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Splash pad discussions leak out

Staff writer

Is Marion, whose officials repeatedly have promised increased openness, quietly making moves to add a splash pad to one of its parks?

The idea was discussed and apparently dropped years ago. It hasn’t been discussed publicly since new council members took office in January. They may, however, accidentally have let the cat out of the bag Monday.

In minutes for the council’s April 15 meeting, City Clerk Janet Robinson included in her account of a report from interim administrator Mark McAnarney this line, referring to discussions about a community development block grant with a representative of Ranson Financial, which arranges city grants and borrowing:

“McAnarney told council members he was working with Rose Mary Saunders to apply for a $650,000.00 CDBG grant with a 25% match, for a possible splash pad to be installed in one of the parks.”

The problem is, McAnarney never mentioned a splash pad in his remarks April 15.

How Robinson and council members who approved her minutes knew that was what he was talking about is unclear.

According to recordings of the April 15 council meeting, McAnarney stated:

“We’re looking at potential CDBG applications. I think they’re due Sept. 30. You have to be at 51% to qualify LMI. Marion’s at 46% so we might have to — I’m talking to Ranson Company about, you know, doing a survey to get over that hump.

“You can apply up to $650,000. You do need a 25% match. You can do parks. We used to do water and sewer. They’ve kind of changed the categories. You have to be in a consent order to apply in those areas.

“There are some — you can do — a lot of towns have done parks and things like that. So I’m going to talk in a meeting in McPherson on Wednesday. I’ll talk to Rose Mary Saunders over there to kind of get an idea and report back on it.”

McAnarney’s reference to “LMI” referred to whether 51% of city residents qualify as having low and moderate income.

As reported April 17 in the Record, he didn’t know at the time that the city had paid Ranson Financial $5,000 just a year earlier to conduct a survey in an attempt to dispute Census Bureau findings that Marion did not qualify.

Results of that survey have not been released, but such surveys are valid for two years in obtaining grants.

Sources have told the Record that representatives of an unofficial civic group recently asked an owner to donate land across from Central Park for a splash pad project. The owner reportedly declined.

McAnarney’s explanation is that he has discussed a splash pad as being one possible project that could be funded with a CDBG grant, but no plans to do so have been discussed with council members.

“I have talked about a water park,” he said. “We’d have to go get a grant, and we’d have to do several things. These are all things that are eligible activities.”

Mayor Mike Powers said he was interested in the city having a splash pad and had discussed it with McAnarney, though not in official meetings.

He’s not sure whether McAnarney has spoken with other council members about a splash pad, he said.

He said he didn’t remember a splash pad being discussed in the previous meeting, but didn’t question it when approving the minutes.

“I’m not going to be like Ruth Herbel and question whether there’s a period or a comma wrong,” Powers said.

Reporter Phyllis Zorn contributed to this story.

Last modified May 9, 2024

 

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