City council's support for police move softens 8.12.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

A motion was made and seconded to proceed with the next step in moving the Morenci Police Department to the vacant NWD building at the back of Wakefield Park, but the issue went no further.

As the Morenci city council meeting progressed Monday night, support for the move softened and the project now remains in limbo.

Council voted June 8 to approve the move and police chief Larry Weeks began some preliminary work at the site. But two weeks later, Morenci mayor Doug Erskin urged councilors to take the issue back to the committee level for additional consideration. Chief Weeks said he would halt work at the site until the matter was resolved.

Public Works committee chair Art Erbskorn reported Monday that following a fact-finding study, the committee decided to proceed with the police move and to also consider moving the recycling center to the NWD building.

A motion was made to hire Todd Dailey for site plan engineering at a cost of $2,600. This, Erbskorn said, would allow council to determine if the project was economically feasible.

“I’ve heard so much already about this and none of it was positive,” Mayor Erskin said. “I don’t want to do the move at all.”

He said he’s heard legitimate concerns from the public and from business owners.

Audience member Kent Deatrick said he was a council member when the decision was made to buy the NWD building as a place for a new industry to grow. However, he said if the move will save the community money, he would support it.

“That’s what we’re going to do with the site plan,” councilor Jason Cook said, “determine the costs.”

Council member Leasa Slocum added that money will have to be spent on renovation in the next few years anyway, and this might be the best way to handle the needs of the department.

Chief Weeks was asked to review the reasons for the move. He explained that economic factors have led to a department with more part-time officers than full-time, which makes the present office short on storage space for equipment and uniforms.

The building used for evidence storage is subject to temperature extremes and can damage materials. The area is also far from ideal for weapons storage.

State law requires a “clean room” for interviewing juveniles, free of distractions, Weeks said, and Morenci does not have that environment. He expects state regulations will be more strictly enforced in the next few years.

The existing office space at the NWD building would serve all the department’s needs, he said, and construction of a garage inside the back portion of the building would be used to store the two police cars.

Audience member Jan Sampson asked if the move was a want or a need. Weeks answered that he must be prepared for future changes.

“We have to address this issue sometime in the future,” he said, and he believes this is a more cost-effective approach than adding on to the existing police department.

Slocum said she wants to examine the costs and compare, and back off from the plan if it’s too expensive.

Councilor Keith Pennington said he was opposed to the move from the start—he had cast the only “no” vote—because he doesn’t like the location and he doesn’t want to give up the potential income from renting the building to a manufacturer.

“I do agree 100 percent that the police need more room,” he added.

Erbskorn said he was strongly supportive of the move initially, but now he’s moved to the center. He said he’s concerned about costs of the move in light of current economic conditions and also about the dislike of the plan from many citizens.

Weeks pointed out that council already approved the move and that he took the initiative to stop work out of respect for council’s decision to discuss it further.

Sampson said that council should have had the respect for citizens to inform them of the plan. This brought the discussion back to the June 8 meeting when council voted on the issue with no previous discussion at a council meeting.

“If you want us to be involved,” she said, “you need to let us know what there is to be involved in.”

After a discussion about what information Dailey’s engineering work would provide, Slocum announced her change of mind.

“I really would like to rescind my second on the motion,” she said. “I think there are other things to work out.”

No one else offered to second the motion and it died. The move to the new location is still approved, but advancing with engineering plans comes to a halt.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017