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Day: March 21, 2014

Celt actors will take you to Almost, Maine this weekend


Cory Bond and Emma LeDuc share a scene in rehearsals for the McNary production of Almost, Maine. The remaining shows are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Cory Bond and Emma LeDuc share a scene in rehearsals for the McNary production of Almost, Maine. The remaining shows are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
(KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Who do you call to heal a broken heart? Is it possible to recapture lost love? Do opposites really attract? What happens when any of those scenarios play out?

Those are a few of the questions pondered in Almost, Maine. The McNary High School drama department is staging a production of the award-winning play March 21-22. Curtain time is 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are $5 at the door.

The play is a series of vignettes connected by the theme of love and all the joy and ache it bestows upon those who fall in. Each of the students who landed roles in the production is taking on two separate characters in different vignettes.

Senior Maddie Valish was first exposed to the play when she went to see a production at West Salem High School.

“I fell in love with it. When it was announced we would be doing it, I wanted to be involved,” Valish said.

In one vignette, Valish plays Gayle, a long-term girlfriend who begins to wonder if her lengthy courtship will ever be anything more. She makes a 180-degree turn for the second part.

“I play Hope, who is going to respond to a marriage proposal that she didn’t answer years before,”  Valish said.

In one of the more gut-wrenching scenes, Where It Went, Emma LeDuc plays Marci and Nick Neddo plays Phil, a couple trying to figure out if their marriage can be saved.

“We love each other, but things are starting to fall apart. They’re trying to fix things, but it’s just not working,” Neddo said.

Even during rehearsals, the vignette has caused strong reactions.

“Our stage manager has bawled after it,” LeDuc said. “Everything you will go through or have been through is in this play.”

The play also plucks a deep chord for Cole Juran who confessed to tearing up at different points during the run up to opening night.

“It’s got so much heart in it showing all the different aspects of being in a relationship and being in love,” Juran said. “The heartbreak scenes hit hard.”

Juran’s roles include that of Dave in Seeing the Thing. He falls for tough girl Rhonda, played by Courtney Gregoire, and may have made a mistake in painting something for her to show his affection.

Gregoire, who transferred from Amity High School, said the play is more than a little reminiscent of her hometown.

“The characters just sound real, they’re a lot more like Amity than Keizer. They take their time and get to know each other. I love that we get to do that in this play,” Gregoire said.

In the exploration of its theme, the play offers a boatload of laughs in addition to its moments of sweetness and pain. That’s what drew Cory Bond to his roles.

In one of them, Bond plays Jimmy who crosses paths with a now-engaged ex, Sandrine, played by LeDuc.

“I’m kind of like sad sack. I’ve given up on love,” Bond said. “But, in the next one, I’m the best friend of another guy and we talk about how bad our dating lives are.”

Throughout it all, the play dabbles in the absurdist and magical realism. An actual heart might be mended onstage. Other characters might carry around bags of love.

“There’s a lot of literal use of language,” Juran said.

While the script lends itself to romantic comedy, Valish said there’s truly something in it for everyone.

“I feel like guys will fall in love with it, too. There are some funny parts that anyone will appreciate. It’ll pull you in,” she said.

Keizer couple arrested on sex abuse charges

Casey Lee Wenger
Casey Lee Wenger
Rosa Linda Wenger
Rosa Linda Wenger


Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer couple has been arrested for an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor.

Casey Wenger, 33, and his wife, 31-year-old Rosa Wenger, were both arrested Thursday, March 20.

In addition to holding state jobs, both were also volunteers with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team.

Sgt. Chris Baldridge, public information officer for the MCSO, confirmed Friday morning the Wengers have been terminated from the Search and Rescue team. The MCSO had received a complaint the Wengers had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old volunteer.

Since the Wengers reside on Tynel Court NE in Keizer, deputy chief Jeff Kuhns with the Keizer Police Department got a call from the MCSO on Monday morning. KPD officers had been investigating the case since then.

“We contacted Casey on Thursday and arrested him for one count of sex abuse in the second degree,” Kuhns said Friday. “We took him in to custody in the mid-afternoon, then picked up his wife last night.”

Kuhns said officers on late Friday morning were in the process of obtaining a search warrant for the couple’s home, which was taped off Thursday evening.

