By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
To the surprise of no one, Keizer City Councilors voted unanimously to delay construction of the Big Toy community build play structure at Keizer Rapids Park.
The play structure had been set for construction Sept. 17 to 21. The new dates are June 10 to 14, 2015 – starting on the final day of next school year.
Monday’s action came following similar votes in the last two weeks by the Community Build Task Force (CBTF) and the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Pushing back the construction schedule will give time both for more land at KRP to be brought within the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and for the overall KRP master plan to be updated with additional acreage included.
City Attorney Shannon Johnson noted the time crunch.
“Staff believes that the Keizer Rapids Park master plan process cannot be accomplished properly by Sept. 17,” Johnson said. “Staff believes it is appropriate to master plan the entirety of the park, rather than focusing only on the placement of the community build project. We also believe it is important to have a comprehensive public outreach to gather input on all aspects of the Keizer Rapids Park.”
Marlene Quinn, chair of the CBTF, again voiced her support for the delay and also reiterated the September timeline came from project consultant Leathers and Associates, not the task force.
“It’s disappointing we had to do this,” Quinn said. “But there are more pros than cons. The timeline was put together by our consultant. We felt rushed.”
One of the main arguments against moving the construction date was breaking a promise made to the children in Keizer that the project would be done this fall. Clint Holland, in particular, has been adamant on that point.
“We never used the word ‘promise,’” Quinn said. “We hoped it would be done then. All of the team leaders felt it was necessary to move this to a later date.”
Councilor Jim Taylor pointed out the tight timeline with a $150,000 grant the city has applied to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for.
“It gives us a huge advantage with funding,” Taylor said of the delay. “With the $150,000 state park grant, we wouldn’t know if we got it or not until probably mid-July. That would have put us in a real bind if we didn’t get it. With more time to raise money, we can get more people excited.”
Councilors Joe Egli, Cathy Clark and Kim Freeman had nothing to say on the issue. Councilor Dennis Koho was absent.
Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, noted several meetings are being held over the next few months to gather input about what amenities should be added to KRP.
Mayor Lore Christopher proposed having some of the meetings at buildings other than city hall. For example, she proposed meeting with the Latino community at The Light of The Valley Church, in addition to meetings at Saint Edward Catholic Church and McNary High School.
“Let’s look into doing this,” Christopher said. “Before we default into ‘no,’ let’s default into ‘let’s look at it.’”
Christopher then endorsed the delay of the build date.
“I’m probably the only one not disappointed to not use that date. When you look at Sept. 17, in 10 minutes it will be raining,” she said, echoing a concern Holland had raised several times previously. “Plus, school has just started. We had to go with that date because it’s what Leathers wanted. On Sept. 17 school has just started and it will sit there all winter, but June 10 is the start of summer and they have all summer to play on it.
“We have talked about the master plan,” Christopher added. “For heaven’s sake, we have the time to do it. The right way is to master plan the whole property, then take time in the rest of 2014 so everyone feels they are part of it. We will get a much better result, like we did with Keizer Rapids Park. I for one think it’s better. It’s kind of a relief. We have a year now to do it and to do it right. It always feels better when you do the right thing.”
In other business Monday:
• Councilors are recommending approval of liquor licenses for two locations to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. As was detailed two weeks ago in the Keizertimes, one is Porter’s Pub while the other is Delaney Madison Grill, set to open soon in the former Caruso’s building.
Porter’s Pub on River Road closed earlier this year but has been bought by Denny and Lisa Graue. They had hoped to have a soft opening in time for the Keizer Iris Festival last weekend, but now aim for this weekend, with the actual grand opening on the weekend of June 6.
James Marshall, the Delaney Madison owner who attended the meeting with his wife and three of his five daughters, is hoping to open in July.
• The start-and-stop Chemawa Road construction project was stopped once again last week. Once again, utilities were the issues. The project was delayed last year because utility company didn’t get their lines moved as needed. Bill Lawyer, Public Works director, said the latest hurdle was a gas line and power line found to be in conflict. He said the issue was found May 15 and hoped to know more this week.
“This is like the never-ending project,” Christopher said.
Lawyer said it wasn’t immediately known when the Oregon Department of Transportation project would resume.
“Everyone is frustrated,” he said.
• Lawyer said there will be a flag-raising ceremony on Memorial Day (Monday, May 26) at the Pfc. Ryan J. Hill Memorial Park in Keizer Station. Hill was a Keizer resident killed while serving in Iraq in 2007.