Chamber: Restore River Road upgrade fund

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Projects like this sidewalk upgrade at Town & Country Lanes, business facade improvement grants would be on hold indefinitely under a Keizer City Council proposal. (File Photo)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Reimbursement to a River Road business corridor improvement fund is a priority of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

Its board of directors approved a resolution which encourages the city of Keizer to repay the fund city councilors propose emptying to cover its bond debt at Keizer Station.

Should the city council ultimately choose to use $1 million in RRR-earmarked funds for said debt, it wouldn’t be the first time such funds were used outside the originally intended purpose. A few years back, councilors voted to spend $3.38 million of River Road improvement funds to build the Keizer Civic Center.

But some city leaders counter that there are no unfunded projects proposed for the money city councilors set aside years ago for the project, and say the business community hasn’t maximized the opportunities presented.

“A major component of the River Road Renaissance plan was marketing and non-construction efforts where River Road businesses and the chamber get involved with how to market, package, brand the Keizer business community,” said Councilor Cathy Clark. “I have yet to see any substantial efforts in that regard.”

Some with the chamber, including James Hauge, chair of its Economic Development and Government Affairs committee, said the city’s passive approach to projects – businesses were expected to come forward with proposals – wasn’t enough.

“I’m on the urban renewal board and I know there’s not been a direct approach,” Hauge said. “… With further efforts to get them to be a part of that program and outlining those grants to them, I think you wouldn’t find a single property owner who wouldn’t be on board.”

And given that many business operators don’t own their building, it makes outreach more complicated, Clark said.

“Businesses need to talk to their property owners and say, this is what I see happening,” Clark said.

Matt Williams, also an EDGA member, said the projects have not only increased property values, but have boosted what landlords can charge for a lease.

“We can’t abandon that completely,” Williams said at a city council meeting last month. “All I simply ask is that this council make prompt reimbursement of the River Road Renaissance funds the top priority and also identifies how that will happen moving forward.”

At that same meeting, Clark noted the difficulty of making everyone happy – at this point, the council is proposing full repayment to other taxing jurisdictions who would be giving up revenue.

“We can’t go to them and say we’re going to do as much as we can to make sure we return as many dollars as possible without saying we’re doing as much as we can as well,” Clark said.

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