Casey was employed at the Oregon State Hospital. Rebeka Gipson-King, a spokesperson from the hospital, said on Friday Casey was “not on a paid status.”

Rosa’s Facebook page lists her as having been employed at the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings and as an office specialist for the state since October 2007. Her page also lists being an MCSO Search and Rescue volunteer since September 2003.

Tom Fuller, director of communications with the Oregon Employment Department, confirmed on Friday Rosa is an Office of Administrative Hearings employee.

“She is currently an active employee,” said Fuller, noting Rosa indeed started her job in October 2007 after first working for the state as a temporary employee in 2004.

“Casey came to the Keizer Police Department voluntarily and was then arrested,” Kuhns said. “Then after that we went to (Rosa’s) place of employment and interviewed her all night long.”

In addition to the sex abuse charges, both Wengers were also charged with multiple counts of Encouraging Sex Abuse I; 30 counts for Casey and 20 for Rosa.

Kuhns said those counts are not for photos of the identified victim.

“The 30 counts are related to other, unidentified minors,” Kuhns said. “It pertains to child pornography. Each image is counted as a charge. We have only identified the one victim so far. We’d be interested in knowing if there are more victims.”

Anyone with more information about the case is asked to contact detective Ben Howden with the KPD at 503-390-3713 ext. 3525.



Fire board douses Big Toy




Keizer-Fire-Logo-white-backgBy ERIC A. HOWALD/Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Fire Board denied a request to pony up $7,000 for the Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park at its meeting Tuesday, March 18.

Director Joe Van Meter was the most adamant in his denial.

“I am never going to vote for using tax money to support a city proposition,” Van Meter said.

The request came in the form of a letter from Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher asking for money to help purchase a pair of playground fire truck structures and fire station façade. The total cost of those elements in the build amounts to $16,000. Christopher asked for a decision by Friday, March 21.

Board President Greg Ego identified a couple of hurdles in addition to Van Meter’s opposition based on tax money, including the adoption of a supplemental budget that took place just prior to the Big Toy discussion.

“We can’t earmark that kind of money when it isn’t there in the budget now, and we just asked our community to support an increase in our levy and it wouldn’t look right to go and give some of that away,” Ego said.

Ego added that if the community build organizers wanted to send a request to the Keizer Volunteer Firefighters Association, that would be another angle, but it couldn’t come through the board or Chief Jeff Cowan.

Director Ron Christopher was the only voice offering support for the donation, but it never came to a formal vote.

In lieu of cash, Keizer Fire District and many associated volunteers are already committed to using their station’s kitchen to help feed three shifts of build volunteers for five days. The district’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will also be overseeing safety during the build.

“It will also be our personnel on stand-by if an accident occurs,” Cowan said.

While board members denied the request, they did not close the door completely. Cowan was directed to research the possibility of using public education money from a 2009 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant for the purpose of the build. The redistribution of funds would need to be approved by the grantors, but no one at the meeting knew how long that might take.

Director Mike Kurtz asked if reassigning money from the grant would detract from any plans to use it elsewhere. Cowan said he didn’t think it would, but that he would return to the board with that information if it became an issue.

Cowan also expected there to be some unspent funds in the grant, which must be used by November or else it reverts back to SAFER.

“The trick will be explaining how the Big Toy fits into public education. But, I don’t think it’s that big of a stretch because, when kids get to know firefighters as the good guys, it makes the whole community safer,” Cowan said.

Support for Barbara Jensen

To the Editor:

Barbara Jensen has the skills and experience to serve our community. I had the pleasure of working with Barbara at the Oregon Department of Energy and was pleased to hear that she is now running for state representative.

As a small business owner and successful project manager, Barbara has the proven leadership skills to find solution and be accountable for the work she does. I have worked in the electric utility industry for many years and as a native to this area Barbara understands how important our affordable energy is for our economy.

Further, as a hazelnut grower, I know that Barbara understands the needs of the agricultural community.

Barbara shares our community’s traditional values. She has worked tirelessly on the “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive” campaign to honor the legacy of the men and women who fought in WWII and to teach our youth about the values of the greatest generation.

Barbara has already proven herself as an asset to our community, and I look forward to her representation in the Legislature.

