On Tuesday, the Marion City Council held its second regular meeting for September at East Marion United Methodist Church on Baldwin Avenue, rather than the usual meeting place at City Hall. This meeting was hosted by representatives of the Marion East Community Forum.

At Tuesday’s meeting, city officials heard how the forum members are seeking to improve the quality of life for people living in East Marion, Clinchfield and Eastfield areas.

Wes Carpenter, teacher and part-time youth minister at East Marion Baptist, gave an update the planned new recreational complex at 635 Baldwin Ave. on the property across from his church. The plan calls for a playground, soccer fields, a basketball court, a skatepark and maybe a walking trail or a splash pad. His church, the property owner, the local faith community, the Marion East forum and the Centro Unido Latino Americano are all working together on this.

Niki Palmer with the forum talked about the Tabernacle Community Garden at the corner of Baldwin Avenue and Clark Street. She also talked about the garden’s annex on the five lane, which is being operated in partnership with Caleb Parker, owner of Fat Boys Burritos. Parker donated a section of land next to his eatery to serve as an “annex” for the Tabernacle garden.

Wilson talked to city officials about the Connect Marion East Outreach Campaign. This effort will be a door-to-door conversation with neighbors in the community and there will be Spanish-speaking members of each team. There will be neighborhood events with the MATCH program and the Olde Christmas concert by Stones Throw.

In other business, the City Council held a public hearing about a change in zoning for 734 Rutherford Road. That property was previously zoned as C-2 General Business and it now contains one building that was converted from a single-family home into a real estate office in 2008. Don Kehler, the owner of the property, is in the process of selling the property to someone interested in using the old real estate building as a residence. He asked for it to be zoned again as an R-2 Neighborhood Residential use. After hearing from Kehler, Mayor Steve Little closed the public hearing and council voted to rezone it as R-2 Neighborhood Residential.

Another public hearing was held about the zoning for the property on N.C. 226 South that will lead to the new Holiday Inn Express and other commercial sites. This property, owned by McDowell County, includes Kadire Road and it is recommended that it be zoned as C-2 General Business. After hearing no comments from the public, council voted to give it the C-2 zoning.

Council members and representatives of the Marion East forum heard a PowerPoint presentation from Planning Director Heather Cotton about the 2020 census. The U.S. Constitution mandates that a national census be conducted every 10 years.

An accurate count of residents during the census has a great impact on local governments and the results are used for redistricting legislative boundaries to adapt to population shifts. More than $675 billion a year is distributed to state and local governments nationwide based on the census numbers, according to Cotton.

“It’s very important we count everyone,” said City Manager Bob Boyette.

Census date is used for forecasting future transportation needs, determining areas eligible for housing assistance, designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly and children.

Under federal law, the data collected by the census is confidential and the Census Bureau is prohibited from sharing information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies. Personal data provided to the Census Bureau cannot be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits.

Cotton said some people are worried that they will be asked by census takers about their immigration status. She said that will not happen.

After hearing Cotton’s presentation, council members said it would be good if her PowerPoint could be shared online and through other media so the public can learn the facts about the 2020 census.

In addition, the City Council adopted a revised parks and recreation facility rules. These revised rules allow for city staff to approve the use of Marion’s greenways and trails by non-profit organizations located in McDowell County or by governmental organizations, in consultation with the McDowell Trails Association.

Under the revised rules, events requiring the exclusive use of a city greenway or trail should be kept to the minimum duration needed for such an event and will require the recommendation of the MTA. The use of Marion’s greenways and trails by private individuals or groups requires the approval of the City Council and will generally be restricted to events open to the general public and having community benefit, according to city officials.

In other business: the Marion City Council

Talked about a request to allow right turns on red at the corner of Main and State streets. After a discussion, city officials agreed to ask the N.C. Department of Transportation to allow this at that location and again ask the DOT to change the timing of the traffic signal at that intersection to reduce the waiting times for Main Street traffic.

Recognized city employees for their certification achievements. Ben Worley, chief water treatment plant operator, recently received his Grade A Surface Water Treatment Operator’s certification from the state, the highest water treatment certification possible in North Carolina. Tim Horton, sewer treatment plant lab technician, received his Grade IV Wastewater Treatment Operator’s certification from the state, the highest sewer treatment certification possible in North Carolina.

Adjourned the meeting in honor of the local community forums.

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