Morenci city council 8.13

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci’s Little League program is going strong, board members reported Monday at the city council meeting, and council approved a request to help strengthen it even more.

Scott Merillat and Brandon Stover presented a request for work at the large softball field at Wakefield Park to make it more adaptable for Little League play.

Work includes leveling a small mound on the infield where a pitcher’s mound was once located; reducing the size of the infield five or six feet by planting grass on the outer edge; and completing some electrical work.

Merillat told council members that the Little League board would like to expand tournament options for the older players. Tournaments bring a lot of people into town and serve as fund raisers for the ball program.

“We thank the city for your support,” Merillat said. “Our fields are among the nicer ones we play on.”

He said about 70 volunteers turned out this year for the annual clean-up day at the start of the season. After that, he said, city workers do a great job of maintaining the fields during the season.

Free use of the fields helps keep costs down, Merillat said, noting that ball programs are charged for field use in some communities.

During the past season, 225 children participated, ranging in age from five to 14. Twenty teams were formed and more than 40 people volunteered to serve as coaches. Others worked in the concession stand or volunteered time at tournaments.

“It’s a big group of people that makes it happen,” Merillat said.

Stephenson Park was used for practice sessions and T-ball games. Merillat said it worked out well except for families with children in two leagues. However, the fields at Wakefield Park were busy with either games or practices every night and many weekends.

LAWNS—The property maintenance committee, chaired by council member Leasa Slocum, will present a plan to streamline lawn maintenance enforcement in light of the many vacant homes.

The city attorney is examining a proposal that would bypass the current process of sending a letter to the property owner and waiting for the required response time.

SAVINGS—City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder told council that more than $18,000 was saved after the AmeraPlan option was approved a year ago.

The city buys a higher-deductible plan through Blue Cross/Blue Shield to reduce premiums. When an employee needs coverage for an incident, the city pays the deductible and out-of-pocket costs on behalf of the employee.

Savings through AmeraPlan vary from year to year, Schroeder said, depending on how many claims were submitted to the insurance carrier.

LIQUOR LICENSE—Council voted 5-1 to approve a beer and wine license for Rex Crist, owner of the BP gas station/convenience store in Morenci. Keith Pennington voted against the request and Tracy Schell was absent.

Pennington voiced concern about past misdemeanor counts on the applicant’s record, but mayor Doug Erskin said they were unrelated to the liquor sales.

Police chief Larry Weeks explained that the state Liquor Control Commission requires a local police department to sign off on an applicant’s criminal history and character.

The commission makes the final decision, Weeks said, but it wants to hear local opinion before deciding. In addition, he said, a local ordinance requires council’s approval.

Pennington said the criminal history probably wouldn’t have affected his “no” vote anyway, but it drew added concern to the issue.

RETIREMENT—Council approved a change in the retirement benefit plan for part-time employees who work at least 24 hours a week. The city will match 100 percent of an employee’s contribution, up to four percent.

  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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