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Board looks to prioritize in wake of parks fee passage

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is asking supporters and skeptics to help shape the future of Keizer’s parks at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12.

During the meeting, the board will discuss the way forward now that the city will begin collecting a $4-per-month fee to create a dedicated parks fund.

“We’re looking for those individuals intimately familiar with their own park who can come in and bring up issues we haven’t noticed. I’m also hoping for some naysayers because I think that will help make the process as transparent as possible,” said Matt Lawyer, a member of the parks board, in a presentation to the Keizer City Council Monday, Aug. 21.

At the last meeting of the parks board, whether to have the meeting became a point of contention, but there is pressure to come up with a list of projects the city can announce and deliver on in the coming months and years.

“The fee is official and we are moving forward, but we didn’t have immediate measurable deliverables like Keizer police,” Lawyer said. “The parks plan was quite a bit less nuanced.”

Lawyer didn’t lay out specifics of the parks board agenda, but every meeting includes the opportunity for public testimony. Lawyer also said there might be a second meeting for public input later in September.

When the parks board surveyed residents about their priorities for the parks, numerous maintenance projects took priority over the most-wished-for new amenity.

“Safety is the No. 1 concern and it’s important to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars, but I think that there is a good expectation that new projects might be possible in the first 12 to 24 months,” Lawyer said.

Lawyer also hoped to reignite a matching grant program that has attracted improvements to Keizer parks with residents putting up money and donations of time that are matched by city funds.

There are two other issues the board will have to wrestle with in coming up with a plan for using fee funds. The existing Parks Master Plan was crafted in 2008, but times and priorities have changed in the interim. Board members will also have to figure out how system development charges (SDCs) factor into the money it can spend.

The city collects SDCs on new developments to offset impacts to infrastructure and pay for improvements. The catch is that the majority of the money the city has collected in SDCs, approximately $800,000, can only be used to fund 13.6 percent of any new project. That means on a $100,000 park amenity, the city has to pay for $86,400 of the cost from other sources.

The Sept. 12 meeting of the parks board begins at 6 p.m. at the Keizer Civic Center.