In addition to contributing positively to commerce and the city’s image, Mayor Mary Olson said other, less glamorous but vital infrastructure improvements were started.
One such project, which began in 2008, was the introduction of ozone treatments to the city’s water supply. It was complemented in 2009 by requesting federal funds to improve the way water is distributed in the city.
The federally funded Community Development Block Grant request was for almost $103,000.
With this money, and a matching $115,000 from the city, water lines can be replaced on South Roosevelt, South Coble, South Freeborn and Highland.
Other improvements in the city included replacing Cedar Street, including new curb and gutter, in April. Similar renovation happened on Eisenhower Street and the 800 block of South Roosevelt.
Rounding out street reconstruction was improvements to the 100 block of North Roosevelt.
The Historic Elgin Hotel Bed and Breakfast, Auto House Towing and Recovery and Spur Ridge Vet Clinic were three new businesses welcomed to Marion in 2009.
Although renovating the historic hotel took more than a year, the project was completed and opened in April.
Olson and Doug Kjellin, the city’s economic development director, both commented on the impact this will have for the city, its residents and out-of-town visitors.
Every time a new business opens in Marion, it benefits other businesses, too, Kjellin said. For example, guests staying at the Elgin Hotel will buy gas, eat at one of the 11 restaurants in the city and could even come back again or consider making Marion their home.
“I like the fact that we have a high-class, nice place for people to stay,” Kjellin said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase the city.”
Another plus is the hotel’s limitless possibilities to continue growing and expanding services and opportunities to entrepreneurs. Kjellin mentioned that Elgin owner Jim Cloutier is willing to offer space for a fine-dining restaurant within the facility.
For Cloutier, restoring the hotel was a chance for him to give something back to the community. Closed in the 1950s, and now reopened in 2009, the Elgin Hotel is back and fulfilling its original purpose: providing a place for people to meet.
Another new business launched in 2009 was Auto House Towing and Recovery, a branch of the Galva-based business.
In addition to providing towing and recovery services, Auto House was recognized in 2009 with the Salina Fire Chief’s Award for Community Service.
“The award stems from a joint effort from our Marion County and Galva locations, also,” said Sharon Unruh, spokesperson for the company.
With two new businesses helping people, the city also welcome one that specializes in helping animals—large and small—when Spur Ridge Vet Clinic relocated to Marion.
Veterinarian Brendan Kraus said he also wanted to be part of a “close-knit community” like Marion.
Olson said she is proud of the volunteer service the community receives, whether it’s through the involvement of individuals, businesses, clubs, schools or other entities.
“Our children and students are committed to volunteerism and they are giving back in so many ways,” she said.
For Olson, volunteerism is the thread that holds the community together. A lot of projects couldn’t get done without them.
For example, last summer the community welcomed “Heart of America Free Flight,” a group of model airplane enthusiasts from five states. It was the first time Marion had hosted the three-day competition.
Kjellin said many of the competitors expressed how well they were treated by people in Marion. Kjellin said he hopes the group will return in 2010.
“They stayed in our hotels, ate at our restaurants and bought gas and supplies in our stores,” he said. “This looks to be an annual event and they expect more participation each year as the word gets out.”
Marion hosted several other events during the year, including the first Marion Classic Basketball Tournament in December that brought 16 teams from eight schools—and their fans.
“During the Classic,” Olson said, “Marion families hosted visitors helping them find places to eat or answering questions.”
The Cal Ripkin Midwest Regional Baseball Tournament, the largest event of its kind in Marion County, involved teams from seven states.
Olson said the number of construction permits issued during 2009 was another highlight—22 for either new construction or remodeling, totalling $930,075.
Marty Fredrickson, city building inspector, director of streets and zoning adminstration, said the city issued 21 permits in 2008, 39 in 2007, 31 in 2006 and 29 in 2005 with an estimated value between $800,000 to $900,000 each year.
With economic decline reported in many areas, Olson said the number of permits in 2009 signals that Marion was not only holding it own, but growing.
Fredrickson said the city issued four plumbing permits, six electrical and three commercial. The permits were for three homes, four accessory buildings, a commercial remodel and one carport.
Another highlight Olson mentioned for 2009 was the outstanding wheat harvest, with record bushels shipped from the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator in Marion.
