Marion sees signs of progress in 2013

This is one of the five new highway billboards erected in January 2014 promoting Marion as an E-community. ?For over 10 years, the city of Marion has had signs stating ?the town between two lakes,?? City Administrator Roger Holte said. ?Now it states, ?Explore, Grow and Prosper? as our campaign."
This is one of the five new highway billboards erected in January 2014 promoting Marion as an E-community. ?For over 10 years, the city of Marion has had signs stating ?the town between two lakes,?? City Administrator Roger Holte said. ?Now it states, ?Explore, Grow and Prosper? as our campaign."
The city of Marion saw significant changes in 2013 that made an impact on citizen involvement, the business climate, the public works department and customer service.

After only six months as the city?s economic development director, and less than two months as city administrator, Roger Holter said the momentum has started and now 2014 is all about increasing that momentum.

Public works

?The big public works project was the Jex Addition Sewer Project,? he said. ?This was a big deal in our town, having run a whole new sewer system to the entire west valley end of the city.?

Another major project involves streets, he said, with the process of putting the bonds and grants together in 2013 and the actual work scheduled for spring and summer of 2014.

?The public works department internally started working on curb and gutter updates,? Holter said. ?In December, the whole plan for the next two years was discussed on how to get those areas of opportunity in our city done internally.?

Electrical services

The city?s electrical department accomplished four major changeovers by going from overhead electric service to businesses to going underground, he said.

?(The electrical department) will continue that effort this year,? he said.

The next big project will be converting Cooperative Grain & Supply to underground electricity.

?The electric department has also more than doubled the effort on tree trimming to upgrade the reliability of our electrical services in town,? Holter said. ?The city had tremendous results this year. The number of power outages was truly attributable to the situation in the city versus power outages from the supplier.?

Atrazine settlement

Marion received about $163,000 in 2013 from its involvement in the atrazine class action lawsuit.

Holter said the money is committed to water distribution projects.

?What we are using it for is de-sludging at the sediment ponds at the water plant,? he said. ?Then, the plan is to secure the water treatment plant?s shop area.?

While there is no reason to believe anyone would tamper with the city?s water supply, he said, it is necessary to take those steps.

Apartments

Resurfacing Main Street last fall was one of the major public works projects taken on by the city in 2013. Perhaps the biggest one was the Jex Addition Sewer Project. ?This was a big deal in our town, having run a whole new sewer system to the entire west valley end of the city,? said City Administrator Roger Holter.
Resurfacing Main Street last fall was one of the major public works projects taken on by the city in 2013. Perhaps the biggest one was the Jex Addition Sewer Project. ?This was a big deal in our town, having run a whole new sewer system to the entire west valley end of the city,? said City Administrator Roger Holter.
The remodeling and rehabilitation of the September I Housing Project is well under way, Holter said.

?When it?s all said and done, the city will have eight expanded senior housing apartments and 20 brand new, freshly remodeled apartments,? he said.

The benefit of the apartments is two-fold, Holter said. The intent of the project was to remodel them for county, and some rural, residents who were ready to give up the family homestead.

?These apartments are a great option for retirement,? he said.

The city has a waiting list of individuals wanting to move into either a duplex at Victory Lane or an expanded two bedroom apartment at September I, he said.

?Once this happens, it will open up the residential housing market creating additional opportunities for start-up families to get some great properties,? Holter said.

The Victory Lane Housing project was stalled for several years, but is now active with the financing moving forward, Holter added. Installation of sewers was expected to begin this week.

Volunteers

Involving young people in city services is also an important aspect of any town, which is why the Marion Fire Department has a cadet program, he said.

The program is for high school students age 14-18 who want to be ?exposed to equipment, gear and other experiences,? Holter said.

Cadets are not allowed to fight fires, but Fire Chief Mike Regnier implemented the program several years ago.

?Because it is an all-volunteer fire department, it?s about focusing on awareness and getting the next generation interested in becoming involved (as firefighters),? Holter said.

Regnier and his department have applied for grants through Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response or SAFER.? The grants were created to provide funding to volunteer firefighter organizations to help increase the number of trained front-line firefighters.

Citizen engagement

Holter said he has seen citizen engagement ?really ramping up? in just the six months he has had an active role in Marion.

?I have seen social media engagement and the number of hits on Facebook and on the website continue to grow,? he said. ?For me personally, I have seen a lot of direct interaction from citizens in the number of filings for the election coming up.

?They are wanting to make a difference now and in the future,? he said. ?Some of our communities don?t have the privilege of a lot of people getting involved.?

This spring, Marion has three candidates running for mayor and six running for two city council seats.

?Citizens are seeing everyone is government?by, for, and of the people,? Holter said. ?It is truly a cross-section of our town, and that is so exciting to see.?

