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School official ‘astonished’ Marion won’t pay for pool

Staff writer

On Monday, Marion city council members flatly refused to pay the school district’s January invoices for the city’s half of pool expenses for the second half of 2020. This is the second time in three months the city has bucked on payment.

School board president Nick Kraus, present at the meeting, later said he was astonished.

Invoices for pool related expenses have been disputed since Marion city council members in November decided they would not pay a school district invoice in full.

The school district sent invoices in January to cover July through December expenses. The district billed $23,259.21 for pool expenses, and $50,000 for half of the annual bond payment. Additionally, the district sent an invoice for half of three years’ unpaid building insurance, totaling $9,000.

Instead of paying the invoices with the rest of the city’s bills, they were put on the council agenda for discussion.

“The question is whether or not you wanted to go ahead and pay that,” city attorney Susan Robson said.

Mayor David Mayfield said the district has not responded to a request to meet and discuss the city’s agreement with the school district.

Mayfield also said the city’s agreement with the school district doesn’t address insurance on the building.

Councilman Ruth Herbel said she thought the council should meet with the school board.

Council members directed Robson to send a letter to the district.

“I make a motion to deny any further payment to the school district until we resolve the dispute,” Mayfield said.

“If you’re going to be in a dispute with somebody, don’t you think that the other person ought to know?” Kraus said.

The city early refused to pay the district’s November invoice in full, contending that pool expenses should not have been as high as they were. Instead, the city paid what councilmen decided was fair.

Mayfield said it was time to review and perhaps update the agreement between the city and the school district.

Later city administrator Roger Holter met with superintendent Aaron Homburg, and after discussing the November invoice, the city paid the rest of the bill.

Kraus said the city has paid half the insurance in years past, but the district didn’t bill for the insurance in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

“The reason we went back and started putting it back on there is because they refused to pay the last bill,” Kraus said.

As for the district not agreeing to meet with the council, Kraus said Holter did invite Homburg to lunch, but Homburg didn’t respond.

Kraus agrees with Herbel that the city council and the school board probably should meet and discuss their agreement regarding the pool.

“I thought that was kind of a big step to take,” Kraus said.

Kraus said he’d asked Homburg Monday if the city had asked questions about the invoice. Homburg said no.

“I did not expect that,” Kraus said of the council’s decision. “I guess I don’t understand.”

Homburg agreed with Kraus’ assessment of the city’s payments to the school district.

“It’s always been the school’s position that we have an agreement in place,” Homburg said. “It’s been in place since they broke ground on the school. We’ve been billing the same way. (Former superintendent) Lee Leiker was in on the original agreement, and we have changed nothing.

“We send them the bills that are from the pool and we kind of go from there.”

Councilman Chris Costello and Jerry Kline recused themselves from the vote. Mayfield, councilman Susan Gray voted in favor of withholding payment and Herbel voted against withholding payment.

Last modified Feb. 11, 2021

 

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