By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
By a unanimous vote, Keizer City Councilors on Monday agreed to support an effort by the Citizens for Marion County Extension to form a new 4-H service district.
The request came from Derek Godwin of the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Godwin was present Monday evening along with several local supporters in Kelly Walther, Bob Zielinski, Bill Griffiths and Rick Gaupo.
Earlier this year, the Marion County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution for a petition to form a Marion County Extension and 4-H Service District. Godwin and others are looking to get each of the 20 cities in Marion County to agree to be included in the new district’s boundary.
The goal is to have the matter on the May 2015 ballot.
As proposed, the tax base for the district would be $.05 per $1,000 of assessed value, beginning in July 2015. For a $160,000 home, that would be about $8 a year.
“We’re here because state and federal dollars have been declining,” said Godwin, who noted Marion County first had an extension agent in 1911. “Since I’ve been here since 1999, we’ve lost 30 percent of our folks. That’s 13 different people. That stretches out the remaining people and means less service. We got the support from commissioners for a service district, to help build back some of these programs.”
Godwin said OSU Extension helps farmers with crops, master gardeners, 4-H programs, family community health and forestry.
Walther, a Marion County representative for OSU Extension, voiced her support for the program.
“I really believe in Marion County Extension,” she said. “I spend a lot of time with it and I love it.”
Zielinski noted the district would add stability to the program.
“I’m thinking this is a great opportunity for you to buddy up with the No. 1 economy in the state of Oregon,” he said. “I think it’s time to bridge that gap. Why has the money been going away? Because OSU found another spot for it…I use a lot of the people that come through the system. We do a lot of things to help one another. This is your opportunity to help us back.”
Zielinski emphasized how badly the district is needed.
“This is a last ditch effort to save this organization and what it does,” he said. “We need to keep this organization. This is an inheritance we need to pass on.”
Griffiths, who completed the master gardener program in 2009, noted the impact of office staff being lost over the years due to budget cuts.
“The cutback is significant,” he said. “I’m speaking out of concern of the cutback of program staff. I think the community, without knowing what a master gardener does, would feel the loss of the contributions being made.”
Gaupo, CEO of Marion-Polk Food Share, noted his organization partners with OSU Extension.
“Our top mission is to make sure people are not hungry,” he said. “The second mission is to make sure people don’t need emergency food in the future.”
Council directed staff to draft a letter of consent and to bring back a resolution. City attorney Shannon Johnson said the resolution will be brought back at the next council meeting on Aug. 4.