Council takes a few more swings at baseball

Staff writer

Marion City Council once again took a few more swings at baseball — amateur and professional — at its semimonthly meeting Monday.

Saying it was “a very frustrating experience” having served on the Marion Recreation Commission, Councilman Chad Atkins urged a greater level of accountability between the city and the school district, which jointly oversee recreation activities.

“There’s a lot of different people involved in the process, and it ends up being a runaround a lot of the time,” said Atkins, who coaches softball and wrestling for the school district in addition to serving on the council.

While he stressed that no one was unhappy with the work of rec director Margo Yates, who also is Chamber of Commerce secretary, he said the community’s “frustration is at a high level now.”

“Rec needs to be an important part of what we do if we’re looking to the future,” he said.

While the school district owns the USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center and controls scheduling there, the city owns the ball fields used by rec and school teams yet does not seem to have control over them, council members said.

The city’s role over the gym and pool is “advisory only,” Administrator Roger Holter noted.

To which Mayor Todd Heitschmidt added: “We give them $100,000 a year. They should listen when we give advice.”

Yates, for her part, said she might “be part of the problem” because she runs rec activities “on a shoestring.”

Adkins noted that the rec commission, which he left to join the council, had spent much effort trying to get more of Yates’ salary subject to benefits.

Yates jokingly replied, “I was looking forward to becoming a WalMart greeter.”

Holter said he and USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker met twice as often as required to discuss rec matters. But, in answer to a question from Councilwoman Melissa Mermis, he said the district was standing in the way of an unspecified “substantial, non-financial” donation a community member wanted to make to the ball fields.

The council agreed to work with the schools and the Rec Commission to try to simplify the governance process.

Meanwhile, development director Terry Jones and Mermis’s husband, Police Chief Tyler Mermis, offered additional details on a proposal to bring semi-professional baseball to Marion.

The promoter of the semi-pro league would expect not only some improvements to the field, including a grass infield and more bleachers. He also would expect area businesses to chip in $50,000 a year to promote the league.

Jones asked the council whether it thought the idea was still worth pursuing. Council members indicated it was, with Heitschmidt interjecting that the city also was looking for $50,000 in donations to help pay for restrooms and a stage at Central Park.

 

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