out of view, it could improve their current standing in the league, fifth, by winning the rest of its games.

“We just need to focus on one game at a time instead of the big picture,” Robinett said. “We can win out the rest of the year and there’s no shame in finishing second or third.”

Underdog to top dog

Members of the McNary choir rehearse earlier this year. (File)

Of the Keizertimes

When the McNary High School choir wasn’t state champion, its members used their underdog status to get fired up. But, after a year in the spotlight, they’ve had to figure out new ways to up their game.

“You’re expected to perform well when you get to that level. The judges aren’t going to be basing their scores on what we did, they’ll be basing it on what we could have done,” said Jesus Gomez, a McNary senior and a student leader of the group.

The choir will defend its title at state competition Saturday, May 5, at George Fox University. The Celts are scheduled to perform at 5:40 p.m. Expectations of judges and students have both changed, but the work ethic hasn’t, said Jim Taylor, McNary choral director.

“It’s been a weird year with changes to our department and the make-up of the choir, but they stayed strong throughout a year of change. It’s a testament to their desire to still be good,” Taylor said.

For evidence of the fact, look no further than the choir’s recent capturing of the district title, a first for the school. Taylor was confronting medical issues at the time forcing students to take the reins of their destiny.

“They handled it, they assigned student leaders and they did well. They didn’t fall apart and they sounded great and it’s been awesome to hear all the people report back to me about how well they did,” Taylor said.

The Celt’s line-up for the event also looks a bit different from year’s past, which typically closed with a raucous gospel number. This year, the program commissioned a reinterpretation and rearrangement of the Irish folk song, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

“It’s a driven song and it’s completely different, but I like it,” said Gomez. “It’s about a man trying to bridge the gap between two loves, his girl and his country.”

The piece divides the choirs into three parts, two for women and one for men.

“One of the women’s choirs is the voice of the wind, the other is the voice of the lover and then the mens choir is the voice of the man telling the story in his old age,” Gomez said. “The idea is he (the narrator) hasn’t been able to open up and tell this story.”

The song list also features fewer solo performances. Not because the singer are any less capable, but because they are a different breed than years past.

“Instead, we have a choir that is able to sing cohesively and can create a huge sound without standout solo performances,” Gomez said.

The state performance will also be the debut of Gomez’s first choral composition an original piece featuring the text of the 23rd Psalm, the passage in the Bible that begins, “The Lord is my shepherd …”

Inspiration struck as Gomez played around on the piano and arrived at a chord progression that seemed to be the jumping off point for something more.

“I picked the 23rd Psalm because it was reflective of a period I was going through in my life. Once I had that, the song had some sort of driving force behind it,” Gomez said.

After completing the piece, Taylor suggested making it part of the song list for state and they introduced it to the choir.

“It was kind of like a workshop after that. It was great to work on it as a group and try new things vocally and by moving notes around,” Gomez said.

As the big day approaches when they have to defend the title, Gomez is most astounded by how much he and his fellow students have managed to accomplish despite packed schedules.

“We have track students and tennis students and drama that can’t always come to rehearsals, it might mean that we’re missing 20-30 people on a given day,” he said. “When you realize how much stuff everybody is doing, it’s amazing that we’re doing so well.”

[UPDATED] Budget requests ready for committee’s vote


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the budget committee’s recommendations. They are added in bold.

It’s budget season at the City of Keizer, which means local groups are lining up to request small (and a couple of not-quite-as-small) budget appropriations for a variety of causes.

Keizer Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center

Amount sought: $16,360.

What they got: $3,500 for an informational tourist kiosk, $1,080 to operate community-wide calendar, $500 for Interstate 5 signs, $800 for a booth at a tourism conference, $5,000 for police services at the Iris Festival parade and $3,000 to restore and repair holiday lights posted along River Road. Total: $13,900

Current year’s appropriation: $0, but the city has budgeted to pay police overtime for the Iris Festival parade.

What for? The chamber is the primary organization promoting visitors services in Keizer. Included in their request are funds for an iRIS (Information Referral Internet Station) kiosk at the Keizer Civic Center, maintaining Christmas decorations hung yearly on utility poles, conference attendance, co-op advertising, signage and welcome gift bags.

The chamber had received some $11,000 prior to this current budget year from hotel and motel taxes. That amount was cut to zero as the city kept the money for civic center promotion and maintenance. City Manager Chris Eppley said the facility’s role in bringing in outside visitors justified the move.

Festival of Lights Holiday Parade

Amount sought: $5,000 in trade.

What they got: $5,000 in trade.

Current year’s appropriation: $3,500 in trade

What for? The non-profit parade is tentatively scheduled for December 8. Their requests touts positive impact to businesses along with funds and goods raised for Marion-Polk Food Share and the Les Schwab Toy Drive.

The group has offered to pay the city’s overtime costs for police protection, but seeks use of the civic center for a hospitality event and supplies like cones and barricades for the parade route.

Keizer Art Association

Amount sought: $3,000.

