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Day: January 8, 2014

Councilors debate new economic commission

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Plenty of questions remain regarding a proposed Keizer Economic Development Commission (KEDC).

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, has been working on the development of the commission. The commission’s name was originally going to be Business Advisory Council, but was changed due to the negative connotation of BAC.

Brown said the idea behind the commission is to improve communication between the city and the business community, without duplicating work done by commissions such as the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) and Marion County Economic Development Advisory Board, as well as Keizer’s Economic Development and Government Agency (EDGA).

“Specifically, this new committee would be envisioned as a network of communication between resources and talents within the City of Keizer, with an objective to identify, address and use these resources and talents in the specific pursuit of job creation and retention,” Brown said while giving an update at the Dec. 16 Keizer City Council meeting.

As a part of the Economic Opportunities Analysis done over the past couple of years, it was found only one in seven employed Keizer citizens actually work in Keizer.

While other communities have such committees, Brown noted the variety.

“There is no real clear kind of pattern we could say works,” Brown said. “Each community adapts for its own needs. They are driven by local economic policies. We are trying to find what the scope of this committee would be. We want to focus our efforts on job creation and job retention, hopefully raising the kind of jobs we have.”

Brown proposed having the commission meet quarterly, or more often if deemed necessary. There would be 11 members: a city councilor appointed by the mayor, two Keizer Chamber of Commerce representatives, two business leaders appointed by the council and six citizens appointed by the council. Terms would run for four years, without term limits.

Mayor Lore Christopher wanted to see a trial run.

“I think it’s a good idea and worth our time and the time of the businesses, but I wonder if we could set it up as a pilot committee,” she said. “We could review it in a year and if it’s not worth our time, it goes away.”

City Attorney Shannon Johnson had an alternative.

“The easier way is to make it a task force, which would expire in a year and could then become a regular committee,” Johnson said. “The work you’re proposing, I think the business community wants and all will benefit from it.”

Councilor Marlene Quinn opined nine members would be preferable to 11, while council president Joe Egli expressed concerns.

“I’m really struggling that the commission is supported by the city,” Egli said. “The city will be at arms’ length, but we shouldn’t be doing anything. It would be a self-led group. So we’re giving business owners a meeting once a quarter to run their plans. SEDCOR has staff assigned to do work. We can’t do that; we don’t have a business development director.”

Councilor Kim Freeman also had doubts.

“To me, there’s a red flag on adding another committee,” Freeman said. “It feels like a duplication of groups like SEDCOR.”

Brown anticipates the subject will be brought up again at the Jan. 21 council meeting.

“We are all going to seek out the economic leadership in Keizer and have individual conversations to hopefully get a sense of issues that are important and a willingness to serve,” Brown said.

Plans still being discussed for old caretaker’s house

 

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Nothing is set in stone, but there could indeed be a future use for the former Charge house at Keizer Rapids Park.

Richard Walsh, chair of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, gave an update during the board’s meeting last month. Walsh has been in correspondence with Michelle Cordova, director of the Salem-based Straub Environmental Learning Center (SELC), in recent months about the idea of SELC possibly using a renovated version of the old house.

“Nothing has been offered by anyone in the city but this document is intended to just get the discussion started,” Walsh wrote in an e-mail to Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer.

For several months now, Parks Board members have discussed the potential future of the building, including whether the current structure could be salvaged or if it should be torn down and started over from scratch.

Regardless of what decision the Parks Board makes, that decision would be forwarded to the Keizer City Council, which would have the final call.

Before such a decision can be made, however, Lawyer said a feasibility study was ordered.

“The intent of having the feasibility study being done was to help us understand if it makes sense to renovate the existing building or start over,” Lawyer said. “When you start to renovate structures and bring them to code requirements, sometimes it’s less expensive to start over. At this point, it appears feasible to use the existing structure.”

Both Walsh and outgoing Parks Board member Rick Day did sketches of what a renovated structure might look like. The sketches are similar, with the main differences being the size and the entrance to the meeting or green room on the right side of the structure and the men’s restroom on the left side. Walsh’s sketch adds a small office space.

Both versions feature a larger women’s restroom, an arched breezeway in the center, the current garage converted into a large meeting room and a tiled patio.

“In mine, you use the first room (off the archway) as an office, with the second as a men’s bathroom,” Walsh said. “I put a hole in the wall so the person in the office can watch traffic. There’s a smaller men’s bathroom than in Rick’s drawing.

“We also have a larger classroom to accommodate 30 to 40 people,” he added. “Straub wants a small bathroom for kids. But they really need office space and the classroom is too small to be useable. After talking with them, that’s why I made the changes.”

Day had previously recommended putting on a new roof and feels setting aside some funds for future needs would be good.

“A permanent metal roof means no water leaks,” he said. “We may also want to establish a kitty fund for small maintenance, i.e. they can call a plumber if they need to. I would suggest you develop a small treasury. These changes will bring a lot of value.”

Lawyer said having a small fund for repairs would be a good idea, based on the extra use the building could see.

“What I see with this is a lot more ongoing maintenance than in the original proposal,” he said.