Marion leaders discuss changing commission to council

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Former Mayor Eloise Mueller led a half-dozen supporters to the Marion City Commission meeting Monday to ask that a question to change Marion’s form of government be put on the election ballot.

Mueller said her main purpose would be to change from the three-member Commission to a five-member group, no matter what the final form might be.

She said Marion is the only city in the county that has a commission-form instead of a mayor and city council form. She suggested the city change to four council members and a mayor, each with a vote.

Mueller said the change would involve more people in making decisions and plans.

Bill Holderman suggested staggering terms with three persons elected for four years and two persons voted for two years with the highest vote taker becoming mayor.

Rocky Hett said more people in town might be willing to put in the time required to be in city government because they might feel their ideas would have more chance with five council members. He said some persons feel they have little chance of making an impact with new thoughts because of the potential for two commissioners with fixed ideas to block a third person.

Mueller said most Kansas cities of Marion’s size are listed with a council form of government.

Commissioner Max Hayen wondered if the city might need to have a form where each councilor represents a certain geographic area or ward.

Mayor Martin Tice said he thought the city could be flexible in having its government take any form desired because it has domain under home rule laws. But he suggested the commissioners will want to seek input from City Attorney Dan Baldwin before making decisions.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot said he talked to a city administrator who has worked under both commission and council forms of government without seeing particular advantages to either one, whether with three members or five.

He said the administrator’s advice boiled down to, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The commissioners noted that there are already problems in finding people to take office when a need arises, and they asked for a show of hands from the audience of how many would be willing to run for election if the opportunity arose. Two of the 11 spectators held up their hands.

Tice said the commissioners are “willing to take it under advisement for the time being” until an actual decision can be reached. They noted the next scheduled election would be in April.

Other business

The commissioners reviewed, and approved for publication and hearing, the 2006 budget.

City Administrator David Mayfield said the budget doesn’t require a mill levy increase. But auditors said the city’s valuation increased by $82,000 over last year to $8.539 million making one mill $8,539.

Rex Siebert, who lives west of Marion, asked the commissioners to make it easier to get the restrooms in the city park open in a timely way on weekends. He said participants at his family reunion asked for the restrooms to be opened at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, but it wasn’t done until noon.

Police Chief Michel Soyez said opening the restrooms has been the responsibility of the police department, which also locks them in the interest of preventing vandalism. But if police are involved elsewhere, he said it sometimes makes it difficult for an officer to get to the park to open them in the time frame desired.

Mayfield said a Marion bank has confirmed it would loan the money for a new city fire truck over three years with semi-annual payments of $32,270.

He added that he and Fire Chief Mike Regnier would like to check for bids from at least two other fire equipment companies before having a bid opening Aug. 15.

He confirmed with auditors that payments could be made from the equipment reserve fund.

Mayfield said he will be going to an August meeting in Council Grove dealing with the expansion of Fort Riley and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development financing to expand small-town housing as a result.

Public Works Director Harvey Sanders said voltage in parts of the city could be low until Wednesday while equipment designed to step or lower voltage during varying demand times is repaired.

Mayfield reviewed advertising plans in seeking a city economic development director.

The commissioners approved ordinances adopting the Kansas League of Municipality Standard Traffic Laws and the Uniform Public Offense Code.