With Chamber support, Marion sales tax hike moves closer to vote

The proposed sales tax of 0.75 percent to help develop Marion’s Batt Industrial Park appeared to gain support Monday with an announcement at the city commission meeting that the Chamber of Commerce Board had voted unanimously to support the idea.

The public will decide whether to initiate the tax in the April 3 election.

Dennis Nichols, city administrator, said Marion has gained new credibility in trying to attract companies with the release of new census figures showing it is the fastest growing town in Marion County with a 10.7 percent gain to 2,110 people since 1990. The county grew 3.6 percent, he said.

Mayor Max Hayen said this has been the first growth decade for Marion since 1920.

Nichols said industries are more interested in communities that already show “viable growth.”

Chris Costello, attorney and banker who was representing the Chamber at the meeting, said the board liked the financial support a sales tax would bring from outside the community.

“We feel like the park needs to be up and running before someone will be interested in moving in,” Costello said.

Nichols said estimates are that, with a sales tax, 50 to 60 percent of the money for the park could come from outside the city, making it less of a burden for residents than a property tax.

Susan Cooper, development director, said the company the city is working with that might move to the park with an employment base of 20 or more persons remains strongly interested in moving to Marion. This week another company called to express interest in coming to town. It could locate either in the Batt Park or the light industrial park on the north side of U.S. Highway 56.

Although she said she still isn’t free to announce the names of the companies, Cooper said it doesn’t necessarily matter because the city receives enough queries from companies that some will come in if the park is there.

Cooper said companies usually want something ready to move into.

“It really is a matter of, just like in the movie, ‘If we build it, they will come,'” she said.

Nichols said an informational brochure on the sales tax will be mailed to city residents March 23, and a public informational meeting will be at 7 p.m., March 26, in the basement of the city building. He will speak to the Kiwanis Club on the issue next Monday.

Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, reported that “intensive dedication and labor” by city crews should assure that repairs to stop leaks in the return drain system of the city swimming pool should be complete for the pool to open Memorial Day.

Fredrickson said water loss at the pool had been 700 to 1,400 gallons an hour with 29 of 34 vertical drains needing to be repaired or replaced with expansion joints or dresser couplings to absorb ground shifting or settling.

He said bad winter weather has kept crews behind by 60 days-not only at the pool, but on street and alley repairs now under way with better spring-like weather. Some high-traffic streets and alleys will be spread with three inches of asphalt to reduce dust and assure longer durability. He urged public patience on weather-delayed maintenance.

Don Jolley, recreation director, told commissioners that 160 children and youths have registered for summer baseball with a month of registration time left compared to a season total of 199 in 2000. He said he is trying to locate baseball equipment with only nine of 21 coaches complying with turning in city-owned equipment.

Jolley is developing regulations and practice reservation policies for the ball diamonds. He will oversee a mandatory coaches meeting and training session prior to the season.

He said the Lions Club no longer wants to operate the ball complex concession stand, and the city needs to get another public group to do so, or take over the operation.

Commissioner Larry Reiswig noted that the Lions rent of the stand for $1,200 from the city was all the financial information the city has on its operation, and that a financial outline of the operation should be asked of any future group.

Jolley asked commissioners to fill out a priority questionnaire to direct the recreation program.

Commissioners approved 3-0 a resolution for fees from homeowners buying new taps into city water lines ranging from $300 for a 3/4 inch tap up to $1,500 for two two-inch taps. Nichols said citizens are requesting larger lines to install sprinkler systems.

Nichols said bids are being taken to paint and add fixtures to the smaller city water tower. Inspections showed both towers in excellent condition, he said.

Commissioners approved renewal of an electrical license for Glen Waggoner of Hedlund Electric 3-0.

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