Login NowClose 
Sign In to chronicle-tribune.com           
Forgot Password

City ends park director job

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

A tight budget for the City of Marion resulted in the termination of Parks Department Director Belinda Hussong, and her position at the beginning of this year.

Hussong said she was notified that she would be terminated before city workers took their holiday break.

“I didn’t see this coming,” Hussong said. “But I guess it had to be done to save the city money.”

Mayor Jess Alumbaugh notified Hussong before the holidays that her position was being removed from the parks department in order to create more funds for the city.

“It was a difficult conversation,” Alumbaugh said. “Belinda served the city and its parks for 21 years, but it was something that had to be done for the best interest of Marion. She’s the nicest lady you’ll ever meet, and she’s well liked by everyone here. We just had to make cuts to be more efficient.”

Alumbaugh said much of the pressure restraining the city’s budget is the “inherited mess” of the city’s employee insurance fund. He said the altenative to personnel cuts was raising taxes. 

“We’re lean right now, and we have the fewest employees working for the city than ever before,” he said. “If everything goes well this year, I’m told we’ll have $19,000 left in the general fund by the end of the year, and that’s just not sustainable. We could raise taxes, which is something I’ve brought up before, but no one wants to talk about that. These are challenging times, not just for Marion but for everyone.” 

Eliminating the parks department position freed up around $46,000 for city finances, money that Alumbaugh said would be helpful to pursuing downtown revitalization projects, road construction and facilitating a stronger artistic presence in the city.

During her time managing 13 parks in Marion, Hussong said the number of employees in her department had declined.

Managing “behind the scenes” aspects in the parks department was part of her normal schedule, which she said included writing grants, creating community partnerships to sponsor future events, and spearheading projects. Some of the projects Hussong said she was looking forward to pursuing in spring of this year included continued efforts on the River Walkway and Odie Dog Park.

“It takes a whole community to get things done,” she said. “Our department used to be eight people, and then it was reduced to five, but we still managed. We began to make headway on some of those projects, and we have a good team there so I’m not worried about how well they’ll handle the work without me.”

James Loftis, head of city wide maintenance and the street department, has absorbed some of the duties previously managed by Hussong. Alumbaugh said Loftis will be in charge of grounds and the work crew that maintain Matter Park, and the remaining parks department employees are dividing up responsibilities and Hussong’s projects.

Hussong said she was currently looking for employment and is considering volunteering at her local church.

“I didn’t expect this. I’m just trying to get my life back together,” she said. “The current objective is to find employment, but I still have a passion for parks and the parks department.”

Her husband, Ken Hussong, remains an employee with city code enforcement.