Morenci city council will soon be in need of a new member due to the impending resignation of Dick Hewitt.
Hewitt was first elected to council in 2003. Although his current term doesn’t expire until 2011, his replacement will serve only until the general election in 2009. At that time, a replacement will be elected to complete Hewitt’s term in office.
Although Hewitt has two more meetings before leaving, Morenci mayor Doug Erskin wasted no time in praising the councilor.
“You’re going to be very much missed, not only by council but also by residents,” Erskin said.
He told Hewitt he has appreciated his level-headed approach to issues and valued his opinions.
Hewitt will soon retire from his job and will no longer be in the city the entire year.
AFC RESIDENTS—Police chief Larry Weeks appraised council members on his department’s response to calls from local adult foster care homes.
Weeks noted that AFC homes have gone beyond the traditional care of elderly people and now have several residents with mental problems.
Weeks said that several years ago many of the state’s mental health residential facilities were closed. Subsequently, many residents ended up in prison. Now, with the number of prisons being reduced, many people with mental problems are without a place to go and several end up at AFC homes.
“There’s a huge hole in the system and there are not too many places for people to go,” Weeks said.
He urged community members to be somewhat tolerant of these issues, but he realizes that people are experiencing problems, such as being asked for money and being harassed in stores.
Arresting people for panhandling isn’t a good solution, he said, because their case probably won’t be prosecuted if they’re mentally ill.
He told council that police will no longer respond to calls from AFC homes asking for help in controlling an individual.
“You can’t expect police to use force and restrain people in that situation,” he said.
If an AFC owner consciously admits a person with mental disabilities, then staff needs training to handle situations. Residents aren’t breaking a law, he said, and the police can’t detain them.
Council member Tracy Schell asked if an AFC home was responsible for a resident’s behavior outside the home. Weeks said that isn’t the case.
“Generally they can exist fine in the community, but if they’re causing a disturbance, we’ll have to prosecute,” he said. “Tolerance is needed in the community, but a line must be drawn.”