Power of relationships fueling Marion’s future

Marion Mayor Todd Heitschmidt stands next to the new city building monument sign, which was one of many 2016 accomplishments. Heitschmidt said he is “very optimistic” about the city’s future.
Marion Mayor Todd Heitschmidt stands next to the new city building monument sign, which was one of many 2016 accomplishments. Heitschmidt said he is “very optimistic” about the city’s future.
Mayor Todd Heit­schmidt is confident about Marion’s future based on the efforts of city staff, council members and the citizens who continue working in tandem for the well-being of everyone.

“Our future and success as a community is anchored in the power of relationships, and unleashing the power of committed individuals in so many parts of the community,” Heit­schmidt said.

In previous annual reports, Heit­schmidt said the city’s progress was defined in terms of accomplishments or investments for the future.

“But the reality is defining the city’s momentum more along the Wikipedia’s Multiple Path Concept,” he said. “Our strength of momentum gained by motion is being fueled by very positive events that are molding our culture as a community.”

Heitschmidt said the city started this journey in 2014 with some concerns about the financial strength of municipal operations in light of the lingering 2009 national economic downturn.

“Through the efforts of staff and partnerships with public and private organizations, the city achieved a very balanced financial statement,” he said. “Your city has returned to a position of maintaining the recommended operating reserves for all major funds while continuing to retire general obligation debt.”

Heitschmidt said the city is at its lowest outstanding debt obligations since 2008, prior to the Great Recession of 2008-09.

He said grant opportunities through partnerships with state and federal agencies also gained traction and impact­ed the city in 2016.

Public parks were an initial focus of the grants.

“The partnerships grew to include support from the Royals Foundation to allow for the replacement of the outfield fence at the ball fields,” Heitschmidt said.

“We look forward to the KLINK resurface project on East Main and the long-awaited downtown street­scape revitalization project (this year).”

KLINK provides state funds to cities for repaving connecting link roads that are city streets that also serve as state or federal highways, according to the Kansas Department of Transporta­tion.

New businesses

The city saw five new businesses, or businesses changing ownership, in 2016.

Those businesses were CB Bakery, FamLee Bakery, The Historic Elgin Hotel, Panzer Chiropractic and Faye Family Chiropractic.

The Dollar General store celebrated a successful first anniversary in 2016, too.

Heitschmidt said Spur Ridge and Air Stream Guy expanded their businesses in the industrial park, and Power Track Sliding Door and Perma Column of Kan­sas relocated to Marion.

Housing

“Progress was achieved on addressing hous­ing needs through the collaborative efforts of the Housing Assessment Tool project,” Heitschmidt said.

A majority of Marion’s East Park project was completed in 2016, and included tennis,  outdoor basketball and racquetball courts. The entire project cost $247,000, but the city was responsible for 10 percent or about $25,000. The rest of the money came from a Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block grant of almost $222,000. East Park was constructed in 1957, but over the years other amenities were added. “This grant is a nice complement to our park system,” said Mayor Todd Heit­schmidt.
A majority of Marion’s East Park project was completed in 2016, and included tennis, outdoor basketball and racquetball courts. The entire project cost $247,000, but the city was responsible for 10 percent or about $25,000. The rest of the money came from a Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block grant of almost $222,000. East Park was constructed in 1957, but over the years other amenities were added. “This grant is a nice complement to our park system,” said Mayor Todd Heit­schmidt.
The project reintroduced the Kansas Weatherization Assistance Program in Marion, redirected the development plans of September II housing and created partnerships with the Ameri-Corp program to continue addressing housing needs, he said.

The weatherization program assists elderly, handicapped and low-income families in Marion and 13 other counties, according to information about the corporation.

The program includes rental properties and individually owned homes. It allows furnace repair or replacement in someone’s home, or $250 toward furnace repair in a rental home.

The Department of Energy and Low-Income Energy Assistance program provides money, regulated by the Kansas Housing Resources Corp.

HAT

Randy Collett, economic development director, selected other stakeholders to help conduct the housing assessment in 2016, including the public housing authority, Area Agency on Aging, KSU Extension and USD 408-Marion.

