Ice-storm start set stage for a good year

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Marion, like most of its neighboring communities, will long remember 2005 as the year that began with the big ice storm.

But when Mayor Martin Tice sat back to reflect on major events for the city in 2005, he said the ice storm brought out the first of many things that made it a “good year for the city,” a foundation year for the future.

Tice said city government reacted to crisis with solid planning to overcome problems in the future. This made Marion a better place to live.

For instance, the city reacted to the ice storm crisis that caused a prolonged electricity outage for its residents by getting a generator, and installing hookups for it at the city building. Tice said the city building qualifies both as an emergency shelter and a crisis command center.

He said the Marion City Commission reacted to Kansas Department of Health and Environment requirements by carrying through on a water plant upgrade that should be completed in 2007. The upgrade has been in process with engineers and the city’s own employees doing some of the work, but the total cost still awaits final plans, Tice said.

Tice noted the aging municipal swimming pool has undergone maintenance upgrades. It soon may be replaced if voters approve an $8 million school district bond issue to build a gymnasium and indoor swimming pool that can be opened in summer to the west and south on the current swimming pool grounds.

The school district already has $1 million in place for the construction, and the city has donated the land for the construction, subject to bond approval.

The city would continue to operate the current pool until it is no longer needed, and share in operation of the new facility.

Tice also is enthused about Marion’s new “Bucks for Building” program, where the city is offering $1,000 toward closing costs on a buyer’s new home, and city businesses offer other goods and services.

He said the program has generated “one taker” so far, and other new homes are being completed where new homeowners can qualify.

Tice said he felt encouraged when volunteer groups stepped forward with economic plans such as the latter program. He said the Commission carried their efforts forward by hiring Jami Williams as its new economic development director.

A reforming of city government wasn’t what Tice had in mind when he came into office, but said public requests for a five-person city council to succeed the current three-person commission illustrates the high degree of commitment citizens have for their city.

The interest is further illustrated, he said, by the fact that 13 candidates have filed for four available positions in the spring election.

Businesses look upon Marion as a favorable spot to locate, Tice said, pointing to 11 new businesses that opened in the city in 2005. All but one of these survived the usually toughest first year for business, he said.

The city also was able to pay off its street bonds ahead of time, which enabled it to start looking at further street upgrades, Tice said.

It also was able to acquire a long needed new fire truck by putting together lease-purchases to combine a chassis, engine and equipment, he said.

Tice said Marion is growing in one of the best ways possible-through a combination of creatively tailored funding efforts, and through its citizens’ willingness to work.

Even efforts still on the back burner, such as building a movie theater and community center, show the perseverance of Marion residents in making their city a better place to live, he added.

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