Public comments lead to reductions in Marion city budget for 2011

Two people asked to voice their opinions at the city of Marion 2011 budget hearing, held prior to Monday?s regular council meeting.

Don Noller, president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, asked the council to reconsider lowering the Chamber?s budget from $10,000 to $7,000 in 2011.

Noller said the city of Marion benefits from the Chamber through many of its activities to include Art in the Park, golf tournaments and other events.

Councilor Steve Smith also wanted to voice his concerns about the budget related to giving city employees a 2 percent pay raise and adding a new expense of $7,500 to go toward $30,000 needed for a local match to benefit the reservoir.

The city?s portion of the match would have been used toward continuing water quality monitoring in 2011.

Following the budget hearing closing, the council voted at its regular meeting 5-0 in favor of removing the 2 percent pay increase and the $7,500 grant match, lowering the tax increase from 1.92 mills to 0.196 mills.

No action was taken to increase the Chamber budget line item.

Auditorium project

Council members also heard a progress report about the auditorium remodeling project

Todd Heitschmidt, president of the Marion Advancement Campaign, a non-profit organization investing in the future of the city, said the auditorium seats were removed from the main floor and volunteers will begin laying the stringers for the new level floor.

?The floor will be supported for most of the way by placing specially cut 2-inch lumber directly secured to the floor,? he said.

In addition, the western-most part of the floor will be supported with secured pillars.

Gene Winkler, who is the superintendent-coordinator of the project, also spoke about the project and the stage area.

He told council members the auditorium floor would for the most part stay intact with the exception of a 16-foot wide by 8-foot deep circular ingress/egress to facilitate access to the stage.

?The stage will act as both a head table area (at weddings) as well as an appropriate place for a band or dancing,? he said.

Extra lighting will be installed in the ceiling to provide a brighter venue for trade shows, seminars and conferences.

?The original lights will remain unchanged.?

The reason for leaving those lights as they are, according to Heitschmidt?s report, is in honoring the original beauty and history of the facility.

?These lights will be used for evening activities such as reunions, anniversaries or social times,? Heitschmidt said.

Winkler is still needing help from the community for this phase of the project and is relying on local contractor?s donations of time and expertise, too.

?We will need help painting trim, which will be an ideal time to do

Members of the MAC board and volunteers will complete most of this work, noting there is enough money for this phase.

Winkler said the group is planning to have the lights, stage and leveling done by the end of 2010.

The request for $250,000 in tax credits for the auditorium project was denied, but the group plans to reapply next year.

Heitschmidt said MAC members didn?t want to wait and decided to get as much done as possible with the resources they had available.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? approved Mayor Mary Olson?s appointment of Mary Griffith to fill Stan Reed?s unexpired term on the museum board.

? approved Olson?s appointment of Patty Lewis to fill husband Gary Lewis? unexpired term on the Marion County Economic Development Council.

? voted unanimously in favor of a bid from Flaming Metal Systems for a new metal building at the city?s municipal airport. The proposal for the building, a display cabinet and discounts was $54,777. City Administrator David Mayfield said this came in way under the allowable amount. The airport board received a gift of $75,000 earlier in the year to be used specifically for a new building. Any money remaining from that amount could go toward landscaping and fencing.

? approved Olson and Councilor Jerry Kline to meet with Ty Zeiner and other airport board members to discuss the establishment of a Marion Municipal Airport Advisory Board. This will be further reviewed at the Sept. 13 city council meeting.

? heard a report from Eco?nomic Development Director Doug Kjellin about the possibility of selling auditorium seats. He said the city of Potwin and Glasco were considering buying them. All proceeds from the sale would go back into the city?s general fund and could eventually be transferred back into the auditorium project.

? learned about a grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony that will take place in the near future at Gretchen?s Taste of Heaven, a new bakery on Main Street, which opened Aug. 16.

? learned Marion Police Chief Josh Whitwell talked about downtown building security at the chamber luncheon Aug. 20.

? questioned Kjellin about the city?s spec building, which has been delayed. However, Kjellin said he has two other businesses interested in leasing or buying the facility.

? went into two separate executive sessions to discuss non-elected personnel and attorney-client privilege.

The next council meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 13.

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