Marion Mayor Focusing on Infrastructure

By George Ford, Reporter

MARION, Iowa — A focus on maintaining and improving community infrastructure over the past year in Marion will continue in 2013, according to Marion Mayor Allen "Snooks" Bouska.

In his State of the City address Tuesday at the Longbranch Hotel and Conference Center, Bouska said Marion needs to keep pace to serve a community with the sixth-fastest population growth in the state.

"We will continue to grow and expand our underground infrastructure of water and sewer systems," Bouska said. "We also will continue to expand our fiber-optic network with the schools and neighboring jurisdictions.

"We will address drainage issues associated with citywide construction and housing expansions. We need to establish surface water drainage initiatives that apply the statutes and are in agreement with the business community."

Five years ago, Marion had about 20 acres of so-called shovel-ready industrial property available to attract businesses to the community. Bouska said Marion currently has 300 acres of land ready for industrial development, thanks to the Marion Economic Development Co.

George Lake, president of MEDCO, said representatives of 49 businesses from the U.S. and foreign countries visited Marion's industrial parks in 2012 looking at sites for potential new building projects.

"Now that the elections are over and the fiscal cliff has been averted, we're hoping to see some development," Lake said after Bouska's presentation. "We know it's just a matter of time until someone pulls the trigger.

"We're hoping that it will be sooner, rather than later."

Lake said he's been reassured by representatives of other Iowa communities that have developed successful industrial parks.

"Cedar Falls, which I think has one of the most successful industrial parks in the state, went for more than two years before the first prospect started to build," Lake said. "Storm Lake has a very nice, but smaller industrial park.

"The economic development director reassured me that it was three years before the first prospect developed and now the park is full."

Bouska said the $2.6 million first phase of Marion's Central Corridor plan on Sixth Avenue involving brick paving from Eighth to 13th Streets was completed in late 2012. A roundabout planned for the east end of the Central Corridor project should provide continued access to Seventh Avenue, he added.

"It's my hope and prayer that we're able to keep Seventh Avenue open so the businesses can maintain viability and profitability," said Bouska, who as a small business owner was a critic of the Central Corridor plan when he campaigned for mayor.
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