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City officials at odds over grant funds

Economic developer ‘frustrated’ at how his budget is spent

Staff writer

Economic Development Director Terry Jones could only look down, shake his head, and tap his feet nervously as the city council decided to siphon $24,660 — and what Jones saw as months of hard work — from his budget to put toward a grant to refurbish East Park.

To fund the grant application, which the city hadn’t budgeted for, the city decided to transfer funds earned from the sale of Bown-Corby school. Jones offered an impassioned defense of his budget, drawing on everything from the return-on-investment of his labor to the diverting of funding to nonlocal entities. He also insisted he needed more money to fund his operation.

“I’m told that we don’t have budget to give me a raise — I don’t really care about a raise. I’m told we don’t have budget to send me to trainings,” Jones said, “but the money that I’m bringing in is being divvied off to everybody else, and everybody else can stick their hands into my budget without my approval.”

Ultimately, however, City Administrator Roger Holter’s pitch to the council was more appealing: Spend $24,660, get matched for about nine times that amount from the state.

Marion will apply for a grant of approximately $250,000 to refurbish East Park, of which the city must pay 10 percent.

In order to submit an application, that money needs to be available when the application is submitted.

The only suggestion Holter offered to council was to transfer money from the economic development department, based on the unexpected revenue generated from selling the Bown-Corby building.

Council members understood Jones’ bereavements, but were convinced the money needed to be produced and the grant applied for — it was simply too good an opportunity to pass up.

“The 90-10 is attractive enough, I think it’d be foolish not to apply for this project,” councilman Chad Adkins said, addressing Jones. “So let’s get to the bottom of this issue: You’re for the project, I’m hearing and I’m hoping. I’m hearing from you that maybe there’s a better place to take this from.”

Jones did not offer any alternative suggestions.

“I see there’s places where I need money and don’t get it, and I see where my money is being used,” he said. “I’m just frustrated. … I know what’s going to happen. I just want my opinion to be known.”

Councilors, with Jerry Kline absent, approved the transfer of funds 4-0.

The grant, which will be awarded to chosen municipalities July 15, would be used to improve several aspects of the park. The plan calls for construction of two new racquetball courts, resurfacing of the park’s basketball and tennis courts, construction of sidewalks, removal of the skate park equipment that sits on the basketball courts, insulation for playground equipment, and other general aesthetic improvements.

Jones said he supported the project, and that he realized it has to be applied for.

No plans to reimburse the economic development department were discussed. Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said any project Jones brought forward would have to be seriously considered, even if it meant funding it with money from other department budgets.

Should the city not be awarded the grant, the $24,660 will remain in Jones’ budget.

Last modified May 13, 2015

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