Another highlight involved employees of St. Luke Hospital, who raised more than $108,000 among themselves in November to help fund a $6.5 million hospital expansion project slated for 2010.
In a similar vein, the second part of a $50,000 donation from the Brooker Trust was made to the city for improvements at Central Park, which is home to Chingawassa Days, Art in the Park and many other activities.
A committee was formed in 2009 to work with the park board on several upgrades in 2010. Those include upgraded electrical services in the park and renovated sidewalks.
Todd Heitschmidt, chairman of the Park Improvement Committee, said another priority upgrade for 2010 will be moving above-ground electrical lines to underground lines inside the park. Restrooms will be renovated when more money becomes available.
At least four successes in 2009 involved youth, including a league-champion Marion swim team that went undefeated in summer.
Kjellin added that several summer baseball teams advanced to regional action and the Babe Ruth team (for 13-year-olds) were state champions.
A project started for youth in 2009 and in use by spring 2010 is a new youth center on East Main Street. The building, a former filling station, is being transformed into a gathering place for students.
Many volunteers have helped with wallboard, painting, and other tasks to get the site up and running, Olson said.
The Marion Youth Advancement Committee board is overseeing the project, using money donated for that purpose.
Goals FOR 2010
With Marion’s population of about 2,000 people, Olson said it takes everyone in the community to make the city the kind of place where people want to live, work and play.
“So many activities involve the community that I think the No. 1 priority is and will continue to be volunteerism,” she said.
The city also outlined economic-development priorities for 2010.
Kjellin said Marion Economic Development Inc. is working with an existing business to purchase or lease the spec building owned by the city and located in the industrial park.
Other goals in 2010 include:
• City auditorium renovation. “The renovation budget is being finalized,” Kjellin said, “and we will be applying to the state for tax credits.”
Courtney Geis, a graduate of Marion High School who majored in architecture at Kansas State University, has offered her expertise to the city and the project.
“We are fortunate to have young people willing to help their community,” Olson said.
• New industrial, commercial and manufacturing ventures. “Space is abundantly available in the industrial park for a variety of manufacturing or industrial ventures,” Kjellin said. “Whether the economy will accommodate growth plans remains to be determined.”
• Putting E-community funds to work. In 2008, the Kansas Department of Commerce and NetWork Kansas designated Marion as an E-community. The “E” stands for entrepreneurship.
That status means Marion and MEDI have sequestered more than $125,000 earmarked for the community, Kjellin said.
“These funds can be used for existing-business expansion, small-business start-up and other entrepreneurial activities,” he said.
The program is designed to benefit for-profit businesses.
In 2010, Kjellin said, the city will begin to alerting new and small businesses of the opportunities available through the local E-community program.
• Promotional signage. The city has already ordered new signs to promote the city’s opportunities. “The industrial park sign has been installed,” Kjellin said.
• Downtown invigoration through money or community incentives. “We need to make our downtown structures both cleaner and more attractive to citizens and visitors,” Kjellin said.
• Creating and organizing the youth center.
• Establishing a PRIDE, or similar, group. Kjellin and Olson agreed that community involvement is necessary in working toward beautification and life-style improvements for the city.
• Supporting more school functions. Olson again stressed the need for volunteers, noting that schools are the lifeblood of any community. The high school sub-state basketball tournament in March needs the same kind of support given to the recent Marion Classic.
• Supporting existing businesses. “We need to take a more active approach in advertising and promoting local businesses,” Kjellin said. Options could be providing advertising assistance or working closer with the Marion Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to also contact our business owners and thank them for their commitment,” Kjellin said.
• Hotels and motels. As the city continues to increase its industrial base and attendance at special events, more acceptable overnight lodging will be essential, Kjellin said.
• Apartment complex. Many on the MEDI board of directors believe the city’s growth is stymied by lack of affordable housing, Kjellin said. One economic suggestion could be building single-story apartment complexes.
• Supporting Home Town Competitiveness. The city will be hosting two workshops that are included in a four-part presentation: “Charitable Assets” and “Community Leadership.”
Other MEDI goals for 2010 include: filling the board with active members; creating a MEDI Web site; building a retirement center; looking at an alternative energy project; and help filling the vacant wing of the Marion County Special Education Cooperative building at 1500 E. Lawrence.