Library addition

Another achievement in the city credited to community involvement was the construction of a 30-foot by 30-foot addition to the Marion City Library. The grand opening will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20.

The new addition will be used for programs, special events, children?s activities, movies, luncheon programs, author visits and more.

Business climate

A Subway restaurant will open soon. Construction is under way to the west of Carlson?s Grocery.

According to Greg Carlson, one of three owners, he and his partners thought Subway was a good choice. The other partners are Jessica Laurin, Mitch Carlson and Linda Carlson.

Another new business is Marion Hardware, which is expected to open sometime in March, formerly where Seacat Lumber and Hardware was located.

Holter said CyboTech Inc., located on Main Street, also opened and is expected to have its new signage soon. The owner and his family also renovated the upstairs for their home.

?Another loft homeowner project is under way with the owner taking an existing loft downtown and making it his primary resi?dence,? Holter said. ?It?s a nice resurgence going on there.?

Holter mentioned several other things that reflect community involvement.

?Our local television station launched, ?The Corner,? which highlights a lot of activities,? he said. ?I think it?s unusual for a town our size to have a television program devoted to the current events and happenings in the town.?

Cooperation

Holter said it is exciting to see the cooperation between Hillsboro, Marion and other cities in the county.

?What we are all trying to accomplish is what?s exciting,? he said.

The recycling initiative is one example, he said, where Marion County officials were willing to work with each city on an individual basis.

Another example Holter noted were the interlocal agreements between Marion USD 408, Marion County, St. Luke Hospital and the city of Marion in creating a more business-friendly environment and the property-tax rebate and revitalization programs.

?That kind of cooperation not only helps the city, but helps the entire county as we grow,? he said.

Airport

In 2014, the Marion Municipal Airport board is looking to reseed its turf runways, Holter said.

Two years ago, the Baxter Flight Center was built, and Holter said that one of the board members, Ty Zeiner, donated an illuminated sign that will go up, once the ground unthaws, to identify the airport day and night.

?As far as the 16 hangars being rented, the airport is at 100 percent capacity.

Regarding new signage, Holter said five new billboards were erected in January 2014 with part of the message identifying Marion as an E-community.

?For over 10 years, the city of Marion has had signs stating ?the town between two lakes,?? he said. ?Now it states, ?Explore, Grow and Prosper? as our campaign.?

Half of the signs deployed throughout the county highlight Marion?s heritage as a town between two lakes, and the other half reflect the city?s entrepreneur environment.

A monument sign is going up across from Pizza Hut on U.S. Highway 56. Thus far, he said, the footings and stem wall are visible.

?Very soon, people will see the rock-faced wall and die-cut steel letters welcoming everybody to Marion,? he said.

Events

Holter said the three premier events with the best draw of visitors continue to be Chingawassa Days, Art in the Park and Old Settlers Day. In addition, the Marion Bright Christmas Celebration and parade exceeded 100 percent capacity with vendors.

The Summer Art Stroll, which includes artists and musicians, continues to supplement efforts, and fortunately, he said, there was a ?nice uptick? in the number of campers at reservoir this past year.

?The Marion Chamber of Commerce distributed more of the camper bags, and that was an increase over previous years,? he said.

The bags contain information about local services, events, businesses, a T-shirt, and store coupons, he said.

The Parks and Recreation department had its own win recently, hosting 10 weeks of basketball tournaments.

Holter said 56 teams from 15 towns in Marion used the elementary, middle and high school gymnasiums and the Marion Sports and Aquatic Center.

?The baseball program this summer was literally filled to capacity this past summer, too,? he said. ?These kinds of things just dont happen by accident, it takes a lot of community effort and support.?

Customer service

Holter said he is proud of the public works team and its involvement with customer service.

?During the last big snowstorm, we received no less than 30 phoned-in or personally deliverered compliments to city offices over how well they cleared the streets,? he said.

The city departments are challenging each other to do things better, quicker, faster and cheaper, Holter added.

One example involved street and alley employees building a snow-pushing device for the large front-loader. It could clear twice as much roadway in half the time, he said.

Using about $2,000 in materials and old parts, the team built something comparable to a $24,000 plow.

Holter also acknowledged Jason Wheeler?s contributions at the water plant.

?We had no shortfalls on water quality and we carried a high standard of excellence on the product delivered to customers,? he said.

All of this was done during a transitional year when Wheeler took over for Ben Bott. Even with changes, Wheeler was able to save more than $2,000 on water chemical costs and identified how to get free testing from a commercial chemist.

?These examples go on and on,? Holter said.

Becky Makovec, utility billing clerk, and Tiffany Jeffrey, court clerk, have identified ways to streamline processes in the office, saving countless hours, according to Holter

?This will give us the benefit of additional time to better serve customers,? he said. ?When things start rolling, it gets to be contagious and these are all incredible accomplishments.?