The Marion City Council at its meeting Sept. 15 started discussing a community vision and what it would take to turn all the hopes about the town?s future into a specific plan.
Councilor Chad Adkins requested Roger Holter, city administrator, research the issue and come back with suggestions.
?When I was elected,? Adkins said, ?we talked about a vision and where we wanted to see Marion (over the next several years).?
Adkins explained that whether it?s members of the council, people in the community or other stakeholders, everyone has their idea of what Marion will look like.
?But what we hope (Marion) will look like doesn?t necessarily lead to a vision or directly tie us to a vision,? he said.
Holter said he agreed with Adkins? assessment.
?Too many times decisions are being made placing convenience over lasting legacy,? Holter said. ?Everyone is making well-meaning, deeply committed decisions that are achored to their perspective or position.?
By placing legacy over convenience, he added, hope becomes vision and vision becomes joy and joy is achieved in the journey.
?Like it or not,? Holter said, ?we are the cruise directors for the Marion journey, and we are challenged with a world that we are either growing or we are declining.
Turning hopes into a vision
Adkins said he would like citizens providing input.
?I, for one,? he said, ?would like the vision of Marion to be bright, moving forward, getting money infused into the town, people living here and people excited about living here.
?I don?t think that can happen without a concerted effort from (the council) and from (citizens).?
In order to have everyone involved, Adkins said, the council needs to know where it wants to be in the future.
?To have it truly happen,? he said, ?it must be in line with others in the community, school, hospital, county citizens and churches. Conversations need to happen.?
Areas that Holter said he believes should be the foundational basis of the planning process is tackling duplication of services and synergy of recruitment efforts.
Overarching is necessary, he said, because the county has reached the evolutionary point and needs to consider consolidation of services beyond municipality lines.
?None of (the municipalities) in the county are large enough to continue funding duplication with equipment infrastructure,? he said.
Citing a recent example, Holter said the commissioners worked with the city of Peabody through its crisis by loaning equipment to take care of the problem.
Taking the first step
Adkins said he would like the council to consider talking about a vision for the city?s future by organizing a retreat.
In response, the council approved the idea for Oct. 6.
?I have lived here for 16 years,? Adkins said. ?When I first started teaching at Marion Middle School, we had 160 to 170 students in two grades. Now we have 70 in those two grades.?
He said he didn?t want to make it sound like all ?doom and gloom,? nor believed the council needed to start at ground zero.
Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said he agreed with Adkins.
?Included in our packet is a timeline that will take 12 to 18 months,? he said. ?I also don?t think we need to take any shortcuts.?
Heitschmidt added that while the Marion Economic Development Inc. has done a lot of work on a strategy, he thinks it can be broadened.
Councilor Melissa Mermis also agreed with the way the discussion is moving.
?This is important to our community,? she said, ?and I think it is the key to getting people?s ideas and pulling everybody together.
?The more people involved, the better and the more successful.?
Where ais Marion heading?
Holter explained that everybody in Marion, regardless of age or religious affiliation, has the same hopes for the future.
?The trouble is, we are all headed toward the same lighthouse, but right now we are in five different oceans trying to figure out where it is at,? he said.
?Until we have a group that steps forward and says: ?Here is our piece of the pie and here is what we think is the bigger picture,? I don?t think we will get the real concensus.?
The problem, he said, is that most entities are skeptical about working together.
?We hold what is important to our own camp,? he said.
Offering some background information, Holter said that 82 percent of Kansas? population is in cities and every year that percentage increases.
?The trouble is that the increase is coming from municipalities with populations under 1,000,? he said. ?It is the largest group having migration.?
For Class 2 cities with populations of between 1,000 to 6,000, the reduction is about 8 percent migration to larger Kansas cities.
?Where we are at defines ourselves,? Holter added, ?and we have awesome geographic advantages.?
Among those advantages, he said the city (county) is in the middle of three of those population hubs.
?We have recreation activities today that are not easily afforded in those (larger) communities. Where do we head and what kind of industry do we want in 2035??
According to Holter, it might be something that doesn?t even exist today.
The concern, he added, is that if the city is not on the leading edge of what is its niche, then the city will remain in a reactive stance.
?And I know in our geographic area, we have 14 other cities trying just as hard to attract the future,? he said.
?Perhaps this could define the future and then make it a reality through the partnerships.?
In helping the council get started, Holter provided them with a sample list of questions to answer for a ?Can do community spirit.?
Some of the questions presented included:
— Housing mix and needs with respect to the role of the housing authority, local government and the level of enforcement of nuisance conditions, eminent domain as an option to address declining properties and incentives for developers.
— Employment and industry with questions ranging from short-term targets for retail and service companies and mid-term support of evolving industries to long-term industrial mix and the role in creating a qualified workforce.
— Faith based and spiritual foundation regarding educational programs like Circles, FACT, the role in support of the traditional family, what the Ministerial Alliance views as important and Christian values and prayers.
— Educational direction with respect to higher education preparation, direction and support of vocational eduction, role of extracurricular activities and technological training beyond kindergarten through 12th grade.
— Medical care and long-term care associated with the direction of the family practice, proper level of tax support for the hospital district, duplication of services could exist and additional services needed for future growth.
— Recreational activities and the future infrastructure/investment, the recreational activities role, correct age specifics for these activities and the balance between private and public operations.
— Tourism and hospitality with questions concerning current trends and lodging, synergy opportunities in Marion between all involved, funding and grants to create new and unique opportunities.
— Governmental services regarding public transportation and future needs, public utilities and role of the future, infrastructure needs to support the vision, police protection and possible duplication of services, fire protection and sustainability of all-volunteer organization, aging fleet replacements, synergy opportunities, form of local government and supporting future needs.
Holter also asked council members to think about the million dollar question, which is: What is the correct taxation levels to support the vision? What is the best form of taxation to insure fairness and accountability to citizens for action?
The council, in other business:
— adopted the revised job description for court clerk position. Holter said interviews were scheduled for later in the week. A new court clerk could be hired before the next council meeting Sept. 29.
— reviewed the city?s outdoor marketing campaign with Terry Jones, Marion?s economic development director. Jones provided the council with a PowerPoint presentation showing which signs were needing replacement or repairs.
— approved Renewable Energy Interconnection Ordinance 1380.
— approved paying Evans Bierly Hutchison & Associates $15,032.36 for professional services from July 13 to Aug. 23.
— reviewed information on the number of building permits issued from 2005 until now.
In 2014, 11 residential and six commercial permits were issued for a total fee cost of $891.90 with project costs totalling $108,550.
In 2012, 31 residential and nine commercial generated $4,456 with project costs totalling $1,602,130. In 2013, 29 residential and 33 commercial permits were issued with the fee cost at $7,055 for a total project cost of $2,655, 392.
In 2005, 29 permits were issues; 2006, 31 permits; 2007, 39 permits; 2008, 21 permits; 2009, 22 permits; 2010, 30 permits and in 2011, 25 permits.