Part 2: Marquette City talks balancing services on a budget
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - A significant challenge for the city of Marquette is providing community services and recreation while knowing those services don’t generate significant revenue. For example, the Community Services Department for the city of Marquette includes Arts and Culture and Parks and Recreation-- which includes two marinas and Lakeview Arena, and Senior Services.
Jon Swenson is the Director of that department. In his role, he’s tried to find ways to reduce costs while still providing the services the community expects.
“I’d say that’s the greatest challenge is trying to keep employee morale up, trying to keep the level of service the same and provide the community of Marquette with what they expect and yet, reduce the costs,” Swenson said.
One facility under Swenson’s charge is Lakeview Arena. The building is 49 years old and houses youth hockey programs, open skates for the public and community events. In 2016 Marquette was named Kraft Hockeyville USA. That brought $150,000 for the city to upgrade the building and Lakeview hosted a preseason NHL game. While that money was helpful, the city saw a bigger benefit from the Johnson Controls project.
“We did massive upgrades to the ice plant and the lighting throughout the facility as well as fire alarm stuff and things of that nature, and that was over $5.5 million. When you think about $150,000 versus $5.5 million, you kind of start to see where the real dollars have to come in,” Swenson said.
Now, there are only a couple thousand dollars remaining from the Hockeyville money. Swenson says the city is hoping to upgrade the sound system at Lakeview.
“We’d like to use the remaining little bit potentially matching a grant that would enable us to upgrade that system so, there have been conversations about that and we just have to find the right opportunity for that,” Swenson added.
While grant funding can help with upgrading facilities and providing these services, Marquette City Manager Karen Kovacs says the city also misses out on income from tax-exempt and historic properties, as well as properties like the waterfront which costs money to maintain. The city is not considering any property on the lakeshore for taxable development.
While the Marquette Community Master Plan is being worked on, Kovacs says she’s encouraged by the community’s input.
“One of the greatest things to witness is just how much a community cares and how much a community wants to be involved, especially when it comes to the budget, we’re happy to open our doors and hear things out and people have so many great ideas, I welcome those conversations because it means people are thinking and people are getting a bigger picture of what we need,” Kovacs said.
The Community Master Plan is expected to be completed this fall.
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