What they got: $0.

Current year’s appropriation: $0.

What for? The request would pay for a new computer and the association’s expenses for the Mayor’s Art Gala.

West Keizer Neighborhood Association.

Amount sought: $500

What they got: $500.

Current year’s appropriation: $400.

What for? Funds would cover $300 of signage, an annual website fee of $100 and $100 in office supplies. Intent is to “enhance and increase communication to our members.”

The association was funded at $1,500 between 2006-7 and 2008-9, increased to $2,000 in 2009-10 and slashes to $850 in 2010-11, with further cuts in 2011-12.

Salem-Keizer Education Foundation

Amount sought: $5,000.

What they got: $5,000.

Current year’s appropriation: $4,000.

What for? Money pays for middle-school before-and-after school programs. Claggett Creek and Whiteaker schools see combined attendance of more than 500 students at the programs, and activities include leadership, recreation, hobby and sport-based activities. The program helps fill gaps left behind by cuts to middle school wrestling, volleyball and drama. They also serve supper to students through a federal program.

Peer Court

Amount sought: $21,300.

What they got: $21,300.

Current year’s appropriation: $19,300.

What for? Peer Court provides a diversion process for misdemeanor and violation youth offenses. The alleged must be between ages 12-17. The request describes peer court as a “restorative justice model imposing sanctions that meet the needs of the youth offenders, families and the community.”

Since 2004, 856 young people have participated in a court hearing, with 91 percent successfully completing it. The program will not continue without funding, said Peer Court Coordinator Cari Emery.

Keizer Renaissance Inn (for Good Vibrations motorcycle parade)

Amount sought: $3,000

What they got: $3,000.

Current year’s appropriation: $0, but last year the city donated use of its civic center facilities and police department overtime for a breakfast and motorcycle parade.

What for? While the event has relocated to the Salem riverfront for 2012, Keizer’s hotel will be an official host for the event. Sherrie Gottfried, of the hotel, said the event brought in about 1,300 bikes while at Keizer Station last year, but reached 4,000 in 2010 when the bulk of activities were in Salem. She said rains throughout the festival weekend in 2011 likely played a large role.

Money for baseball fields

The talk of Keizer being a “Tournament Town” continues.

But for that to work, kids have to have somewhere to play. Volunteers for Keizer Youth Sports Association and Keizer Little League have much to be proud of: They have for decades operated an all-comers baseball and softball program for every child who wants to play.

Say what you will about the KYSA-Little League split that still has hurt feelings left in its wake. The bottom line is KYSA finds itself unable to keep the park up to a high standard without the city’s help. If we are serious about becoming “Tournament Town,” some sort of steady funding stream makes sense.

Instead of lamenting the good old days, we should be proud that volunteers have kept the park up and running this long. In a city that doesn’t have a public library or many other amenities other communities provide for youth, it’s not too much to ask parents to carry the bulk of the load when it comes to youth sports. That is the bargain, after all, and KYSA’s leaders knew this when they took on the contract.

It is unfair, however, to ask them to spend their own time and money bringing in outside visitors for other businesses to profit and the city to collect more revenue via hotel-motel taxes.

Based on the way urban renewal dollars have been spent in the past – a half-million of which almost went to build a tourism center – it seems reasonable that those funds could cover improvements, but not routine maintenance, at the fields. That choice could prove politically unpopular, and perhaps practically impossible, given the city’s bond debt obligations and agreements with other taxing jurisdictions.

The funding formula for systems development charges, sometimes called impact fees, may also limit possibilities.

To us, the budget committee and city council have a few options: The general fund could pay out the cash, which may be possible this year but could be subject to cuts in the upcoming budget cycles. They could take up KYSA on their suggestion to divert parking monies from Volcanoes Stadium to maintaining and improving the ballfields. They could impose a modest surcharge on visiting teams and organizations that would be dedicating to upgrading the park.

Separately, local businesses that would benefit the most should step up sponsorships. Better fields mean more tournaments, which are likely to mean more profits. They also get the goodwill of investing in the community.

In exchange, KYSA’s leaders must be willing to extend the olive branch to those at Keizer Little League, allowing them to volunteer for credit towards field fees. Both organizations should be working towards the same goal: Giving their kids a chance to play ball at a quality facility. Whatever resentment remains, it’s time to put them to bed.

In any case, it appears the status quo is off the table.

In celebration of mom

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13. That gives children of ever age a little more than a week to decide how they will honor their moms this year.

Florists, candy makers and restaurants will do blockbuster business for the special day. Retailers will promote the gifts that mother would love to receive on her day.

There are other gifts that any mother would love to receive such as time with their children (especially if they are grown up and moved out), a custom, hand-made gift from the heart. It doesn’t matter if people don’t think they are creative, t mom won’t care, as long as it was made with love.

A poem expounding on the virtues of one’s mother will stay in her heart long after the flowers have wilted and the chocolates eaten.  A poem doesn’t have to rhyme, it just needs to express thoughts in iambic pentameter; and, it doesn’t have to be long. A poem can greatly expand on “I love you, mom.”

