Morenci city council 12.16

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The former Morenci Area Hospital building will likely be demolished next year following a vote Monday by city council members.

Council voted 6-1 to accept a proposal for demolition from ProMedica Health System, providing a few changes are made the contract.

Once the property is cleared, cleaned of environmental problems and seeded with grass, it would be turned over the city, along with the former clinic building and ambulance garage.

Tracy Schell cast the only “no” vote.

Representatives from ProMedica first approached city council in April about demolition when plans were announced to move Morenci Health Center—Dr. Gray’s office, and the physical therapy and laboratory services—plus the senior citizen center to the Charles Fay Village building.

In November, city council discussed the issue and considered the costs of renovation, maintenance and utilities. Councilors hired an environmental firm to review ProMedica’s demolition proposal and a report was given Monday.

Rod Cole of A+ Environmental spoke to council about two buried tanks—one for gasoline and one for fuel oil. ProMedica’s proposal includes removal of the tanks, but Cole suggested a few additional tests for cleanup process. He said the tests would likely be done by the environmental firm ProMedica will use, but they weren’t listed in the proposal.

Mayor Keith Pennington asked about the inside of the building. Based on the age of the structure, said Lori Johnston, senior vice president of continuing care for ProMedica, it’s extremely likely that floor and ceiling tiles contain asbestos.

Jason Cook asked Cole for his opinion on the issue.

“If we demolish the building, is it going to be safe for what we want to do—to build a house on or for my kids to play soccer on?” Cook asked.

Cole said he believes the buried tanks and the asbestos are all issues that can be dealt with. He sees Promedica’s proposal as a reasonable plan.

“I think it makes sense,” he said. “I think you’re good to go.”

Council also considered a proposal made earlier in the meeting by John Van Havel, an officer of the Morenci Area Historical Society.

Van Havel said the group’s museum [the former Allen Jewelry store] is too small and he suggested donating the hospital to the history group for a larger museum.

He said his group would not need the entire structure and he listed other suggested uses that he’s heard: community meeting room, starter space for new businesses, overnight lodging, farmer’s market and flea market.

“There are probably dozens more ideas,” he said.

Pennington asked what would happen if the city turned down ProMedica’s offer of demolition—estimated to cost at least $180,000—and then later the Historical Society decided it couldn’t use the building or pay for maintenance.

“I don’t think at this point I have an answer,” Van Havel said.

He added that he hopes citizens don’t look back later and wish they had saved the building rather than agree to demolition.

Van Havel said his group is also negotiating for the use of a historic home in town to use as a museum.

Pennington asked for opinions from council members and Greg Braun expressed his concern about the costs of upkeep and maintenance. He said the cleaned green space left after demolition could also benefit the city.

City supervisor Barney Vanderpool also expressed concern about the costs to the city of maintaining the structure.

The environmental clean-up, alone, would be a financial burden to the city, Pennington said.

Cook made a motion to move forward with demolition, with three additions to the proposal: additional testing as recommended by Cole; the use of a warranty deed as recommended by the city attorney; and restoration of the vacant property to residential standards.

Johnston agreed to give council another month to decide if the hospital garage should be included in the demolition.

Johnston said a demolition contractor would be lined up soon and construction at the Fay building should be completed by the end of January.

City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder said several requests for memorabilia were made, such as plaques and photographs. Those items will be brought to city hall, Johnston said.

Schell later explained her vote against demolition. Although she knows a significant investment would be required to make the building usable for other purposes, she believes that eventually “we will probably regret making the decision to tear down yet another building.”

  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    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.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Station.2
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  • 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.

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