Marion commission contemplates painful price increases

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
On Monday, the Marion City Commission contemplated the era of higher prices as they considered such things as funding kids in the recreation program, nature trail lights for city park, and the painful increase in employee health-insurance rates.

Rodney Richmond reported for the Marion Recreation Commission that the baseball and softball programs ended with a $13,000 deficit, costing the city more than $20,000 while bringing in a little more than $10,000.

Richmond said participant fees to play ball and cost of associated items, such as t-shirts, will be going up, but the city still will be subsidizing the program.

He estimated the total cost per child playing ball at $105 to $106 a child, a cost that is totally paid by children’s families in some larger towns in neighboring counties.

Commissioners Jim Crofoot and Jim McLain both said the cost the city pays for kids’ baseball and softball is worth it because it diverts energies in a productive, educational way.

Richmond said other rec commission activities, ranging from from junior wrestling and elementary basketball to dance team and adult theater, had very successful seasons.

The need to lower costs by productively channeling kids’ energies was again noted by commissioners as they considered an estimated $5,000 price tag presented by Harvey Sanders for changing the nature-trail lights from gas to electric in Central Park.

Sanders, who is public works director, said the lights would be wired, and probably fitted with halite lights similar to the ones on the bridge by the park.

The lights were turned off when gas rates jumped more than a year ago, and they also had become a continuing target for vandalism.

Police Chief Michel Soyez said vandals had become capable of knocking a park light out simply because it annoyed them.

Sanders suggested the lights could be mounted on higher poles to deter vandalism.

Mayor Eloise Mueller asked that community organizations and individuals be queried in the coming week to see if they might like to make donations for the lights.

City Administrator David Mayfield said the lights couldn’t be done before 2004 anyway.

Several persons suggested the more people who were invested in the lights, the more who would be watching to see they weren’t vandalized.

Mayfield said that if health-insurance rates go up 50 percent again next year like they just did for city employees this year, “it could be devastating for a lot of people.”

He said last fall city planners were anticipating insurance increases more in the 15-percent range.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to spend $4,596 more on one of four Blue Cross Blue Shield options presented to continue on co-pay plans with employees.

For the monthly utility billing report, Becky Makovec, accounts clerk, said the city sent out more than $63,000 in utility bills in January, but received more than $64,000 because some delinquent accounts more than a year and a half old came in.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin said he is continuing to increase the pursuit of delinquent utility accounts.

Mueller presented a letter of thanks from Linda Ogden, administrator of Communities In Schools, for the city’s $1,000 donation to the organization, Ogden said local funding has been instrumental in CIS receipt of $400,000 in grants over five years.

Susan Cooper, development director, said planning for an assisted-living project in town is coming along, and a plat of it may be ready for county consideration in March.

The commissioners approved paying warrants for $214,120.58 and payroll for $22,703.68.

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