Marion council updated on 2015 visioning project

Marion City Council members received a progress report on the 2015 visioning project at their Dec. 22 meeting.

Councilor Chad Adkins provided project updates, along with listening to any concerns or input the rest of the council might have.

?Something people do get concerned with,? Adkins said, ?is when they hear the word ?visioning? and will say: ?Oh, (organizers) are at it again, and they won?t do anything with it.??

He said he hopes the current visioning project doesn?t end up going nowhere or with nothing implemented.

City Administrator Roger Holter said that from his perspective a lot of information has been gathered and the council might need another work session.

One question Holter asked the council is what the local government?s role is going to be in the project.

?There are already concrete actions occurring, based on conversations and petitions that have percolated up addressing conditions of homeowners,? he said.

Two properties, he explained, will have public hearings, while five other properties in town are in different stages of being condemned or demolished.

?A developer is going to take over one of those and look at repurposing the building,? he said. ?It is starting those conversations (that will lead to further action).?

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, who along with Holter, has visited some groups and organizations about the visioning plan.

?We have received positive feedback and solid suggestions,? he said.

Some of the items officials have learned so far included defining a specific marketing message to promote tourism.

Other elements learned thus far included:

? Redevelopment of the Central Park area which is paramount to the city?s sustained success. Priorities appear to be completion of the restroom project, power-ups group development of walking trail and creating fishing on Luta Creek and Wi-Fi connectivity in the park.

? Downtown revitalization with necessary actions to make available for development the current empty store fronts, overall plan for targeted development to support marketing plans, infrastructure improvements in Wi-Fi and lighting.

In addition, the revitalization, Holter said, could include private and public incentives for building facades? upgrades with a consistent aesthetics theme determined by the planning commission.

? Recreational activities expanded with a strong desire to achieve better utilization of the Sports and Aquatic Center, ball fields, adult fitness groups, senior fitness programs, expanded offerings into soccer, swimming and other sports.

?Walking and biking have been a consistent message and location not limited to the corporate city limits,? he said.

? Revised workforce development training and opportunities. Concerns were raised over the lack of trained and qualified trades workers in the area.

Agricultural educational opportunities should be expanded to better align with current conditions, Holter stated.

? Resource and asset sharing programs between all taxing authorities within the county. This issue deals with duplication of equipment assets held by each organization and seen as wasteful.

? Urban renewal and revitalization incentives, a business model overhaul for municipal utilities in the county.

Regarding municipal utilities, Holter said the idea would be in exploring possible consolidation to reduce duplicated costs and increase purchasing power for all residents.

Creation of a county-wide board of public utilities might be a needed discussion, according to input received.

? Other highlights dealt with preserving the family values and quaint community atmosphere, consistent collaboration between all charity relief efforts, long-term physical community growth and the creation of a multi-year financial planning cycle.

Adkins said another important issue is think outside the box.

?I don?t want to see taxes raised,? he said, ?but the problem with that is if we continue to operate the way we have operated for 50 years, the only way to move forward is to continue to (raise taxes).?

Things will get more expensive, he said, and less money will continue to come into small towns like Marion.

?If we stay inside the box, we will continue to be limited,? Adkins said. ?It?s time to look outside the box and stop duplicating services.?

Holter said he believes that community organizations exist to make a ?true action plan.?

It?s time for the governing body to decide what the vision is and then set up some expectations with these boards.

Once the information is gathered and validated, he added, the city needs to get this moving.

?What level and what role are we going to engage and support?? he asked. ?What kind of incentives are we going to create??

Heitschmidt said he agreed with Holter that some things can start now.

?Don?t envision this being done in three months,? Holter said.

Heitschmidt added: ?I think the reason we have these different boards is to provide direction and information back to the council.

?That vision has not been very well explained to any of (these boards).?

In fact, Heitschmidt said that some of the boards they have met with haven?t seen a city staff member, elected official or mayor in years.

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