Marion council tables request for reimbursement

The Marion City Council at its meeting Jan. 19 tabled a request by Don Carter, owner of Skywalkers Gymnastics, to reimburse his business because heaters installed in a city facility he rented were insufficient.

In an email to the council dated Jan. 8, Carter stated the lack of heating at 828 N. Roosevelt in November of 2013 resulted in missed gymnastic classes and families receiving half-price discounts, causing a $2,000 shortfall.

Carter stated that while he appreciates all the city has done, they are unable to absorb the cost for losing that revenue.

Going back through Carter?s lease, Terry Jones, economic development director, said Carter was renting 3,000 square feet, but was using 3,869 square feet, plus the loft space, which is another 1,000 square feet.

?He is using more space than he is being charged for,? Jones said.

?We have also installed different heating now to which we are paying for. The last bill was $253 and we are picking up that part of it.?

In addition, Jones said Carter is $3,000 behind in rent to the city.

?I think we have done plenty for this business, but at the same time, we don?t want to see his business pick up and move. His business is great for families and children, and great for the building.?

Councilor Chad Adkins said he thinks it is nice to have gymnastics in Marion.

?My daughter goes there,? he said.

Adkins said he didn?t know why the classes were cancelled, but that when they weren?t getting services, they were among those not paying.

For the benefit of council members unaware of the original agreement, Holter explained the city re-acquired that facility after a liquidation sale of a banking entity in Marion County.

?At that sale, they stripped out gas lines and the heating system, and sold them off as part of an auction,? he said.

The building was left without heating. As part of the lease that Carter and the city negotiated and signed, he knew there wasn?t heat, Holter added.

Carter did know the city was installing electric heat in the building, though.

?The tenant made the decision that electric heat was too expensive, and so it was turned off and only turned on when occupied,? Holter said.

Electric radiant heat doesn?t have the recovery capacity of natural gas or propane, he added.

Expressing his concerns, the city added a natural gas heating system to the building.

?We maintained that at 50 degrees and, operationally we have gone into the building and discovered it was turned completely off,? Holter said.

However, Heitschmidt noticed that on the original lease, which was not renegotiated, it states the tenant is responsible for water, sewer, gas, electricity and other services and utilities.

Holter said: It is a gymnasium, and until we have a permanent purchaser or tenant, it is hard to keep changing based on the needs.

?This is a request on a decision made in excess of a year ago, asking for compensation,? he said.

?At the time we provided electric heat, we don?t know if he couldn?t maintain the temperature or what.?

Currently, the city is paying for gas because the unit is located on the city?s portion of the building.

Councilor Melissa Mermis asked when Carter last paid his rent.

Jones responded that rent is $750 a month, which is four months.

?Last week, he caught up utilities,? he said.

Councilor Jerry Kline asked how many go for gymnastics.

Although Adkins said he couldn?t say an exact number, it was ?quite a few.?

Councilor Jerry Dieter inquired about the building?s usage and how many nights a week classes are held.

Adkins said it is open several nights a week.

Holter explained it is hard as the lessor to determine or accept responsibility for operating decisions without prior consultation occurring.

?We need a decision from the council based on the request of a tenant on municipal property to either approve, modify or deny his request,? Holter said.

Heitschmidt said: ?I think there is more than just his request at hand, especially because the rents aren?t current.

?I am going to move to postpone a decision by this council until we can sit down with the tenant and find out what the plan is for catching up rents, other utilities.?

Adkins said he doesn?t think this is anything new.

?He has had these gyms for a long time, and is based out of Emporia. My cousins were coached by him 20 years ago, and he has been in Marion prior to this,? Adkins added.

?It?s a bum deal because it is an awesome service for our kids, and we were able to not drive to Andover or Newton anymore because we were getting quality gymnastic instruction here.?

Heitschmidt noted that the council can discuss some other options.

Between Jones and Holter, he said, we can find some other locations better- suited and get Carter where he needs to be in providing this service.

?It is great for families with children, but we also have to run the city properly,? Heitschmidt said.

In other business, the council:

? approved a beer garden requested for the Chingawassa Days event, presented by Dave Crofoot a member of the event committee.

? approved Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance renewal.

? heard from Jones regarding the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Community Fisheries Assistant Program agreement at Luta Creek. The council unanimously approved applying for the grant by the June 1 deadline.

? approved modifications as presented by Jones for the city?s Industrial Park aesthetics.

? received a letter from the Kansas Historical Society regarding the Bown-Korby building, 412 N. Second St., being considered for the National Register of Historic Places. A Wichita developer purchased the building from the city for $40,000 and plans to turn the former Butler Community College classrooms into apartments.

? heard from a resident who thanked the council for its efforts on recycling.

The next council meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in Marion City Hall council chambers.

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