Marion leaders earmark up to $80,000 a year to hire eco-devo director for city

The Marion City Commission Monday approved seeking and budgeting for a new city economic director at an estimated annual cost of $70,000 to $80,000.

Mayor Martin Tice directed City Administrator David Mayfield to have qualifications and advertising recommendations for the position ready for next Tuesday’s Commission meeting.

Mayfield said he had solicited materials from the Coffey County economic director, who also passed along specifications for a similar position from the City of Lyndon in Osage County, to come up with estimates on what it would take to find a qualified individual.

Mayfield estimated a director’s salary would need to be in the $40,000 to $45,000 range plus benefits, with the total cost of up to $80,000 for the department.

He said the city could fund the position out of current funds.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot said he was concerned that the position actually could be funded for only two years, “and then we will have to scramble because we will have used up all our excess sales tax dollars.

Mayfield said the sales tax has been coming in at $32,000 excess funds above what is needed to pay for the industrial park.

Tice moved to hire an economic director and place the position in the budget.

Commissioner Max Hayen seconded his motion.

Crofoot then said that he would favor putting the position in the budget, but thought the city should wait for the county to have its economic director in place to coordinate, even though he realized some people wanted to move forward now.

Tice asked Marion citizens observing the proceeding for comment.

Jami Williams said she thought Marion should have a director in place immediately to prepare, in case the county’s director found a business suitable for location at Marion or Hillsboro or another community, so that Marion might have an edge.

Donna Bernhardt said, “I don’t think we can afford not to have one. The more we sit and wait, the more that passes us by.”

Former Mayor Eloise Mueller said her viewpoint is already known, that Marion needs an economic director now. Crofoot joined in to make the vote 3-0.

After some consideration, City Attorney Dan Baldwin said he would move ahead with drafting approval for the commissioners on proceeding with condemnation demolition of a house at 201 North Freeborn when a 120-day agreement on making improvements there expires in August.

Baldwin said nothing has been done at the location even though the city has a signed agreement with its absentee owner that required action by now.

Building Inspector Marty Fredrickson confirmed that his latest visit to the house found no improvements made to make it a livable dwelling.

Baldwin confirmed there is no lien-holder of record on the property.

Mayfield said he went to a meeting in Topeka last week for information on community block development grant funds that might be used to get a newer fire truck for Marion.

Fredrickson said divers inspecting the city’s water towers this week will need the towers full. Required testing for chlorine and ammonia that involves opening water hydrants will be delayed until next week.

Tice commended all city personnel, county personnel, Marion firefighters, and crews sent to help from Hillsboro and Peabody for their help in stopping the fire in the Burkholder Building Sunday.

Police Chief Michel Soyez said Marion is experiencing a small increase in crime with the warm weather, but it is still down compared to other years, and within the median over six years.

The commissioners approved a wire transfer of $75,818.38 from the bond and interest fund to UMB Bank for refunding general obligation funds.

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