Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh speaks at the 2020 State of the City address at the Ivy Tech Conference Center. Staff photo by Leeann Doerflein
Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh speaks at the 2020 State of the City address at the Ivy Tech Conference Center. Staff photo by Leeann Doerflein
Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh and other city officials gave a review of last year’s accomplishments and previewed what’s to come in 2020 at the annual State of the City address Wednesday.

The lunch event featured speeches from Alumbaugh, Marion Utilities Director Chuck Binkerd, Marion Controller Julie Flores and Alumbaugh’s Chief of Staff Mike Flynn. The Grant County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event at the Ivy Tech Marion Conference Center.

Alumbaugh and Flores both spoke about the city’s financial health. Flores said city departments last year spent 98 percent of the budget, which allowed $623,000 to be added to cash reserves. Flores said her office is going to continue to work toward building up reserves with a goal to reach the 15-20 percent reserve goal by 2026.

“As we continue to be fiscally responsible, we will remember whose money we are spending,” Flores said.

Alumbaugh said the city is making progress toward financial stability, even though it is slower than he would like.

“We did not get here overnight and we are not getting out of here overnight,” Alumbaugh said. “We will get there.”

Alumbaugh said another focus is downtown revitalization. He said there are many projects such as updated apartments and more businesses already in progress and even more that are “percolating” but not yet ready to reveal.

Looking into converting Washington and Adams Streets to two-way streets again in the downtown area is one specific idea that Alumbaugh mentioned to facilitate revitalization. He said the idea is to slow traffic down in the downtown area so travelers can see all that Marion has to offer.

Alumbaugh also said he hopes for progress on eliminating blight via the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance and community partnerships.

“We have landlords who are upset about it, but those are the same group that was upset when I walked the neighborhoods in 2015,” Alumbaugh said. “They are not upholding the rules and regulations we have in place. We are going to do the best we can with the ordinance we have in place.”

Binkerd’s speech focused on the Marion Utilities recycling and solid waste program. Binkerd said his department is currently looking to change the way recycling is collected. The current method of collecting bags of commingled recycling, which is not separated by type of material, causes a lot of waste, he said. A solution the city is looking into is mimicking the way that Grant County Recycling Center collects materials, which involves a drive-up where consumers separate their recycling into containers by type.

Flynn gave department by department updates of projects going on around the city.

For the street department, he said priorities include putting up new street signs and paving roads near schools this year such as Central Avenue, Branson Street and North and South Fairfield Avenue.

Flynn said the building department had a busy year in 2019, with 24 structures demolished and several thousand inspections completed. The planning department approved plans for 32 new homes valued at $6.2 million and $6.6 million in new commercial properties, he said, and Marion Public Transportation gave 257,000 rides in 2019.

Public safety professionals also worked hard in 2019, Flynn said. Marion Fire Department completed 21,000 training hours and provided 106 members of the public CPR training. Flynn said Marion Police responded to about 147 incidents daily while also making an effort to engage with the community.

City Council President Deborah Cain said the city is on the right track for all the reasons the city officials mentioned during the address. She said she hopes the community will back efforts as blight elimination and downtown revitalization goes forward.

“It takes the whole community to advance and bring everything together,” Cain said. “Those are the key points that the council and I are trying to do too.”

The State of the City address was video recorded and should be available on the city website in the next few days.
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