Don Godard


House District 25

To the Editor:

With the excitement of yesterdays filing day, I know many of us are now looking to what the general election holds.  I want you to know that I am backing a particular house district candidate that I believe will represent my district with the best leadership and experience to move us forward.

That candidate is Chuck Lee, who will run as an Independent, in House District 25.  Joining me are a number of prominent supporters from both sides of the aisle, including Gerry Frank, Dick Withnell, Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern, and former Newberg education administrator Paula Radich.

While I personally know that this district is tough, I believe Chuck will have the resources and energy to run a successful campaign and win.  The demographics and politics of this district will allow an independent like Chuck to win.  Chuck has spent most of his career as a Catholic school administrator, is pro-life, and has served on the school board and city council.  He helped build Blanchet Catholic School in Salem to an institution that sends 95 percent of graduates on to college.  We need his leadership at the state capitol.

I urge you to join me in supporting Chuck as we head into the general election.  Please visit his website to learn more and contribute to his campaign.

Vic Backlund


Salem river crossing

To the Editor:

The Keizer City Council recently approved a new version of a bridge over the Willamette River, without a public meeting and without revealing to Keizer residents how the new alternative would affect them.

The city council approved “by consensus” an alternative originally proposed by the Salem City Council last summer.  The so-called Salem Alternative is not an expressway to West Salem—it has at least eight intersections. In addition, the traffic study shows it will cause intersections on Liberty and Commercial Streets between Keizer and downtown Salem to be over-capacity at certain times of morning and evening. This means traffic well wind through the neighborhoods, or you will sit at a light through several changes.

The estimated cost of the  “Salem Alternative” is $400 million.  There is no state or federal money available, nor is it likely there will be, for such a local project.  The most likely funding mechanism will be bonds, to be paid for by the entire Salem/Keizer area.  There is another alternative in the study that would cost a third of the Salem Alternative, would result in better traffic flow between Keizer and Salem and into West Salem, and would displace many fewer residents and businesses.  The Alternative 2A would widen the existing bridges and build infrastructure improvements at the existing bridge heads. The Keizer City Council should re-think its decision, compare the Salem Alternative with all of the other alternatives, and do it with full public review and comment.

Kathy Lincoln



Keizer power plant

To the Editor:

I’d like to offer an observation on the proposed power plant.  I think this is an excellent climax to Mayor Lore Christopher’s long career.

I go back to an article I read many years ago about the Washington Public Power Supply (WPPS) where, due to a typo, the ‘l’ was omitted from Public.  I’ve remembered that fondly now for many years.

I support the construction of the gas powered plant, near a shopping center, near a residential district, in a flood plain, in full view of everyone driving along the Interstate freeway, as long as it is declared with large signs as the “Lore Christopher Memorial Pubic Power Plant”  I think her service to the city of Keizer deserves such a lasting memorial.

Roger Oakes



Founders wanted citizen reps


I greatly enjoy reading the Keizertimes each week. The paper is the best source for local coverage of the issues that matter most to the citizens of Keizer.

I do have one suggestion for improvement. Please fold in a blood pressure pill when you run columns by Gene McIntyre. I have the need to pop a pill after reading his articles.

Last week’s article was no exception. In the article, Trading $1M a year for $174,000, Mr. McIntyre expresses his “sadness and disappointment” after reading an article in The Oregonian regarding Dr. Monica Wehby, the candidate opposing U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

Mr. McIntyre writes he is ”sad and disappointed” that Dr. Wehby would leave her position as a pediatric neurosurgeon for a position in the U.S. Senate. Our Founding Fathers would applaud this move. They felt strongly that our government leaders should come from the citizenry. They believed that leaders should use their knowledge from civilian life to better the condition of the citizenry. They didn’t believe that we should have career politicians. I agree. I believe we are served best by leaders that have experience in the working world.

Jeff Merkley is a career politician. He has zero experience or accomplishment outside of the government or non-profit sectors. After college, he moved from a position at the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Congressional Budget Office. After his first nine years of public employment, he had a brief three year term at Habitat for Humanity. (I applaud his efforts at the best housing organization.) His next stop was the Oregon House of Representatives for 10 years.  He has spent the last five years in the U.S. Senate.

