Morenci Police Department to move 6.10.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The Morenci Police Department will soon move into new quarters in the city-owned building behind Wakefield Park.

City council approved Monday a motion to allow the police to move immediately into the vacant city building at 599 W. Chestnut St. The motion states that renovations will be considered at a later date.

Council member Keith Pennington was the only one to cast a “no” vote, stating that he was not in favor of moving quickly on the issue.

“I do firmly agree that the department needs more room,” he said, “but I’m not satisfied that we need to go down that road yet.”

The police will move into the front office space of the building, but no renovations are to be made yet because council members are also considering moving the recycling center to the location behind the park.

That would place all DPW services in a central location, councilor Tracy Schell said. In addition, she noted that all of the property surrounding the building is for city use, so she thought it made sense to include the former industrial building.

The structure has been leased to businesses since 1993 when NWD International moved in. The city was earning rental income of $2,000 a month until TNG Technologies closed last year. The building had also been viewed as a good location for an “incubator” building for a business starting up.

Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks said he’s noted weaknesses in police facilities since his arrival in Morenci.

The space to store evidence is subject to weather changes, he said, and there’s no facility for interrogations or for storage of gear. Overall, he said, the existing department doesn’t allow for traditional police services.

Weeks intends to partition a portion of the empty building to serve as a garage for police vehicles.

The move will open up more space at city hall. Building inspector Kevin Arquette literally works out of a closet, Weeks said.

FIRE SERVICE—The Chesterfield and Seneca township boards approved a 10 percent increase in fire protection services with the Morenci Fire Department, but Medina Township officials suggested a lower increase in trade for the township billing residents for fire runs.

The increase is the first in six years, Pennington noted. He said a meeting with the townships several weeks ago led him to believe there was agreement on the increase. The city set its budget accordingly.

Schell suggested offering the option of an annual base fee of $5,500, a first hour charge of $1,000 and a charge of $550 an hour for subsequent time spent on a call. She said the overall cost would probably end up much higher than the original proposal.

Only Greg Braun supported Schell’s amendment. Council voted to stay with the original motion for the 10 percent increase and it passed unanimously.

BMX—Council gave conditional approval for a new BMX track contract—contingent on completion of the contract form.

The track is on city property, but it’s operated by a non-profit organization. Will and Amanda Harsh have operated the track since its opening in 2000, but Will told council he resigned over the winter.

Felicia Burton will now be listed as president and Paul Burton will serve as secretary.

“They’ve been doing a good job with it,” Harsh said. “They’re good with the kids and their hearts are in the right place.”

EMS—The annual renewal of the special assessment district for EMS service was approved by council, with no increase in amount charged.

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    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
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    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
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