Marion City Council adopts language access plan

Marion City Council adopts language access plan

Marion City Council adopts language access plan


Marion will implement a plan to make city services more accessible to residents whose first language is not English and to reduce barriers for some of McDowell’s population.

Marion’s language access plan was adopted at Tuesday’s Marion City Council meeting held at the Marion Community Building.

At the beginning of the meeting, Centro Unido Latino Americano (CULA) leaders distributed electronic devices to all who attended. Based in Marion, CULA works on educational, economic and recreational opportunities for the Latinx community.

The devices had a headset so the listener could hear the city council meeting being translated into either English or Spanish. The devices were intended to demonstrate how language can be a barrier for people from different backgrounds and an example of the types of services that will be available as part of the language access plan. Mayor Steve Little and council members wore them, as did many others at the meeting.

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The city’s language access plan, which has been in the works since 2023, was developed by the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the city of Marion and CULA. This plan directs the City of Marion to create more multilingual resources and have more bilingual staff. The goal is to make Marion a more welcoming community for people whose second language is English, CULA officials said.

Marion City Council adopts language access plan for local residents

Carlos Lopez with Centro Unido Latino Americano spoke to the Marion City Council.


About 14% of Marion’s residents were born outside the United States. Most of them are from Mexico, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Canada and Guatemala, according to a presentation Tuesday by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Brianna Gilmore. About 20 percent of Marion residents speak a language other than English, including Spanish, Hmong, Tagalog and American Sign Language, Gilmore said.

The City of Marion and CULA were jointly awarded a grant for an initiative that collaborates with local governments and community leaders to improve communication, public safety, mobility, entrepreneurship and leadership for immigrant and refugee residents. LAP is a product of this grant.

The plan recognizes Marion’s linguistic diversity and “establishes policies, procedures and an implementation plan to ensure that all residents have meaningful access to city services, information and opportunities in the languages ​​they prefer to speak,” according to a memo from City Planner Vance. McNeese.

The LAP is based on the City of Marion’s nondiscrimination policy, which ensures that no person will be excluded from participating in any City program or activity based on English proficiency or national origin.

Under the plan, the city will create a Language Access Committee with representatives from each department. Marion will select a variety of qualified language service providers for the City’s translation, interpretation and language assessment needs. The City will develop preliminary guidelines, procedures and training materials to provide language services.

Carlos Lopez of CULA said the purpose of the interpretation devices distributed at the meeting was to provide a way for multilingual people in a meeting or conference to participate, engage and listen even if they do not know the language being spoken.

“The devices allow interpreters to communicate information back to the listener in their first or preferred language, allowing everyone to be included in the room,” he said.

In addition, the demonstration of the devices at Tuesday’s meeting “exemplifies the challenges of listening to a meeting in a language you do not know and serves as an example of the type of devices and interpreting services provided by interpreting companies that can result from Language. Access plan,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to adopt the plan.

To celebrate, CULA members raised flags from their respective countries.

On Saturday, CULA will host a festival celebrating Latino culture and promoting ways to reduce language barriers for some of McDowell County’s population. This event will be held at the Marion Community Building and will include folk dance performances, food from local vendors and raffles with prizes.

Tourism in McDowell

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Shannon Odom, director of the McDowell Tourism Development Authority, gave Marion officials an update on efforts to promote McDowell as a tourism destination.

Visitors to McDowell County spent $107.9 million in 2022, a 6.6% increase over 2021. McDowell’s tourism industry employs more than 660 people, and the total payroll generated by McDowell’s tourism industry was more than 26 million dollars, Odom said.

The tagline for McDowell tourism is “No Limits” and conveys the limitless potential of what our community has to offer, he said. As part of a new approach, Marion is now referred to as “Main Street” and Lake James is referred to as “The Blueway”. Old Fort is referred to as “Basecamp” and Linville Falls is “The Gorge”. Little Switzerland is marked as “The Outpost”.

Downtown Marion will be promoted with the slogan “Eat, Drink and Be Marion.”

Odom published a list of projects that TDA funds. These include the McDowell House, Old Fort Streetscape, Bernard Mountain Trail, Peavine Trail, Phillips Landing, McDowell County Landmarks, Mill Creek Park in Old Fort, Historic Carson House, Fonta Flora Trailhead Park in Old Fort and improvements to Catawba Falls.

TDA also promotes tourism in McDowell on various social media platforms and news outlets. One billboard has been placed outside Columbia, SC, and three more are planned along Interstate 40, Odom said.