Another gift that will be hung in her home forever is a  framed collage of pictures of oneself in various stages of life. A photograph that illustrates a mother’s character can be taken and framed.

The artist can paint or draw something complex or something simple, such as a picture of mom’s favorite flower.  Or a drawing/painting of mom’s favorite things such as a pet.

Remember it was your mom who kept all the grade school art their children made, many of which ended up attached to the refrigerator.

Celebrate mom with a bit of yourself this year.

Marion County Fire’s levy


Marion County Fire District #1 is responsible for providing fire and emergency medical services to approximately 50,000 residents who reside in a district of approximately 80 square miles.  We have eight fire stations strategically placed within the district to effectively provide fire and emergency medical services.  Our district utilizes a combination of highly trained career and volunteer firefighters to serve our community 24 hours a day.  In 2011 we responded to 5,800 calls…an average of more than 15 emergency requests each and every day of the year.  We serve our community with dedicated personnel totaling 40 employees and 81 active volunteers.

We, like many organizations and individuals in this down economy, are having to tighten our belts, reorganize our operations, and look at all options to operate as efficiently as possible and maintain the current level of services.  We will also continue to re-evaluate what our critical core services are over the next several months.

While we have had differences with our union, management and union personnel have worked diligently together to come up with creative solutions to make cuts and not impact our core services to the community.  Our union personnel voluntarily developed a proposal that resulted in voluntary demotions and a reorganization of many employees that will save more than $260,000 per year. All employees (union and non-represented) have also agreed to take a 2.5 percent wage reduction.  Like many in our community, this action will mean our employees will not have had a wage increase in three years.  Two administrative staff has been laid off and two tenured staff took voluntary retirements. The duties of laid off and retired personnel will be redistributed to the remaining force. Additional budget cuts have resulted in savings of over $250,000.

Once the MCFD #1 Board of Directors were confident that management and union leaders were working together to reduce costs, then and only then, did the Board consider asking taxpayers to continue the local option levy of $.16 per $1,000.  After much discussion and financial analysis, even after taking into account the eventual reductions and cost savings, we still had to increase the levy by an additional $.13 to insure that we could continue to provide the same level of fire and emergency medical services the voters have grown to expect from MCFD#1.

Approval of this local option levy would represent an additional $.13 per thousand or $23.40 per year (less than $2 per month) for an $180,000 home.

The passage of this measure will fund district operations for the next four years and is vital to our ability to provide the same level of fire and emergency medical services as in the past. The Marion County Fire District #1 Board of Directors, the MCFD#1 Volunteer Association and the Professional Firefighters Association of Marion County IAFF L2557 ask for your yes vote on Measure 24-330.

Randy Franke is president of the Marion County Fire District #1 board of directors.

New law protects privacy of CHL holders


Imagine being stalked by a deranged individual threatening your family, but you’re too afraid to exercise your constitutional right to carry a gun. Why? Because if you get a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) the stalker can find out where you live.

Until now, that was reality for a Keizer woman and many other Oregonians who worried about their safety because CHL records were released to the public.

A new state law took effect last month putting tight restrictions on the amount of information a sheriff’s office or other agency can divulge about the nearly 150,000 CHL holders. The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association supported the legislation I drafted, House Bill 4045, because it improves public safety while also providing limited access in certain legitimate circumstances.

Concealed Handgun License documents are not like other public records designed to hold government accountable. These records are a collection of data on individuals required to get permission from a law enforcement agency to fully exercise their Second Amendment Rights.

Publicly releasing private information about these individuals not only defeats the whole purpose of the term “concealed” but also makes them vulnerable to identity theft or other crimes; we’re talking about good citizens such as the convenience store owner who has to transport cash late at night.

Opponents of these new protections say the public has a right to know if someone is packing heat. They are misled. Knowing if someone has a CHL doesn’t indicate whether an individual even owns a gun, much less that they are carrying one. Conversely, many Oregonians have firearms and don’t have a concealed permit. Most are responsible citizens who aren’t engaged in criminal activity.

We should be more worried about the bad guys walking around carrying firearms; they don’t bother getting a license. Sadly, some politicians use scare tactics to lump these criminals in with the good guys who have CHLs.

Under the new law, the courts and law enforcement agencies still have access to these records.  In addition, there may be times when a victim of domestic violence or a reporter learns about someone convicted of a serious crime that might have been issued a Concealed Handgun License. This new law establishes a process for them to find out if the person has one.

Though the final version wasn’t the simple bill that originally passed the House, it was the best we could do given the current political climate in Salem.  We now have better protections for Oregon citizens than we did in the past.  I will continue to work on common sense reforms for Oregonians who want to preserve their Second Amendment rights. Your input is always welcome.

Kim Thatcher represents District 25 in the state House of Representatives. She can be reached at 503-986-1425 or by e-mail at [email protected]