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Florence economic development committee asks for guidance

Harper will not seek re-election

Staff writer

Florence Economic Development and Zoning Committee chairman Cathy DeForest addressed Florence City Council Monday night, requesting the city to put some teeth into its nuisance property ordinances and make a determination about how aggressive it wants to be in attracting new businesses.

“We have been meeting monthly,” said DeForest. “We seldom have a zoning issue to review and most of us would rather not meet just for the sake of meeting.

“We would like to begin work on economic development issues, but need to know what the council has in mind as far as tax incentives, free utility hookups, or free land. What can we use to try and attract a business?”

“And what about marketing?” she asked. “Do you have any direction or suggestions about how you would like for us to promote the community?”

Council members discussed the issue and agreed the committee needed some direction.

“I think after you (the committee) came back to us with the completed zoning plan, we probably dropped the ball and didn’t follow through like we should have,” said Councilman Randy Mills.

DeForest said committee members agreed the city should be enforcing them the ordinance that are in place.

“That’s what we would like to see,” she said. “If it takes a compliance officer or a method of review, we need to get started.”

Councilman Trayce Warner volunteered to attend the next meeting and bring some suggestions as well as information about the county revitalization neighborhoods, tax incentives, and other ideas. She will contact Marion County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman.

John Swarm, committee member, offered to work with the mayor and council to identify people who might wish to clean up their propertied, but unable to do so.

“Before we go condemning something or bring in a bulldozer, I’d like to round-up some volunteers and see if we can help just by hauling trash or debris to the curb,” he said.

Wynn said the city would be willing to help coordinate a cleanup project.

In other business:

  • Harper announced he will not seek re-election to his council position.
  • PRIDE gave a progress report about the renovation of Veteran’s Park.
  • City Clerk Janet Robinson said a representative of Burlington-Northern-Santa-Fe Railroad had called to find out if there was any serious interest in purchasing the former Santa Fe depot. The representative said the company would not be willing to sell the land, but would sell the building. The council instructed Robinson to contact BNSF again for a more definite ruling on what restrictions will be enforced and how much they want for the structure.
  • Mayor Wynn said the city’s computer system had failed after a “back door” invasion of multiple virus infections. Wynn and Scott Zogelman were able to get the system up and running again, but said they recommended getting professional help to install new software, firewalls, and a system for automatic updates. The current system will be adequate for the upcoming audit and then should be replaced.
  • The council will consider a request by Ben Shields for a group of young adults to use the gymnasium building Friday nights.
  • Police Chief Conroy Miller will be allowed to serve as a firefighter when needed on the Florence Fire Department. The initial vote was 2-2 with Bryan Harper and Mills opposed. Mayor Wynn voted with Warner and Dan Ludwig to approve the appointment.
  • Funds for the fire department will be set aside so that money will be available for future equipment expenditures. Slater will contact Doyle and Fairplay townships about tax money collected for the fire department as well as updating the city-township contracts for service and funding.
  • The annual pancake feed will be from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Florentine Center.
  • Complaints were acknowledged regarding youth riding all-terrain vehicles recklessly in the city limits. Other council and patrons expressed the same concerns. Police Chief Miller will be advised.
  • Teeny Williams was given permission to paint the gates to Hillcrest Cemetery before Memorial Day.
  • Harper announced he will not seek re-election to his council position.
  • The city will pay Leadership Marion County tuition for Wynn and Billing Clerk Kristi Darnell.
  • Auditors Knudson and Monroe will begin the city’s annual audit this week.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2009

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