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.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    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.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016