Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: July 17, 2015

Art as an ad?

Boucher Jewelers has proposed putting this large diamond ring from May's Iris Festival Parade outside their store. (KEIZERTIMES/ Craig Murphy)
Boucher Jewelers has proposed putting this large diamond ring from May’s Iris Festival Parade outside their store. (KEIZERTIMES/ Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Could public art be construed as illegal advertising in Keizer?

That question has come up regarding a proposed piece of art for Boucher Jewelers, located at 4965 River Road North.

Lore Christopher, chair of the Keizer Public Arts Commission (KPAC), said the longtime business had a float with a large ring in May’s Iris Festival Parade and would like to now have that artwork in front of its business. The issue has been discussed at the last two KPAC meetings.

“It’s really kind of cool,” Christopher said at last month’s KPAC meeting. “It has a shaft, big diamonds and prongs that hold the diamonds. It’s a cool sculpture. I told them it could not advertise their business; it’s just a giant diamond ring with an eight-foot base. They want to put it on their property as public art.”

City Councilor Amy Ripp, the council liaison to KPAC, opined the issue needed to be decided elsewhere.

“I think it needs to go to council,” Ripp said. “There needs to be an interpretation of what’s art.”

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, expanded upon that.

“What Councilor Ripp is concerned about is getting too far down the road and then having legal issues raised,” Brown said. “She wants a policy decision. You might want to cross all the t’s.”

Ripp summed up her main concern.

“I think it will be seen as advertising, not as art,” Ripp said.

Christopher didn’t see the issue, but fellow KPAC member Kim Steen did.

“This committee was formed so council didn’t have to decide about the interpretation of art,” Christopher said. “(City Attorney) Shannon Johnson told me about the murals we can have anything on it as long as there’s no business name, slogan or contact information. I’ll fight that battle. Will the ring bring more business to Boucher? I hope so. Will having a dog (sculpture) bring more business for Kim Steen’s dog grooming business? I hope so.”

Steen joined Ripp and Brown in worrying about issues down the road.

“It seems like a slippery slope,” Steen said. “Are you going to have a pizza place with a big pizza in front? It seems like it could go crazy.”

In a June 22 e-mail to KPAC members, Johnson noted the conflict with city code.

“The (public art) program is for art work, not for advertising,” the city attorney wrote in part. “The main reason the murals and the sculptures can be allowed without violating the sign code is that the city (not an individual) has approved and placed the artwork for the public’s enjoyment. For example, if a mural was proposed for this location, it would be inappropriate to allow depictions of diamonds or watches on the mural. We also do not allow logos for the same reason. If this was permitted in this location, I would be concerned that the (art program) would slowly be transformed into a disguised marketing program.”

Like others, Johnson also mentioned the precedent that would be set with the ring sculpture.

“If this request is allowed, I think the city would have difficulty turning down other businesses that wish to have this type of advertising,” Johnson wrote. “I am concerned that the sculpture/mural program could be challenged if we turn down a future request if this request is granted.”

Matching grants spared cut

Funding was not cut from the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board's matching grant program on Tuesday night, meaning projects like Jerry Nuttbrock's amphitheater work can continue. (Photo courtesy Clint Holland)
Funding was not cut from the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s matching grant program on Tuesday night, meaning projects like Jerry Nuttbrock’s amphitheater work can continue. (Photo courtesy Clint Holland)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

A matching grant program was spared a big cut Tuesday night.

Members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board were faced with the possibility of having to cut $9,000 out of an already limited budget for their matching grant program, which matches dollars and labor put into projects at parks around Keizer.

When Tony Weathers recently got out of his contract to operate the filbert orchards at Keizer Rapids Park, the $9,000 in rent he paid the city annually to use the city-owned land had to be removed from the parks budget. As mentioned previously in the Keizertimes, Weathers was concerned about potential litigation of pesticides sprayed on the orchards wafting onto the Big Toy, which was built last month by community volunteers in part of the orchard.

