Improvements ahead for Marion

Staff writer

Marion City Council approved a beautification plan for Main Street between Walnut and Elm streets.

That plan, authored by Darin Neufeld of Evans, Bierly, Hutchinson, and Associates Engineering in conjunction with Marion PRIDE, calls for 47 new street lights costing about $285,000, brick inlaid cross walks at each intersection, $105,000, brick ribbon in the sidewalk between First and Fifth streets, $30,000, and an electronic sign to be placed at the southwestern bend of the First Street intersection, $35,000.

The total cost for the plan is $1,034,956, but Neufeld will apply for a Kansas Department of Transportation grant, which would cover $776,217. The city’s share, including $57,765 in engineering costs, is $316,504 if Marion receives the KDOT grant. Neufeld said the deadline for the grant is Feb. 15; under usual procedures, he said a 90-day waiting period is to be expected before Marion learns if it has received the grant.

“If we’re going to grow, we need to invest in ourselves,” council member Todd Heitschmidt said. “Other projects we have to pay 100 percent. This project we match one dollar and get three.”

Neufeld gave the option of two different plans. The council chose a 75 and 25 percent split with KDOT. Neufeld said getting KDOT to agree to a 75-25 plan was much easier than a 80-20 plan where the city would only pay $264,756. He said he expected about 40 applications for the grant funding.

The council’s main concern for project, the topic of a one-hour discussion at the meeting, was how the city would pay for it. City Administrator Doug Kjellin said the city would not have to raise taxes and could use a bond even though the city is planning on a $1.4 million street project. The street improvement project is planned for north and south Freeborn Street and Fourth and Williams streets.

Kjellin said the streetscape project may push the city’s statutory debt. The limit is 30 percent of assessed value. Without the two projects, the city is at 9.79 percent. Kjellin and City Clerk Angela Lange projected to the end of December city would be at 9.29 percent. With added projects, it was projected at 20.88 percent.

If the city were to go over that limit, Kjellin said the city is obligated to raise taxes to fund the difference. He added that property valuations decreased in 2012.

“We’re still fine for bond purposes but we would have to say we’re done for awhile,” Kjellin said.

Despite concerns from Mayor Mary Olson and Planning Commission member Ruth Herbel, the streetscape plan was unanimously approved.

“I don’t know how many more opportunities we have for funding,” city employee Margo Yates said. “We need to go this direction to keep this town alive.”

Planning and design for the project would begin in 2013 but city payments would not begin until 2014, Kjellin wrote. Depending on the project’s schedule, payments could possibly start in 2015.

Lease and purchase

The council extended the lease and purchase agreement with Cardie Oil in the industrial park for two months.

At the end of the extension period, Cardie has agreed to self-finance the final balloon payment for the lease and purchase agreement for the building. The terms of the agreement were negotiated through Tampa State Bank.

Water main work

Kjellin encourages Marion residents living south hill area to use the texting and email service provided by the city because of water main work in the 100 block of South Roosevelt. He said there is a chance more pieces of the line would have to be shut off.

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