Council approves tower permit

Staff writer

Marion City Council approved a conditional use permit Monday for a communications tower near Marion County Jail.

There were agreed conditions offered by Marion Planning Commission. The tower is to be located 32 feet to the north of the southeast corner of the building, it is to be drill tested, the permit is to be reviewed in five years, and the tower is to be removed within 90 days if it is no longer in use.

Marion Planning Commission member Ruth Herbel presented a document showing Darvin Markley had waived the distance requirement for the tower from his property with the proposed 45-foot tower from the county. Markley added that if the tower was proven taller than 45 feet, the waiver would be rendered null and void.

When the City Council members each signed the conditional use permit approval, they ended a saga that began with a conditional use permit granted for the Marion County Jail. The county discovered a tower was left out of the permit. After a meeting with the planning commission for a new conditional use permit, City Administrator Doug Kjellin revised the original permit. However, the Board of Zoning Appeals reversed that decision.

The county had originally planned to have a tower erected by August. The county then changed the tower design to a 45-foot monopole, which the Planning Commission approved Oct. 30.

Main Street plan

Darin Neufeld presented a plan to the council for downtown improvements for Main Street between Walnut and Elm streets.

Neufeld, working for the engineering firm of Evans, Bierly, Hutchinson, and Associates, and Marion PRIDE committee, formulated the plan. They modified a plan previously written by a PRIDE group in the 1980s.

The main proposals of that plan are to replace curbs, gutters, sidewalks, lights, and crosswalks. Neufeld also wants to place a narrow island, less than half a parked car length, in the middle of Main Street between First and Fifth streets. The crosswalks would be paved brick with concrete buffer strips. The sidewalks would also feature a ribbon of brick inlaid in the pavement.

Neufeld’s preliminary cost estimate for the project is $907,000. He wants to pay for it using a transportation enhancement grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation, which could pay about $725,000 worth of the cost. The total share for the city of Marion would be about $239,000, or $16,000 a year with a bond with a 1.3 percent interest rate.

The grant application is due Feb. 15. The reason Neufeld gave a presentation in November is that this is the last year for the grant and the competition for the funding will be intensified.

“We have a lot of work to do in the next three months,” Neufeld said.

Neufeld asked the city if they would support the project. The council unanimously told him to go ahead and start the application process and to have the application ready for the council in January. At that time, the council would discuss the city’s financial contribution.

“At some point we’re going to have to put our money where our mouth is,” Kjellin said.

Based on the fervor of PRIDE members, the council will have added incentive.

“There is no doubt we could prove you the community wants this to happen,” Jeanice Thomas said. “We’d be very disappointed with you if you did not do this.”

Economic development

The City Council approved the position requirements for economic and tourism director, which is essential for to eventually hire someone to fill the position full time. Currently Kjellin is both economic development director and city administrator. In the council packet this week, there was a draft of an advertisement for the position with a salary range between $28,000 and $34,000.

The discussion about economic development boiled down to a disagreement between Mayor Mary Olson and council member Todd Heitschmidt. Heitschmidt, who is also president of Marion Economic Development Incorporated, wants the economic development director to report to MEDI. He also was interested in MEDI receiving funding from the city, like Hillsboro’s similar organization.

“The council has not done a good job directing them,” Heitschmidt said.

Because the position would still be paid by the city, Olson wanted the economic development director to continue reporting to the city administrator and City Council as it has been.

In other business:

  • The council instructed Kjellin to continue negotiating with Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative. Flint Hills proposed a 20-year agreement to the area north of U.S. 56, with the city taking over service of the area south of U.S. 56 previously maintained by the cooperative. Kjellin will ask about a franchise fee. By charging the residents in the area on their bill, Flint Hills pays a 2 percent fee on the gross revenues for the area. Three other companies pay franchise fees in Marion — AT&T and Atmos pay three percent and Eagle Communications pays five percent.
  • The council approved use of Central Park by the ministerial alliance for a live Nativity scene. Ministerial alliance vice president Val Newton said a likely date for the live nativity would be Dec. 21.
  • PRIDE member Pam Bowers gave a presentation about a Christmas parade at 3 p.m. Dec. 2. There are other events being planned between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. Bowers said the idea was to make the Christmas event like Art and Music Strolls.
  • The council approved the disposal of office items and old vehicles through purple wave. “It’s mostly junk,” council member Jerry Dieter said.
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