Where did he gain any experience or knowledge of the workings of the private sector or the average citizen? Perhaps he is a poster child of why Congress doesn’t work. He has never had to make a payroll, deal with the unintended negative results of government regulation, or have his livelihood dependent upon the successful introduction of a product or service. He has been successful in getting elected, but is this a virtue?

Dr. Wehby is accomplished in her career field. Her intelligence and discipline are self-evident from her position as a pediatric neurosurgeon.  She has shown interest in medical tort reform. With the current challenges facing healthcare, I would welcome a candidate with a lifetime of experience and expertise in the medical field.

I am done with politicians having limited or no experience in the private sector.  It does not matter whether you are Republican or Democrat, if you do not have credentials outside of governmental service you will not get my vote. For this reason, a candidate like Dr. Monica Wehby is a refreshing alternative. Mr. Merkley has had his time; let’s retire him. Mr. McIntyre is a strong advocate for the progressive movement. Here’s a progressive idea: endorse candidates that have accomplished something outside of the bureaucratic workings of government and see if anything changes. Is this really such a novel idea?

(Phil Gerstner lives in Keizer.)

Politics of a toy

One person’s idea can excite many others and grow into a full-fledged civic project.

After Keizer resident William Stitt laid out his idea for a big toy playground at Keizer Rapids Park, the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board quickly adopted the idea in early 2013. Stitt cited other big toy playgrounds in the region and thought it would  be a good fit for the park.

The project, a community build, will be led by the city with the help of the Keizer Parks Foundation and dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers.What is supposed to be a large, adventurous playground for Keizer kids is in danger of being mired in competing visions and politics.

The final site for the playround within in the park has yet to be settled. Mayor Lore Christopher threw a wrench in the planning in January when she said she favored a site close to Chemawa Road. The task force organizing the community build and the paid consultant all favored a site further in the park between the amphitheatre and the boat ramp parking area.

There is yet to be a final vote on the location due to some machinations regarding the urban growth boundary (UGB) that must be concluded. The 28-acre expansion of the UGB at the park needs the acquiesance of the Salem, Marion County and Polk County. We still think that’s a lot of heavy lifting to accomplish a goal that should have been finalized already.

The Keizer Rotary Foundation voted to donate $30,000 to the playground project as long it was sited in the orginal location. The money will not be forthcoming if the playground is sited near Chemawa Road.

This week, the Keizer Fire Distrcit Board of Directors quashed a request from the mayor to donate $7,000 for a Keizer Fire-branded fire truck toy in the playground. There was an attempt to play Keizer Fire against Marion County Fire District #1 when both were approached to pledge money for rival fire truck toys.

With the emnity between the two districts lingering from the Clear Lake annexation issue, the solictation to both becomes fraught with too much politics.

The community build playground will be a wonderful asset to the city and Keizer Rapids Park. The project will end up costing about $750,000 when all is said and done—to be fair that includes in-kind donations, volunteer labor, donated materials and a state grant. The grant, offered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, is reputed to be a very competitive grant and there is no guarantee that Keizer’s playground project will receive the Local Government Grant from the state.

It is late March and there is no final playground design to be presented. The final design will depend on whether the playground is sited at its original location or closer to Chemawa Road.

We have previously called for the city council and the task force to move forward and finalize plans for the playground near the boat ramp parking area. There are too many parts that need to fall into place to build it near Chemawa—the urban growth boundary needs to be expanded and more than 60 trees removed. The UGB expansion needs the approval of Salem, Marion County and Polk County.

Mark Caillier, the project coordinator, has said plans need to be ready by July 1 to meet the mid-September construction schedule. We ask the task force to present a final design, the city council to formalize the site.

So far it’s been talk and more talk. The excited children and families of Keizer would like to see something concrete, a design, a location. They are ready to pitch in. Let’s get all the politics out of the project—our kids don’t care about that stuff.   —LAZ

Hotel to pull into the station

It appears this sign in Keizer Station will finally be right, as plans are expected to be submitted soon for a hotel between Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
It appears this sign in Keizer Station will finally be right, as plans are expected to be submitted soon for a hotel between Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)



By CRAIG MURPHY/Of the Keizertimes

For years there have been signs in Keizer Station pointing out a hotel.

