Government

Marion mayoral rivals AbouAssaly, Pazour outline visions

They address Marion's growth, government and future

Mary Lou Pazour and Nicolas AbouAssaly
Mary Lou Pazour and Nicolas AbouAssaly

MARION — The race for mayor is heating up in Marion as candidates discuss planning for the city’s future and public works projects.

Running for mayor in the Nov. 5 election is incumbent Nicolas AbouAssaly, 53, and Mary Lou Pazour, who declined to provide her age, who served a combined 24 years in council seats from the 1970s to 2017.

The mayor receives a stipend of $10,037 a year.

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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.

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Other contested races in Marion are at-large, Ward 1 and Ward 3.

NICOLAS ABOUASSALY

AbouAssaly said he wants to help Marion achieve its full potential.

Marion is growing up as a city, AbouAssaly said, and he wants to see more businesses invest in the city that has doubled in size over the last few decades.

This also poses a challenge, with so much of Marion’s population made up of new residents, he said.

“We have entire neighborhoods that have moved into Marion,” AbouAssaly said. “Helping them become emotionally connected, where they feel like this is their community, that’s one of our challenges.”

AbouAssaly said he has worked to be transparent as the City Council grapples with affordable housing, expanding the Marion Public Library and overall city planning, including the Central Corridor Project.

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AbouAssaly said the council is “actively supporting and promoting” a diversity of housing options so people of all socioeconomic backgrounds can live there.

The Central Corridor Project, a capital improvement project that began in 2012 along Sixth, Seventh and Eighth avenues from First Street to 35th Street and includes Uptown Marion, is a key project for affordable housing, AbouAssaly said.

In August, a developer broke ground on a $9.6 million, 50-unit apartment building at 2275 Fifth Ave.

AbouAssaly hopes the project frees up land for “more appropriate” commercial development to “balance out the tax base,” which is currently 80 percent residential.

“We’re trying to drive commercial development with commercial corridors we’re building,” AbouAssaly said. “For a long time, Marion let things happen to us. ... We should be driving growth, so it doesn’t become a negative for our quality of life.”

The Marion Public Library is another area AbouAssaly believes Marion needs to expand.

The city recently scrapped a plan to move the library into a future mixed-use building at the site of the current Marion Square Plaza strip mall. Instead, the library’s board of trustees chose a new location between the existing facility at 1095 Sixth Ave. and Marion City Hall donated to the city for library use. The new facility will be an $18 million project.

AbouAssaly is in support of the new plan, adding that the first one was too complex and too expensive.

The new proposal is more practical and cost conscious, he said, with the idea that Marion eventually will need a second branch on the north side of town.

MARY LOU PAZOUR

Mary Lou Pazour said the job of mayor is to take care of the residents who live in Marion.

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Pazour said people come to Marion because it’s a “neat place” — an old railroad town — but the City Council and staff is destroying its heritage.

“People here are so impressed by these snake oil salesmen who come in here and say Marion is so wonderful, and then they want to change it,” Pazour said.

Pazour would like to see the last remnant of the railroad — a bridge near where Marion Boulevard and Second Street meet — be preserved.

City officials have plans to demolish the rail bridge and replace it with a 16-foot-wide pedestrian bridge.

Pazour said she would like to pursue historic landmark status for the bridge instead.

When the city takes on new projects — like the Central Corridor Project — a penalty clause that requires contractors to finish the project within a certain amount of time should be included, she said. Pazour said the Fifteenth Street roundabout took three years because a penalty clause was not included in the contract.

“They’re bush league at so many things. They don’t look at the larger picture,” Pazour said of city leaders.

Pazour is also concerned about the new 52-unit apartment complex under construction on Fifth Avenue.

“They’re 32 places short for parking,” Pazour said, adding that she thinks the location was also poor planning. “There’s a lot of land north,” she said.

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When it comes to the Marion Public Library, Pazour said its board of trustees needs to figure out the best way to use the current building instead of constructing a new facility. If they must build, there is room to the west and south to grow, she said.

Pazour also voiced frustration with the YMCA, a part of Marion’s Imagine 8 project. The project is a series of improvements to enhance the quality of life in the city that began in 2009. The city is working with the YMCA to construct a new regional center to replace its 55-year-old building at 3100 10th Ave.

The city is contributing $7.3 million to the project — $2 million in local-option sales tax funding and bond financing for the rest.

Pazour said she was against the city partnering with the YMCA for the project, and the city participating in “private endeavors” is “a form of socialism.”

Pazour said an “equitable solution” would have been the YMCA donating the current building to the city to be used as a senior citizen center.

Pazour said that in Marion government, there’s “too little transparency, too much debt.”

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

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