Marion council considers departure of 130-year business

Members of the Marion City Council expressed mixed feelings Monday about the likelihood of losing an agricultural services company that has been part of the city for 130 years to neighboring Hillsboro.

One of the major hurdles was whether Scully Estates could be included in Marion?s Batt Industrial Park, off U.S. High?way 56, based on incentive criteria, which applied a point system for reduction in costs.

Scully Estates is managed by Midland Farms Services Inc., owned by Doug Sharp, who indicated he may be moving his business 10 miles west.

?At no time was Doug Sharp ever told he could not go into the (Batt) Industrial Park,? said Councilor Gene Winkler.

Winkler said he has heard people say the city would not allow him to go in there.

?That is false,? he said.

Doug Kjellin, Marion?s director of economic development, said the council could consider selling ground at the industrial park at a reduced price.

?It?s well within the council?s right to take (incentives) off the table and offer at this rate and at this deal,? Kjellin said.

Councilor Bill Holdeman said he was surprised Sharp didn?t come back to the city for more discussion.

Mayor Mary Olson said she spoke with Sharp to see if he would consider attending a special council meeting last week, noting the council cannot meet outside of its published scheduled without calling a special meeting.

?So many people were asking me to do something,? Olson said about the situation. ?I think he had his opportunity.?

Councilor Stacey Collett said he hated to see a business leave that has been here for 130 years.

When Olson asked if anyone wanted to talk about this particular issue as part of the public forum, Don Noller, Todd Heitschmidt and Mickey Lundy asked to be heard.

Noller said he had spoken with City Administrator David Mayfield, Kjellin and Sharp.

?His take on this and the reason (Sharp) didn?t come tonight,? Noller said, ?is that the deal is over and done.?

Noller told the council that Sharp told him, ?the other community rolled out the red carpet for me.?

Although Noller wasn?t sure, he said he thought Hillsboro was going to pay for the lot or sell it at a substantially reduced rate.

As for a special meeting, Noller said Sharp told him the Hillsboro community didn?t require that he go to the its city council.

?It?s disheartening to see a 130-year company leave,? Noller said, adding it?s probably too late to try to convince Scully Estates to stay in Marion.

Noller also said the council needs to consider negotiating lower bids or ?continue to mow the grass? (at the industrial park).

Olson asked Noller about what he thought of the city?s incentive program, explaining how the process works.

?We are not competing with our neighbors here and we lost,? Noller said.

Although Noller said he was not ?privy to the parcel,? the negotiations between Sharp and Hillsboro was more than likely a private transaction, possibly with the Hillsboro Development Corp.

Winkler said the council needed to look at the situation from both sides.

?If we give one company the lot for less than what someone else paid for their lots, we have lost trust,? Winkler said.

On the flip side, Winkler said he also realizes how many farmers come to Marion to do business at both locations.

?I am not saying whether it?s right or wrong, but we must think about it,? he said.

Heitschmidt also spoke about the hard decision the city had to make, adding that the council is a political body and also is involved in the economic development business.

?I think we have to keep some criteria (regarding industrial park incentives),? he said. ?Doug (Kjellin) did a good job of working with Doug (Sharp) to find some other locations.

?It was unfortunate,? he added, ?but in my mind I don?t think that was the right location (for Scully).?

Lundy said he wanted to understand the requirements that Scully didn?t meet.

To answer that question, Kjellin briefly went over the point system dealing with taxable sales, number of employees and other factors and how that weighs in terms of paying back into public funds.

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