Marion council takes action on long-term projects

The city of Marion took steps Monday to move forward on two long-term projects.

First, the city approved a bid to officially begin its downtown revitalization project, five years after the process began.

Then, the city accepted two grants from the Kansas Department of Transporta­tion for upgrades to the city’s airport. This process began three years ago.

Each were unanimously approved with minimal discussion.

“While there was not much fanfare here tonight, these are major, long-term decisions for the city,” Marion Mayor Todd Heit­schmidt said.

“Long term, I feel very good about these decisions.”

The comprehensive downtown revitalization project, which is set to start early 2019, will renovate the Marion central business district, stretching from 1st to 5th street.

It will include new LED lighting on sidewalks, wheelchair-accessible ramps entering each business and the burying of overhead power lines.

The city will pay $335,000 for the project. The state will cover the remaining $715,904 through a grant.

City Manager Roger Holter said the project aims to make downtown Marion more pedestrian friendly.

“Accessibility can be a challenge,” Holter said. “Some of our buildings can be difficult.”

Holter said he expects the project to “serve as a catalyst to the revitalization of our business district.”

This is only the beginning, said Heitschmidt.

“I think this is the start of what we need to do to revitalize downtown,” Heitschmidt said.

Heitschmidt said the project will promote Marion’s history.

“It’s historic,” Heit­schmidt said. “We have most of our historic buildings along this path.”

The project is set to begin no later than May of next year. It will take 70 business days to complete. The project should be completed by August 2019 at the latest.

It wasn’t a smooth ride for the city to get to this point.

In 2013, Holter said the city first sought out and applied for the state’s downtown revitalization grant.

It was denied.

The city was denied twice more—in 2014 and 2015— before finally being accepted in 2016.

Last September, the city opened the bid process to start the project.

“The estimates came in at a half-million dollars more than what was planned,” Holter said. “So we had to go back through a redesign and re-bid process.”

On May 23, the city re-opened the bidding process. This time, receiving a bid within the $345,000 budget.

The city also got the ball rolling on its airport upgrades.

Holter said the city is making an effort to “improve medical access” to the area.

“We’re a small, general aviation airport,” Holter said.

When the city first began working with Eagle Med, a medical transportation company out of Wichita, the airport needed to accommodate for transport helicopters.

Holter said Eagle Med is switching to airplanes for faster, safer travel.

This posed a problem. The runway at the Marion airport is not long enough to handle these planes.

To accommodate, the would need to lengthen the runway.

The city applied for and received two grants, both through KDOT, to do just that.

The state will provide an engineer to design the layout and reimburse up to 95 percent of the cost. Addition­ally, the state will reimburse up to 90 percent of land acquisition costs.

The council unanimously approved both grants Mon­day.

Holter said the project “also has economic benefits.”

“The longer runway will give us greater access for agricultural use,” he said.

Holter said he expects to receive contracts for development within 60 days and the land acquisition to be complete within 90 to 120 days, before construction begins on the project.

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