Council brainstorms goals for city

Staff writer

Liberally citing from a self-help book for business leaders, Administrator Roger Holter led Marion City Council members on a two-hour consciousness-raising and goal-setting journey Friday night to kick off their weekend budget retreat.

Holter urged members to reject the idea that analyzing situations, then looking for solutions was the best way to lead.

“See and feel change and visualize the future,” Holter said. “You need a vision to change even if it is not clear how to do it. We’ve got to get the pioneer spirit: what is possible instead of what is probable.”

Among the goals mentioned were enhancing the city’s business park, across from its industrial park, so it will stop traffic along U.S. 56.

Another vision, nearer the junction with U.S. 77, would be for a combination fuel station, hotel, and restaurant — probably a truck stop — which Holter said “would not hurt existing businesses because people are not stopping in town anyway.”

Councilman Chad Adkins wants a lumberyard, which Holter said could make Marion a regional center for building trades.

“They feed off each other, priming the business,” he said.

A business selling boats and campers also was mentioned, as was Councilman Jerry Dieter’s favorite, a sit-down restaurant, and Councilwoman Melissa Mermis’s, a motel.

Adkins agreed.

“We lose opportunities for sports events,” he said, “because we do not have a viable option, outside looking in, to stay the night.”

Whether such businesses might compete with already established local businesses was a question.

“While there may have been policies in the past that provided some protectionism,” Holter asked, “do we want that in the future? In my view, competition makes everybody better.”

Much of the evening was devoted to discussing various real estate moves, including possibly annexing up to 90 acres to create space for developments.

Dieter warned that property owners’ taxes “go sky high if annexed.”

Marion County Park and Lake, where both Holter and City Clerk Woody Crawshaw reside, was of special interest.

“The county lake has not been the most positive thing for the county for whatever reason,” Holter said, indicating it might better be considered a part of the City of Marion, which Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said should focus its efforts to the south and east.

Within current city limits, Mermis and Adkins both lamented a perceived lack of four-bedroom homes, which Holter said were the most viable these days.

Economic development director Terry Jones repeated a familiar theme from earlier presentations, saying: “Change is scary for people here.”

Heitschmidt responded:

“Just drive 8 miles to the southeast and see how that played out there. We can sit here tonight and plan the demise of the city and which roads we want to do back to rock and first and shrink this town in an efficient way, but we don’t want to do that.”

Adkins added:

“I don’t think anyone has ever said we want Marion to die, but you have to plan for that if you don’t change.”

Heitschmidt responded:

“It’s very easy to say ‘no’ to everything.”

He alluded to the absence of Councilman Jerry Kline, adding: “I only wish we could all be together, but we’ve got a majority.”

Holter added:

“I believe in my heart we need a cultural change. Some people are going to be lost along the way.”

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