Morenci city administrator Renée Schroeder keeps a close eye on available grants and when she saw the words “parking lot” mentioned in conjunction with grant money, she was flabbergasted. She figures that was the first time ever that she saw a grant that could be used to improve an existing parking area.
She spoke with mayor Keith Pennington about submitting an application and city council supported the project. A good application package was created, and lo and behold, Morenci was chosen. About $600,000 in state funding was awarded, leaving the city to come up with $160,000. It was an excellent investment with that level of return.
And now the inconvenience is underway. Morenci’s south parking lots are going to be mostly out of service for up to seven weeks and parking is at a premium. The alley leading to city hall is closed. Baker Street will be closed. It’s a mess in that part of the city.
The project is described as a parking lot rebuilding effort and that is the focus of the work, but don’t forget the other benefits. Orchard Street will be widened north of LaGrange, and narrow Baker Street will expand to better accommodate traffic. All of that is in addition to a much-needed new parking surface, curbing and sidewalk at the back of businesses, and an overall more attractive area behind the commercial district with a controlled traffic flow and spaces for foliage.
We understand that not all business owners are satisfied with the plan, but we’re grateful they chose to go along with the project. They all offered easements onto their property to allow the design to be completed. They had the option of refusing—in effect, spoiling the effort by creating unusable, unattractive space—but none of them took that approach.
Eventually the project will cross Main Street and the inconvenience will move to a new location when parking is created between Johnson’s Hardware and the Observer office. Our inconvenience in this office is an order to evacuate for a day while the Dunbar Auction building is demolished. We hope the inconvenience ends there, leaving the Observer office still standing strong without its neighbor built up against it.
Although the project is causing some headaches for merchants, keep in mind that all of the inconveniences are temporary. When the project is complete, Morenci will have much more attractive parking areas for customers to use when they shop at local stores.