The problem has been the lack of a hotel in the shopping area.

It appears that is likely to change.

Two developers, both of whom have a long history with Keizer Station dating back to its early days, indicated this week plans should be announced soon for a new hotel.

While rumors of a hotel being built on Lot 21 in Keizer Station – between the Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse – have come and gone, they have picked up steam the past few weeks.

Developer Chuck Sides told the Keizertimes last month he expected an announcement in a week. Though that didn’t happen, the issue has been moving forward.

When the packet for the March 17 Keizer City Council meeting was sent out last week, one of the items dealt with the default of payment on the Local Improvement District (LID) on behalf of Northwest National LLC and HTLKS LLC – two of Sides’ companies – for Lot 21. The resolution called for authorization to move forward with foreclosure on the LID lien.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said during Monday’s council meeting there had been a change a couple of hours before the meeting.

“There was a new development this afternoon, for the hotel site,” Johnson said. “The item closed today. We got a check for the past due (amount) to bring it current. We got three installment payments and three late payments. It has now been brought current.

“The property has changed hands,” the attorney added. “We don’t know the name of the new property owner. They are trying to get a hotel operator.”

Susan Gahlsdorf, Finance director for Keizer, said on Tuesday the city got $151,831.16 from Ticor Title Company to bring the property current, covering the delinquent payments. The largest part was $65,327.70 for interest, plus $47,444.04 for principal, $25,192.63 for taxes and $12,892.54 in penalties.

Sides confirmed to the Keizertimes on Tuesday HTLKS LLC sold the property.

“It’s been slow going through this,” Sides said. “It was bought and now will be resold to either of the two groups (looking to build). One will be picked by the new owners to develop a new hotel. We’re thankful. It’s been a long time coming.”

While he won’t be the developer with the plans, Sides is still looking forward to seeing the project finally come to fruition.

“It’s a tough business, which we discovered,” he said. “We believe that’s the first site you see when coming from the north. Whatever is built there will be a first-class looking structure. It’s got the exposure off the freeway. It will be a brand name. It will add a lot to the site.”

Once plans are submitted and approved, Sides said construction would take less than a year.

“I hope they get going right away,” he said. “Traveling is picking up and the economy is picking up. That’s why this is happening.”

Developer Don Jensen confirmed he is acting as a consultant for the hotel project, but declined to name the new property buyer.

“They’re working with a hotel group that builds hotels,” Jensen said. “The guy who bought it was owed some money from Northwest

National. He was looking at developing it himself, but he found a hotel group to work with. They have met with the city. It’s a good group of guys, very community oriented. The hotel will be a national chain, but these are local guys.”

As a consultant, Jensen said his job is relatively simple.

“I put property and people together,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for the Keizer Station property. I want to see that thing completed.”

Jensen said plans could be approved in the next 90 days, followed by a year of building.

“It’s going to be a great project, a great addition to Keizer Station,” he said.

A hotel in Keizer Station would be the city’s second. The Renaissance Inn in downtown was opened in 1997 and underwent an ownership change last year. Jensen noted a hotel off the freeway should do better.

“This will be a totally different clientele, with people coming off the freeway,” he said. “Shopping and eateries are right there. It will be more the traveler taking a look.”

Jensen also confirmed he’s acting as a consultant for a power plant project on the Rawlins property in Keizer Station, a project mentioned last week in the Keizertimes.

“A power plant is the highest and best use for the property,” he said. “We’re hoping to get someone. It will take 12 to 18 months to just get permitted, with community meetings as well to let people know the pros and cons.”

That project will likely take longer than the hotel, since the property has to go through a sheriff’s sale process.

Once that process is complete, after 13 months the Rawlinses would have the opportunity to buy the foreclosed property back for $3 million.

“We’ll know by then if this thing will go forward or not,” Jensen said. “It’s next to the substation already there. It makes a lot of sense to build there, but there are still a lot of hurdles. I’m excited about the project, but just the permitting is a couple of million dollars. It’s a lot of money to invest. It could bring in $300,000 a year in property taxes for the city, plus 50 jobs of $75,000 to $100,000. With construction, it will be about $400 million to build it. That’s a lot of money invested in the community.”