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.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
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    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
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    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
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    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
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    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
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    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
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
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    BEVY OF BALLS—Stair District Library Summer Reading Program VolunTeens, including Libby Rorick, back left and Ty Kruse, back right, threw a dozen inflatable soccer balls into the crowd during a reading of “Sergio Saves the Game.” The sports-themed program continues on Wednesdays through July 27.
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