Government

Majority of Marion City Council up for election

Candidates talk about major issues in Nov. 5 election

Top: Colette Atkins, Dwight Hogan, Will Brandt; Bottom: Paul Draper, Mikael Tope, Grant Harper
Top: Colette Atkins, Dwight Hogan, Will Brandt; Bottom: Paul Draper, Mikael Tope, Grant Harper
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MARION — Four incumbents — a majority of the Marion City Council — face challengers in next month’s election as the city makes decisions on a new library, its airport and continued development in the growing community.

The contested races in the Nov. 5 elections are for mayor, at-large, Ward 1 and Ward 3.

Ward 1 candidates are incumbent Collette Atkins, 46, who was appointed a year ago to fill an open seat, and Dwight Hogan. Ward 3 candidates are incumbent Will Brandt, 44, and Mikael Tope, 61. At-large candidates are incumbent Paul Draper, 85, and Grant Harper, 65.

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Running for mayor is incumbent Nicolas AbouAssaly, 53, and Mary Lou Pazour, who declined to provide her age.

City council members receive $5,018 a year.

A special election was held in 2016, and approved by the council, that changed the way ward members are chosen. In the ward elections, only voters in that ward vote for a candidate to represent that ward. Votes citywide may vote for at-large and mayoral candidates.

Here is a look at how candidates for three of the seats — not including the mayor race — stand on the issues.

MARION PUBLIC LIBRARY

The Marion Public Library’s board of trustees chose a new location this summer for a $18 million public library — between the existing facility at 1095 Sixth Ave. and Marion City Hall. The lot was donated to the city for library use.

The decision of where the new library would be located comes after project leaders abandoned a 6-year-old plan to move into a future mixed-use building on the site of the current Marion Square Plaza strip mall.

Colette Atkins, Ward 1 incumbent, said she is 100 percent in support of a new library.

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“It makes sense to build a new facility,” said Atkins. “It’s so much more than folks coming in and checking out library books. It’s a safe space.”

Dwight Hogan, running for Ward 1, said Marion doesn’t need a new library. Any plan to build one should go to a referendum, he said.

Will Brandt, Ward 3 incumbent, said the lot is a “fantastic” location and he’s glad it would stay in Uptown Marion. Brandt suggested the current library be used for city departments or council chambers, which are “bursting at the seams.”

Mikael Tope, running for Ward 3, said he would like to see the Linn-Mar Community School District have the same opportunities as students at Marion High School — which is across the street from the library — with a satellite library in the Linn-Mar are. But he doesn’t think tax dollars should be spent on a new one.

At-large incumbent Paul Draper said he is in favor of anything to help grow the library, and he has always thought the lot would be a good location for a new facility.

Grant Harper, at-large candidate, said while he supports the library’s expansion, he has an issue with how long the city planned for it, scrapped the plan and is now taking a different approach.

MARION AIRPORT

The city broke ground this month on a runway expansion project, which will widen the runway and make safety improvements at the Marion Airport. The city bought portions of the airport, including the runway, in 2015. It had been privately owned.

A capital improvement plan, created by the Marion Airport Committee, includes extending the length of the north-to-south runway from 3,775 to 6,600 feet and building another 5,400-foot runway running east to west.

Atkins said while she supports the current reconstruction to the airport runway, Marion has a limited checkbook.

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“We only have so much money to spend, and it should be spent on other projects,” she said.

Hogan said he likes the idea of a city-owned airport. It could give businesses with company planes a place to fly into and store them, he said. In that case, an east to west runway is needed, he said.

Brandt said long-term planning should consider the need for a new runway 30 years from now.

Tope, who said he was on an advisory board to discuss airport improvements, said the runway was envisioned being asphalt, which he is concerned would not be able to withstand the Iowa weather like concrete.

Draper said the future of the airport is a combination use for businesses and hobbyists. A second east to west runway is needed, he said, but without destroying any commercial properties.

Harper said it’s critical for the council to focus on long-term planning for the airport, and possibly even ask themselves if the current location is the most ideal.

“Twenty years out — what’s the vision?” Harper asked.

CENTRAL CORRIDOR

The Marion Central Corridor Project is a capital improvement project that began in 2012 along Sixth, Seventh and Eighth avenues from First Street to 35th Street and includes Uptown Marion. The city is working to revitalize the area for business and housing development.

In August, a developer broke ground on a $9.6 million 52-unit apartment building at 2275 Fifth Ave., in the Central Corridor.

Atkins said the project shows forward thinking on the part of the City Council. It will encourage business while also developing affordable housing, she said.

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However, the Central Corridor Project is a “big waste of money,” Hogan said. He said Sixth Avenue needed to be expanded, but the traffic roundabouts were unnecessary.

Brandt said the Central Corridor is key to future growth for the city.

“It’s very important for the tax base,” he said, adding the project has helped alleviate some traffic on Sixth Avenue.

Tope said the project will increase traffic in Marion if the city can get the right businesses in the Central Corridor.

“Business is the lifeblood of Marion, but I’m not seeing the lifeblood pumping into Uptown Marion,” Tope said.

Draper also said the project is important for growth.

“It’s part of why I’m running for City Council, is to hope for growth,” he said. “Some of us older folks have seen (Marion) grow from 12,000 to 40,000, and it’s going to continue to grow.”

Harper said the Central Corridor is a “great opportunity” to be the hub of commercial business and the gateway to Marion’s “vibrant neighborhoods.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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