Council hears plan for Marion city auditorium

In order to give Marion?s city auditorium a new lease on life, officials first need to give their approval, according to information presented at Monday?s city council meeting.

Auditorium Committee Chair Bob Brookens said the ball is in the council?s court on what the committee should do next.

?I think we need to ask ourselves how can we best use facilities we already have to serve our community,? he said.

Case in point, Brookens talked about an opportunity he had to compare the city?s auditorium with the Wareham Theatre in Manhattan while attending a wedding there recently.

?Manhattan?s Wareham Theatre is surprisingly similar to Marion?s auditorium,? he said.

?It (Wareham Theatre) is used as a gathering place for 500 people and is a terrific venue for that purpose.?

Brookens said the city struggles when trying to accommodate 50th wedding anniversaries, reunions, or other social events in town.

The Marion Advancement Campaign might even consider partnering with the city on the auditorium project. The Marion Advancement Campaign is a community group which has formed a non-profit corporation/foundation committed to investing in the city?s future.

?An added fascination to the project,? Brookens said, ?is Courtney Geis, a Marion resident and senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan.?

Geis is needing an architectural project for her senior year and whether or not the city moves forward on the auditorium, she said she still plans to do a ?substantial remodel.?

?This would be an added bonus to have the guidance of an architectural student,? Brookens said. ?She could determine which are weight-bearing walls, etc.?

He also talked about current configurations at the main level, balcony and basement of the city building and how these areas could be remodeled.

?What you (the council) need to ask yourself is if this is something that would benefit the city,? he said.

The project could require both public and private money and the city might want to consider a co-ownership.

Once cost projections and a design is worked out, the city will have a better idea of what is needed to make the auditorium usable for larger functions.

Brookens said additional fire exits from all levels would need to be pursued as well as addressing restroom facilities.

Grants are also floating around to assist with money, he said.

For example, neither the Marion City Building nor City Auditorium appear on the National Register of Historic Places or the Kansas Registry of Historic Buildings, he said. Once these are registered, there are grants available to preserve those buildings.

This was the auditorium committee?s first presentation to the city.

The council decided to bring back the auditorium discussion in two weeks. At that time, a decision could be made whether to move forward.

The four-member committee, appointed by Mayor Mary Olson, has worked on the project for more than four months.

In addition to Brookens, a local attorney, other members appointed are Kevin Fruechting, banking; Jeff Cady, insurance and Susan Berg, media.

In other council business, the council:

n accepted the resignation of Roger Schwab from the Marion Planning Commission. Mayor Mary Olson appointed Kurt Spachek to fill Schwab?s unexpired term through December 2010. Olson said Spachek works at Pilsen State Bank in Lincoln?ville, but lives in Marion.

n accepted the resignation of Tudy Brunner from the Plan?ning Commission. Brunner told Olson she is getting married and will be living outside the three-mile radius making her ineligible to serve. Olson said she has someone in mind to fill Brunner?s unexpired term, but no name was mentioned.

n asked its attorney, Daniel Baldwin, to review options on what can be done with the property at 201 N. Freeborn, owned by Barney Shepard, who now lives in Wichita. After sending registered letters with no response, the council is looking at its options. Those could include tearing the house down or donating it to the fire department, if state regulations allow.

?We will leave this in your hands as to what can be done,? Olson said to Baldwin.

n approved the rental agreement for its spec building in the industrial park between the city and Autohouse of Galva on a month-to-month basis.

n following a 10-minute executive session, returned to open session and approved a pay raise from $15.51 per hour to $16.51 for Chad Johanning, assistant police chief.

n held a second executive session for 10 minutes for attorney-client privilege with the council, Police Chief Josh Whitwell, Baldwin and City Administrator David Mayfield present. No action was taken.

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