McClain pushes for eco-devo director for city of Marion

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Commissioner Larry McLain called for a new city economic director, perhaps from elsewhere, beholden to nobody, to move Marion forward from a community of “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

McLain, responding to the request from Mayor Martin Tice at the Marion City Commission Monday, said leadership for economic development too often has depended on who will get a piece of the pie with an unwillingness for anybody to get a piece “if I can’t have it.”

Chuckling, he turned to members of the press to say he was going to speak to what is needed whether people like it or not. He said members of the public can call him to discuss it if they need to at 382-3268.

McLain said: “We have a tremendous group of people in the community. They just need direction to pull together, and sell to businesses, and we’ll grow.

“We need someone concerned with what our needs are, and finding how we get there, even if it means cutting other departments to fund them. We have to move forward to something other than just sit in this town.

“I don’t want (an economic director) tied to one group looking for just a certain kind of business. We need competition here. Competition is what makes an economy grow. We need to have quality jobs here to attract people so everything doesn’t just stagnate.

“We need to go after it. Everybody wants to run after some dad-gummed grant program, and then brag about it. I say if we need it, let’s spend the money for it, and let’s make it work.”

McLain said while the community has been far-sighted in such promotions as trying to fund a movie theater, it has been short-sighted in others such as businesses failing to fund a community day care.

Tice said he was bringing the proposal for an economic director before the city after being asked to in a meeting with Chamber of Commerce and Marion Advancement Campaign members. After looking at the budget, Tice said he thought it would be possible to fund the position with everything it would need on its own.

Jami Williams, one of the MCC and MAC members, said the groups felt that Marion needs an economic development person even if the county has one. She explained that the county will recruit businesses, and make a list according to criteria for companies as to which cities might fulfill its needs.

But, she said, it will be up to cities from that moment to recruit the businesses.

To the question of whether an economic director should be required to be a Marion resident, Commissioner Jim Crofoot said he thought a Marion address should suffice, especially if the director had extenuating circumstances-for instance, owning horses that needed to be pastured a mile outside the city.

McLain said he hoped for better control of assets, noting that electrical service for Batt Industrial Park had been given to Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative, which the city without the option of using electrical rates as enticement for business.

Tice said citizens will need to realize that the job of an economic director is a long-term one, that the problems of the city won’t be “solved overnight.”

City Administrator David Mayfield, who was charged by the commissioners with the task of writing a job description for a director, said the job search process might not start for a month with the actual process for finding director prospects continuing over a two- to three-month period.

Prior to the regular meeting, the Commission met in a public hearing to determine whether action was needed concerning the safety and habitability of a house at 201 N. Freeborn.

After counsel with Building Inspector Marty Fredrickson and City Attorney Dan Baldwin, the commissioners decided to postpone any actions until next meeting after owners of the building consult with Fredrickson for correction of building defects according to city code.

The owners said they were in the process of doing carpentry work, and arranging for correction for things such as wiring.

Fredrickson confirmed that he has seen progress at the house.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to participate in a county-wide revitalization program so long as the program didn’t interfere with the one already in place in Marion.

Tice said, after confirmation from Mayfield, that he didn’t see how the programs could conflict because nobody is in Marion’s now, and there hasn’t been an applicant.

Mayfield said the main difference he can see in the two programs is that the county’s offers 10 to 90 percent property tax rebates for building refurbishment, while the city’s offers 95 percent rebates over 10 years.

Baldwin said he only has experience with the Hillsboro program to go on, where the revitalization plan has been moved to new neighborhoods every 18 months, but he doesn’t foresee a problem.

He said that perhaps the question might be whether the county program makes the city one obsolete.

Public Works Director Harvey Sanders said work has begun on a new water line up Lawrence Street to service a development of five new homes.

The city crew also has laid a new service land line on Lincoln Street, and installed a new gate at the airport, Sanders said. A new fire hydrant was installed at Denison and Eisenhower.

Sanders attended a school on metering in Wichita that he said should help on meter efficiency here.

The commissioners reappointed Gary Ewert to a three-year term on the City Museum Board.

They approved transferring $50,000 in excess utility funds, including $20,000 from water and $30,000 from sewer, to the capital improvement fund.

They approved paying warrants for $50,000 and payroll for $25,117.36.

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