City quits paying economic group
Marion city council members Monday voted not to pay dues to Marion County Community Economic Development Corp.
Their decision came after months of wrangling over what, if anything, the development group was accomplishing and what its vision is.
Although Marion gave the group $7,500 in 2017, the city has not paid dues amounting to $22,250 for the first half of 2018 because questions it asked in December have not been answered to the city’s satisfaction.
The development group sent the city a bill June 30 for that amount. The bill was marked “due upon receipt.”
Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said he questioned paying the bill after thinking about the development group’s progress, the amount of funding it gets from the county, and statements made to county commissioners last week by board chairman Clint Seibel.
When asked about the city’s withdrawal as a dues-paying member, Seibel said: “We’re not going there. They know it’s their decision to make. As far as I’m concerned, we’re moving forward. I told the county commissioners that regardless of how the municipalities respond, we are moving forward as a county program.”
Heitschmidt and city administrator Roger Holter recently met a candidate for executive director of the development group. Seibel said the woman, who is from Tennessee, has not yet been hired.
“Discussion still in process as far as whether or not we develop a proposal offering this person a position,” Seibel said. “It’s too early to tell.”
Heitschmidt said the city decision should not matter in the hiring.
“It’s my belief,” he said, “that with the funding they have, they can maybe move forward with hiring an executive director. After exhaustive consideration, we have determined that acting in a manner of wise stewardship principles, we will not invest municipally levied ad valorem tax dollars in addition to those included for our residents and business owners that are assessed under the taxation policies adopted and applied by the board of county commissioners. Our county has increased the annual investment from $82,356 to $165,500, which we believe is an adequate investment to achieve the planned results as articulated.”
In a letter circulated to city council members before the meeting, Heitschmidt also questioned recent actions by board members and their administrative assistant, Katherine Young.
City administrator Roger Holter told council members the city’s economic development money could be spent on initiatives that benefit the city directly, such as a streetscape project.
Council members voted unanimously to discontinue participation in the development group.
Hillsboro continues to pay monthly dues to the development group.
“As of this month, we are current on our bills that we pay monthly,” city administrator Larry Paine said.
Peabody also pays quarterly dues of $6,200, but mayor Larry Larsen said city council members questioned how long it will take the group to hire a director.
“We paid all of our contributions for last year,” Larsen said. “I know Peabody is still behind the corporation.”
In other business, council members:
- Voted to extend a closing deadline on city-owned industrial property at 828 N. Roosevelt St. so the buyer can secure funding.
- Discussed making a police squad car no longer in use available to be used as an airport courtesy car. They delayed action until a later meeting.
- Approved ordinances adopting 2018 uniform public offense and standard traffic codes for Kansas cities.