Marion could have theater complex by Thanksgiving

The Marion City Commission Monday appointed Gene Winkler as its contact representative for seeking a Kan-Step grant that Winkler said could result in a movie theater and community center for the city by Thanksgiving.

Winkler, who is one of six persons who formed the Marion Advancement Campaign, had the grant for federal funds administered through the state ready to send upon approval of the city to act as the public conduit for funding, which the commissioners did 3-0.

Winkler said plans already drawn for the theaters and center-with help from a Parsons group that has already gone through such a process-would result in construction of a $385,000 building, plus $150,000 to $175,000 more for theater seating, projection and sound equipment, kitchen equipment and other equipment.

The grant would provide 60 percent of the funding for the “L-shaped” building only, and the community would need to provide the other 40 percent, which could come in the form of cash or labor, “sweat equity,” Winkler said.

He said the group already has pledges from dirt contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, drywallers and other professionals to help fulfill the community’s share of the price.

The group can use more volunteers including both professionals and “gofers,” such senior citizens with a few hours to put in. To get on the volunteer list that will help qualify the community for the state grant, call Winkler at 382-2115.

In addition, Winkler said, the group needs a large turn-out of the people at a public meeting March 15 in the city building to show good community interest to the state.

Winkler also wants calls regarding what people want the community building to include, those in grant procedures and estimates. Space for auctions and events such as wedding receptions is planned, but ideas like a running and walking track also are being suggested.

“Now is the time to get your ideas in,” he said, “before it is built.”

The building would include two theaters with 157 seats each.

Winkler said the availability of the grant has sped up the potential timetable for getting a theater. He noted that the Burns community has already used the same grant for a $320,000 community center.

The state has $20 million in federal money for projects including water and sewer plants with $5 million of that set aside for “community buildings and such,” he said. “It won’t raise our taxes any because the money is already there. We’ve already paid it.”

City Administrator David Mayfield said he and Commissioner Jim Crofoot met last week with representatives of the City of Hillsboro, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Rural Water Association and Rural Development of the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding establishment of a wholesale water district.

Mayfield said it would allow all public entities in Marion County to purchase all water from one plant, which could reduce costs to cities for future operations and upgrades.

Mayfield said City Attorney Dan Baldwin will look into a possible interlocal agreement between Marion and Hillsboro to enable receiving KDHE 50-50 grant funds for $25,000 with costs split between the two cities for a feasibility study of the district.

The district likely also will involve Peabody, he said.

Mayfield said he also met last week with other members of the Marion County Economic Development Task Force to develop a job description for an MCED coordinator to give the Marion County Commission for review.

Margo Yates, reporting for the Marion Recreation Commission, said MRC needs more volunteers in all activities including the successful basketball program that includes 10 teams from other communities, such as Abilene, Hillsboro, McPherson and Newton, paying $75 a team to play.

City offices will be closed to the public Friday, Feb. 20 for remodeling, although personnel will be available for phone calls.

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