By DAVID GREEN
Despite a 6-1 vote June 8 in favor of moving the police department, council members are going to discuss the issue further at the committee level.
Councilors voted previously to allow the police department to move to the former industrial building at the back of Wakefield Park. Police chief Larry Weeks told council that more space is needed to operate the department efficiently. Only Keith Pennington voted against the measure.
Following a lengthy discussion of the issue Monday, Morenci mayor Doug Erskin said, “I’m wondering if council would like to reconsider. Would we like to take it back to committee and discuss it at length?”
Weeks confirmed that he has already begun moving into the new facility, but he is not operating out of that building. He asked if council had heard negative comments about the move.
Erskin said he heard about opposition expressed by business owners at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) meeting and Pennington said he heard one complaint.
Council member Tracy Schell said she asked several people and none of them had any concerns about where the station was located.
Pennington asked if any response was heard from a company that inquired about renting the building, but city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder said that no follow-up call was received.
“I think [the move] is the right thing to do,” Weeks said, “but if council wants to discuss it further, there are no hard feelings on my part.”
He said he would hold off on moving any additional materials.
Erskin directed council’s Public Works committee to review the previous decision.
The issue came before council Monday when audience member Tim Decker said the DDA board asked him to express its concerns about the move.
“We’d rather that you not do it,” Decker said.
He said the board was concerned about the loss of potential income for the city if it was no longer able to rent the building. He acknowledged that building is currently empty, but said it was a good building for a small industry, with its high ceilings.
“If you don’t have it, you’re losing the potential to bring jobs to the community,” Decker said.
Even if it were used only for storage, he said, the city would receive some income that could help pay for an alternative, such as adding on to the existing police station.
The existing location is more accessible to people, Decker said, and city hall staff members are able to take information from people when no one is in the police station. A phone could be installed on the exterior of the building that would ring into the county sheriff’s office, Weeks said.
He pointed out that the building is an island among the park land and other city property and not the best place to develop industry. Councilor Jason Cook added that semi-truck traffic is a problem when cars are parked in the area for ball games.
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