One possibility was for the funds to come out of the matching grant program, now in its second year. Parks Board members have pushed hard to increase money for that fund and ended up with $15,000 for this fiscal year. Of that total, $5,000 has already been pledged to the sand volleyball courts being built at KRP by Hans Schneider, leaving $10,000.

At their meeting Tuesday evening, Parks Board members didn’t even discuss the idea of cutting $9,000 from that fund and instead focused on other places to make the cut.

Public Works Director Bill Lawyer said he had some ideas of where to cut, but didn’t want to steer Parks Board members toward a particular decision. J.T. Hager opined the need to cut was being unfairly placed on the laps of Parks Board members.

“What’s our time frame?” Hager asked Lawyer. “This is a blindside thing. I saw the figures in the budget, but didn’t know we needed $9,000 cut from the budget tonight. Now you’re asking me where to cut? I’m supposed to look through here and make that decision? I don’t think anyone here will blindly jump at what you suggest.”

Lawyer said technically Parks Board members have until next June 30 to make the cuts, as that’s the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year. Upon another request, Lawyer spelled out some options.

“The least desirable is you don’t redo the Willamette Manor tennis court,” Lawyer said of the projected $11,000 project. “I don’t support that, because that means a $40,000 to $50,000 project in the future. More realistically, we could cut a little here and a little there.”

Lawyer said that could include cutting about $3,000 in materials and supplies, between $3,000 and $5,000 for Keizer Little League Park maintenance and reducing contractual services by $2,000. Lawyer also suggested letting staff keep a close eye on the budget and make cuts as necessary.

“So your recommendation is to cut a little here and there?” Richard Walsh asked. “So just holding the purse strings a little tighter?”

Lawyer replied affirmatively.

“The public won’t notice the cuts, but we’ll feel it,” Lawyer said.

Walsh noticed leftover money not spent in categories like materials gets put into the ending fund balance and is reallocated in the general fund budget the following year.

“I say move that back into parks,” Walsh said. “I’m saying not moving that into the ending fund budget. I make a motion to reallocate the $9,000 back into the parks budget, to give us time to figure it out.”

Lawyer said it was too early to tell if there would be $9,000 once all expenses from 2014-15 fiscal year were accounted for. Hager supported Walsh’s motion but predicted a lack of success at the council level.

“I understand the high probability it won’t fly,” Hager said. “But it’s prudent of us to at least make the effort. It behooves us to assume it won’t work. For us, $9,000 is a lot to cut out. It’s just insane. We have to try this, but at the same time we’ll put our heads together to see where we can find more money.”

Walsh’s motion was approved unanimously.

Several Parks Board members expressed displeasure about having to make any cuts, with Clint Holland being the most vocal.

“I think the problem goes back to city council,” Holland said. “They knew the potential was there. Why should parks suffer for what is happening? Why can’t council find somewhere else? Put it back to the council, see where else they can cut. We have a tight budget anyway. That’s my recommendation, to cut from somewhere else.”

Lawyer noted he’s already had discussions with city manager Chris Eppley about the budget.

“There’s nowhere else to cut,” Lawyer said. “There’s no more money. This revenue (from the orchard lease) was specifically given to parks. If it was specifically given to parks, why should another part make it up?”

Council liaison Brandon Smith, who was the Parks Board chair until rejoining the Keizer City Council in January, suggested board members come up with a place to cut the budget.

“There’s a lot of passion for putting it back on council,” Smith said. “I can appreciate it and would probably be saying the same thing if I was still in your position. But that $9,000 was dedicated specifically for parks. A majority of the money is to the grant program, which I have been in favor of since it was started. I’ve gone through the entire budget. There’s not any extra money. If you send this to council (with no recommendation), I suspect they will deal with it in the grant program.”