Individuals from the Tampa State Bank, Marion Manufacturing, Western Associates and PRIDE participated represented the private sector or public organizations.

Other stakeholders represented youth, persons with disabilities, religious groups and city council members.

Collett identified the team’s findings as:

• more available inventory of larger families home, three to four bedrooms and two or more bathrooms.

• non-income tested, active living/maintenance provided housing for seniors.

• an incentive program for fix-up of present entry level and mid-level inventory (both owned and in rental status).

• strengths included housing affordability, beauty of the community, history and nationally recognized school.

• weaknesses included availability of three to four bedrooms and two or more bathrooms, condition of lower end, entry level inventory, property tax rates and lack of jobs.

The assessment also concluded:

• 14 new jobs were created in 2016 and 21 new jobs in 2017.

• three employees in the city said they have inadequate housing and are seeking better conditions.

• the median housing value in the year 2000 was $51,000 and in 2010 was $75,153.

• the number of owner-occupied units in 2000 was 647 and in 2010, 608.

• the number of renter-occupied units in 2000 was 212 and in 2010 was 238.

• deteriorated owner homes totaled 38 in 2010.

• deteriorated rental units totaled 47 in 2010.

• dilapidated owner units was eight in 2010.

• dilapidated rental units was seven in 2010.

A complete report of the housing assessment over­view is available at the Marion City office.

Economic development

In 2016, the Marion County Board of Commis­sioners approved the creation of the Marion County Community Eco­nom­ic Development Task Force.

“Economic development is defining a path for the future with the joint efforts of the city through the county task force,” Heitschmidt said.

Other benefits were par­tic­ipation in the Schal­lert Destination Boot Camp, as well as the Destination University Lunch and Learn program launched Jan. 30.

100th birthday

Marion’s citizen-owned utility business celebrated its 100th birthday.

“We continue to upgrade the electrical system to 12.5 transmission voltages for greater dependability and lowered power costs,” he said.

The city of Marion in 2016 saw business expansions and growth in the industrial park. One of the companies expanding was Airstream Guy, 1003 Batt St. Mark Evans calls himself the “Airstream Guy,” and in addition to buying and improving these vintage trailers, he also sells them. Another business expanding its operation was Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, 901 N. Industrial.
The city of Marion in 2016 saw business expansions and growth in the industrial park. One of the companies expanding was Airstream Guy, 1003 Batt St. Mark Evans calls himself the “Airstream Guy,” and in addition to buying and improving these vintage trailers, he also sells them. Another business expanding its operation was Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, 901 N. Industrial.
Christian Pedersen, electrical supervisor, said the city started a three-year conversion project on LED street lighting that could result in a 75 percent reduction in energy costs.

Heitschmidt said Peder­sen and Marty Fredrickson, streets director and building inspector, discovered employees in their departments bring valuable talents to the team, but were not given an opportunity to use them.

Heitschmidt said Fred­rickson and Pedersen will continue training these employees on responsibilities they would not be expected to do during their normal work duties, such as welding, operating heavy equipment, repairing water and sewer lines and assisting the electrical department to install overhead and underground services.

Personal relationships

Heitschmidt said many of the concerns that surfaced in 2016 may have been better resolved among neighbors.

“We live in a time in which people may have hundreds or even thousands of friends on social media, but may indeed only know their neighbors by a wave or nod,” he said.

Research indicates that people live longer and have more enjoyable lives when they live in a place with well-known neighbors, Heit­schmidt added.

“They are safer in their homes and enjoy that added piece of mind knowing that help is just feet away,” he said.“We are looking to the future with an eye on, neighboring and how it really mat­ters in our community,” he said.

Heitschmidt said he and others city personnel will be forming partnerships within civic and religious organizations in 2017 to build relationships in community neighborhoods.

“Our end goal is to improve neighbor relationships that result in community celebrations in the form of a block party,” he said. “So, the state of the city is pretty simple: it’s been getting better and (residents) haven’t seen just how great it will be in Marion.

“There’s still plenty of room on the success train. We hope you’ll be all aboard for 2017 and beyond.”