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City council approves housing project

News editor

Marion City Council approved a letter of support for a grant application for Homestead Affordable Housing on Monday despite the misgivings of Mayor Mary Olson.

Olson did not want to approve the letter of support until after the platting and zoning process is completed. City Administrator Doug Kjellin said Homestead needed the letter earlier than that process could be completed to meet deadlines for grant applications.

“If we wait to send this, it won’t show the city’s support,” newly sworn-in council member Todd Heitschmidt said. “I don’t want to see us lose a multimillion-dollar project.”

Hearing the letter couldn’t wait for the platting and zoning process to finish, Olson requested a revision to the letter Kjellin drafted, from “We will be changing the zoning designation,” to “We will consider changing the zoning designation,” from low-density residential to high-density residential.

Homestead plans to rehabilitate the September Senior Apartments and build seven new patio duplexes. Kjellin said he expects the project will be completed within four years. A Marion High School construction class would be involved in construction of several of the duplexes.

The duplexes would be eligible for a 10-year property tax abatement. Kjellin said Homestead’s plan is to make lease agreements for 15 years, after which time lessees could purchase the duplexes for a comparatively small payment.

The Planning Commission found some concerns about lot sizes, setbacks, and right of ways, but those have mostly been resolved, Kjellin said. The Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to make a decision on the final plat.

The letter of support was approved, 4-1, with Olson opposed.

Holdeman gives closing remarks

City Clerk Angela Lange swore in new council members Heitschmidt and Jerry Dieter after Olson thanked outgoing council members Steve Smith, who was absent, and Bill Holdeman. In his last act on the council, Holdeman raised the issue of whether the city should purchase a bucket truck.

“We don’t need a bucket truck just because it’s in the budget,” he said.

Storm response reviewed

Mermis reviewed precautions taken Saturday when a storm system spawned several tornadoes in the state. As soon as a system likely to produce tornadoes reached the county, he sounded the tornado sirens. No all-clear signal was given, because the overall system continued to produce waves of storms until about 3 a.m.

Mermis reiterated that tornado sirens mean people should seek shelter, not go outside and try to get a look at a tornado.

Council member Jerry Kline told Mermis that people at the south end of Roosevelt Street couldn’t hear the tornado siren because of the strong south wind. He requested something be done in the future to alert people who are upwind of sirens in the event of an emergency.

Change to charter ordinance tabled

The council tabled a charter ordinance amendment that would change residency requirements for certain city officers.

Two versions are under consideration: one would strike the requirement that the assistant city clerk and city treasurer live within three miles of the city limits; Becky Makovec holds those positions and lives about six miles outside the city. The second version would strike those requirements, and add the requirement for the fire and police chiefs.

Dieter asked whether the council could approve the second version but include a provision that the council could waive the requirement as needed. Kjellin was unsure if that could be included in something as fundamental to the city government as the charter ordinance.

The council will take up the proposal again when City Attorney Keith Collett is available to answer questions. He was not at the meeting Monday.

In other business:

  • At Olson’s request, Lange reviewed the city’s quarterly financial reports. The city has spent about 19 percent of the annual budget as of the end of March. Typically that number is closer to 25 percent, she said.
  • Airport Board member Dick McLinden told the council about aerial crop spraying organized by Ag Service of Hillsboro that has operated out of the airport. He described the service as a win-win situation for everyone involved: aerial spraying provides a good return on investment for farmers, the service is bringing about $250,000 of revenue into the county, and the airport will receive a $1,200 to $1,400 payment.
  • McLinden made several requests. He asked for the budget authority to spend the payment from aerial crop spraying to make improvements without having to wait for it to be budgeted in 2013. The airport does have a $500 supply budget that could be used in the meanwhile. McLinden said that would be enough for the time being. He also requested that the city transfer an old police car to the airport as a courtesy car sometime for pilots who fly to Marion.
  • Olson made several annual appointments, approved by the council: Heitschmidt as vice-mayor, Kjellin as city administrator, Lange as city clerk, Collett as city attorney, Mermis as chief of police, Municipal Judge Randy Pankratz, and Fire Chief Mike Regnier. She also appointed Ed Wheeler to a vacancy on the Museum Board created by Sheila Anderson’s resignation.
  • The council tabled discussion of whether to continue paying someone to monitor the tree dump. Kjellin calculated that the city pays about $8,500 annually for monitoring it and receives about $1,000 in fees. The city had several violations for inappropriate items dumped before adding monitoring. Council member Chris Meierhoff suggested a compromise: having a worker monitor the tree dump on weekends only, when it is busiest.

Last modified April 18, 2012

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