Couple needs help after fire

Debbie and Randy comfort each other while standing in the midst of what used to be their home just outside of Keizer. A fire on June 20 caused the couple to lose everything. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Debbie and Randy comfort each other while standing in the midst of what used to be their home
just outside of Keizer. A fire on June 20 caused the couple to lose everything. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Randy Wilson broke the promise he made on his wife Debbie’s birthday.

Randy often tells his wife to hurry up or move faster. The day before her June 20 birthday, Debbie mentioned her birthday wish: for Randy to not tell her once on her birthday to hurry up.

Randy agreed, but ended up breaking the promise the next day.

For good reason, however: he discovered their house was on fire and wanted to get out alive.

The Wilsons were getting ready to go to lunch on June 20 when disaster struck. They had noticed what seemed to be a lot of flies, so Randy went to the back of the 115-year-old home just outside of Keizer to investigate.

“The fire was covering over the back porch and flames were coming out of the pump house,” Randy said. “The basement and attic were engulfed and we didn’t realize it. It was already beneath, above and behind us. I opened the back door and the windows blew out. I told her to hurry up. I got the dogs out. Within one minute, it was all we could do just to get out.”

Debbie, Randy and their two dogs got out safely, though Randy had to go back in a couple of times since one of the dogs kept going back in.

Several fire departments responded, but the relative remoteness of the location – the Wilsons live about a half-mile off Highway 99 – meant the initial responding hydrant truck had trouble getting water on the fast-spreading fire.

Making things worse, Randy had a number of lawn mowers and weed whackers full of fuel, which only accelerated the blaze. Worse yet, Randy had collected a number of firearms and knives plus inherited a large collection from both his father and grandfather. Emergency crews kept their distance in fear of the constant popping noises being live ammunition, though Randy said that was actually the transformer popping.

“I just watched my house burn down,” Randy said. “It was burning so quick, I couldn’t believe it. The house was 115 years old, so it was like dry hay. It was the worst monster you could face.”

The Wilsons were safe, but lost everything. A Randy and Debbie Wilson relief fund has been set up at Wells Fargo. Even a safe with valuables was charred, since the door wasn’t latched all the way. Among the items lost were two ice cream birthday cakes for that evening.

“The one thing I’m grateful for is it could have been worse. It could have been much worse. If I hadn’t gotten her out…” Randy said, choking back tears. “No one got hurt.”

At the time, Debbie was worried about Randy, especially since he had to keep getting the dog out of the burning house.

“In the moment, you don’t think about material things. Then after you do,” Debbie said, noting she hasn’t found her engagement or wedding rings – and doesn’t expect to. “I’m just grateful we weren’t hurt. The smoke was coming so fast, it was just a black wall. There was just no time to think.”

The Wilsons have set up tarps and pulled out charred items, including a sword used in the battle of Gettysburg and a Native American blanket that was more than 300 years old. Sometimes the reality hits hard.

“You do a task and you go to get the item,” Debbie said. “Then you realize it burned up. It’s unreal. One moment I’m fine, the next moment I’m a wreck.”

Friends and neighbors have been helping out, in particular longtime family friend Charles ‘Bob’ Rictor as well as next door neighbors Juan and Josie Benavidez, who let the Wilsons put a camper up in their yard.

Randy, 54, wants others to learn from their misfortune.

“Don’t store fuel in your machines. If you have bad wiring, be aware of it and fix it,” said Randy, who believes faulty wiring near the washer and dryer started the blaze. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this. And make sure you insure what you’ve got. We had no insurance. I didn’t realize how cheap insurance would have been.”

Randy, a former certified butcher and artist, doesn’t know what to do next.

“We’re screwed, just screwed,” he said. “I’ve never asked for help my entire life. For the first time in my life, I’d accept it.”

Even three weeks after the blaze, Randy still was in shock as he looked over the remnants.

“It was heaven; it’s hell now,” he said of the home. “We’re doing great one moment, then we’re on fire. Just be safe. You can have your paradise and your slice of heaven one day, then it can go to hell real quick. I don’t want nobody else to go through this. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”