The Marion City Council approved moving ahead on a $1 million beautification project at its Monday meeting, agreeing to commit 25 percent of the cost with the state contributing the other 75 percent.
City Administrator Doug Kjellin said, if the grant application is approved, the city’s cost would be $258,739, plus an additional $57,765 for design engineering costs, which the grant will not participate in, for a total of $316,504.
KDOT’s Transportation Enhancement contribution would be $776,217.
When the project was first discussed about three months ago at a council meeting, council members agreed to commit 20 percent with the state at 80 percent.
However, Darin Neufeld, engineer with EBH & Associates, said KDOT?anticipates 40-plus applications by the mid-February deadline, with only five or six of those receiving an award.
If the city shows strong support in its plan by agreeing to a 75/25 percent split rather than 80/20, Neufeld said, the state would look favorably on the application.
Using 80/20, the city would pay $264,756 with the state’s share at $827,965.
Kjellin said the council needs to decide if this is a project they want to approve, at what level to participate (20 or 25 percent), and how the city will pay for the commitment.
“If the project is approved,” Kjellin stated, “the most likely timeframe would be design completion this fall, bids let in the spring of 2014, and the actual work in the summer or fall of 2014.
“Payments might start in the budget year 2014, but may be delayed until 2015, based on the completion date,” Kjellin said.
Money will be freed up with the Series 2005 electric and water revenue bonds in 2014, he said.
“The average annual payment on this bond is currently around $105,000,” Kjellin said.
“We are looking at issuing a bond for street repair in conjunction with the Community Development Block Grant of $400,000.
“The amount has not been determined, but previous discussions had it in the $1 million range for a project total of $1.4 million.”
Another debt that will be removed from the books is the Cardie building’s lease of $190,000, he said.
Is it a want or need?
“If I may editorialize,” Kjellin said to the council, “I think what you are really looking at is a vision for the community and you have to separate whether it’s a want or need. Right now difficult to determine what it is.”
In 20 years, the council could look back and say that is what we needed to keep our community alive.
“Right now we might not see it,” he said.
Mayor Mary Olson said she thought the streetscape project is a “want” and not a “need.”
“We do need our streets to be sound and that happened around here for a long time—Freeborn, Roosevelt,” she said.
“How many more streets will need chip and seal or maintenance?” Olson asked.
Councilor Todd Heitschmidt said there are two council members who have been on a long time and it’s the new group addressing the street issues.
“I support this project,” he said, “because I think we have had a town and previous councils that were too scared to invest what needs to be done.”
What has happened, Heitschmidt said, is the council has been forced to take care of issues that should have been taken care of all along.
Investing in ourselves
“If we are going to grow, we need to invest in ourselves—whether this is a want—it does show that we have some problems,” he said. “I agree with you mayor, we have other things to work right along with it.
“But here’s a good one, the other projects you talk about we have to pay 100 percent. This project I can fully support because we pay $1 and get $3.
Pam Bowers, chair of the PRIDE committee which promoted city improvements, said she wanted to encourage the council to vote in favor of the project.
Ruth Herbel of Marion said she thinks the project is worthwhile, but doesn’t like the idea of getting in debt.
“As far as a mill levy, we have 847 households in Marion, but we have 28 families below the poverty line and 367 disabled and we need to find a way to pay for this without a mill levy,” Herbel said.
Heitschmidt said he is not in favor of increasing the mill levy.
“I don’t want to raise the mill levy and I think we have the cash flow of the $105,000 coming off the bond and interest payment in 2014 on the electric and water bond.”
In other words, Heitschmidt said, the city could pay for just this streetscape project in three years.
“I am not looking to raise the mill levy to do these projects,” he said.
Others speaking reiterated the improvements would be about the town’s continued growth.
The streetscape project, according to Neufeld, includes two tail light poles at the Walnut intersection and three short poles on each side with sidewalk and curb repair on Walnut to First Street.
Five tail light poles, brick crosswalks, stone/electronic sign with landscaping, ADA ramps and sidewalk and curb repair would be at the First Street intersection, he added.
Other improvements would be at First to Second streets, Second to Third streets and Second and Third intersection.
Those changes, he said, would also include pedestrian bulb outs, brick crosswalks, and short light poles.
Neufeld was unsure when the grants would be approved, but thought the earliest would be July.