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Money gap won’t deter the Big Toy

Richard Walsh has defended the job of the Big Toy fundraising committee in light of questions. The Big Toy is scheduled to be built June 10 to 14. (File)
Richard Walsh has defended the job of the Big Toy fundraising committee in light of questions. The Big Toy is scheduled to be built June 10 to 14. (File)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Four months can seem like a long time.

Not when there is still plenty left to get done in four months, however.

Such is the case with the Big Toy community build play structure project, set to be constructed June 10 to 14 at Keizer Rapids Park.

The Community Build Task Force met once again Feb. 3 for its monthly meeting.

While the need for a renewed emphasis on public relations (as mentioned in last week’s Keizertimes) was a hot topic, another topic was progress of the funding and the project overall.

For example, at one point Evan Christopher, who will be heading up the revamped PR effort, noted he would like to add supporting the fundraising committee.

Richard Walsh, co-chair of the fundraising committee, acknowledged there have been concerns about fundraising.

“We need to raise a couple hundred thousand more (dollars),” Walsh said.

Mark Caillier, project general coordinator, believes it can get done.

“I’m confident we’ll be okay, but we need to get going now,” Caillier said.

Later in the meeting, Walsh wondered what would happen if the full $416,509.80 wasn’t raised by the day community volunteers start putting the play structure together. More than $210,000 still needs to be raised.

“If we can’t raise enough overall, some things will have to be cut or we would need to get more from the SDCs (System Development Charges from the city),” Walsh said.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, made it clear cuts won’t be made.

“The city is committed to the project being done as designed,” Lawyer said. “We’ve committed to the completion of this project.”

Walsh came to the defense of the fundraising committee and took issue with a Jan. 30 editorial in this paper.

“It’s so disheartening to hear the Keizertimes editorial, which makes it sound like it’s not being successful,” an angry Walsh said. “We’ve raised more than $105,000 without the city’s SDCs, second most in parks history in Keizer. The only one with more was Keizer Rapids Park itself. And we’re not really in full swing yet. For people to think it’s not a successful campaign is ludicrous. The last big toy project (at Willamette Manor Park) raised $1,500 in 19 months. For the twist to be anything but (this project is successful), that is frustrating. We’ve raised enough to buy all the things for the project. We’ve had an outstanding fundraising campaign so far. We will raise the money. We have gotten several grants. People are starting to do this.”

The budget for the project through January shows a total of nearly $206,000 received, or 49 percent of costs raised to date. That includes the $100,000 in SDCs from the city, $80,600 in grants, $17,000 in component sales, $5,671 in cash contributions and $2,677.86 in fence picket sales, the last not exactly adding up since pickets are $35 each.

However, the $105,000 pointed to by Walsh includes some asterisks due to connections project leaders have with organizations. The sum includes $30,000 from Marion County; Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson is co-chair of the fundraising committee. Keizer Rotary is giving $25,600 to the project in the form of a grant plus $4,400 for components; general coordinator Mark Caillier and early project supporter Clint Holland – both Rotary members – made the pitch to the Rotary Board of Directors last year. The Keizer Parks Foundation gave $10,000; CBTF Marlene Quinn was an original KPF board member.

The cash contributions includes $2,171 from Keizer Parks and $2,500 from Walsh’s law firm. Some of the components were purchased by project leaders Kim and Ron Freeman ($1,800), Caillier ($1,000), Quinn ($900) and former mayor Lore Christopher ($900).

Once those connections are taken out, figures show less than $30,000 has been raised in two years, with $15,000 in the form of a Oregon Community Foundation grant.

After the Feb. 3 meeting, it was pointed out to Walsh poll results in the Jan. 30 Keizertimes showed more than 80 percent of respondents didn’t plan to contribute to the Big Toy project in any way.

“Of course they won’t, because all of the coverage has been nothing but negative,” said Walsh, once again raising his voice. “You’ve told people how bad the project is, so of course your readers are against it because you’ve told them to be against it. Your readers who have seen nothing but negative stories are against the project, but when we go into the schools, people are 99 percent for the project.”