Marysville leaders praise retiring parks director at last council meeting

MARYSVILLE – The Godfather of Marysville parks, Jim Ballew, was lauded at his last City Council meeting Monday.

As the city’s first and only parks director thus far, Ballew is retiring after 31 years. Longtime parks employee Tara Mizell is taking over.

The park system grew from three to 35 during Ballew’s tenure.

“He would do it all” at every city parks event to make sure it was a success, said Gloria Hirashima, the city’s chief executive officer.

Ballew said he will miss his corporate family.

“We spent a lot of time together in this garden we call Marysville,” he said.

Mayor Jon Nehring called Ballew a “maestro, detail-oriented and first class.”

He said free and low-cost events like Touch a Truck, the fishing derby and Hometown for the Holidays are what help Marysville “retain that small-town charm.”

Nehring credited Ballew with making the city golf course and Opera House successes. He called the Tour of Lights, “One of the go-to Christmas events” in the region. “The community is indebted to you,” he said. “Your legacy will never be forgotten.”

City department heads also gave praise. Many said their own children participated in city youth programs that started during Ballew’s reign.

“Jim embodies community service,” said Jon Walker, city attorney.

Fire Chief Martin McFalls added, “You’re a wonderful friend to the community.”

Council members also chimed in.

Stephen Muller said not only did his kids play city sports, he also played both softball and soccer – the latter against Ballew himself. Programs were “orchestrated to a T,” he said.

Rob Toyer reminded Ballew that he was in Little League when the parks director started his job.

Jeff Vaughan said that Ballew critiqued his ability as a soccer referee the first time they met.

Council president Kamille Norton thanked Ballew for the successful first Fourth of July event this year, and mentioned his “charm” and “class.”

“You seem a little extra smiley today,” she said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, seven items on the City Council agenda Monday dealt with the Regional Fire Authority, which begins Oct. 1.

The authority combines Fire District 12 and Marysville Fire District, as approved by voters.

“It’s the first step in winding down the joint operation,” Jon Walker, city attorney, said of the first item.

The next item dealt with the RFA using the Public Safety Building. It allows police to stay there until their new facility is built by Comeford Park. But it also allows police to use part of the facility beyond that for things like storage, evidence and data.

Also OK’d by the City Council was fire marshal services without the addition of new fees.

The other four items dealt with both entities moving assets to the RFA, including personal property, fund balances, real property and rolling stock.

Meanwhile, an onsite contractor helped stabilize a sinkhole that could have swallowed up the eastbound lane of First Street near the old Geddes Marina, a city executive summary says.

The council approved the emergency work Monday.

The summary says intense rainfall Sept. 9 caused the collapse of a 48-inch metal pipe that drains the entire downtown stormwater system. That caused a sinkhole under the sidewalk and undermined adjacent parking stalls.

If the First Street lane also would have collapsed, it would have threatened sewer and natural gas lines.

The onsite contractor made some repairs. Taking bids as normally required would have taken months. Also, finance director Sandy Langdon gave a review of the second quarter budget.

Most revenues are at projection, except for the golf course, which was up 28 percent. She said even Monday, with the rain, the parking lot was half-full.

“There’s a lot of dedicated golfers out there,” she said.

Spending was at or below projection, but the golf course was down 20 percent. Sales tax is slightly above projection, while exceeding projections are donations and interest, fines and forfeits, and licenses and permits, especially for building.

Also the council OK’d

•Over $506,000 for underground Frontier communications lines for the new Civic Campus.

•Plans for continued stream restoration at Allen Creek in Jennings Park.

In other news:

•Council member Tom King said the parks board endorsed a local pickleball club’s effort for future facilities.

•Council member Jeff Vaughan said he looks forward to discussing future affordable housing options with the rest of the board.

•Brandan Blake was sworn in as a new officer. Acting police chief Jeff Goldman said he is impressed with Blake’s humility because he didn’t even mention in an interview that he was No. 1 in his class at the police academy.