By DAVID GREEN
Morenci mayor Keith Pennington knew the city put together a good application package in its bid to win funding for a major parking lot project. He just wasn’t sure if it was good enough.
He learned Thursday that it was just right.
The Michigan Strategic Fund approved last week the city’s Notice of Intent for an Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement (ICE) Grant. Approval will bring nearly $600,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds for a parking lot improvement project that includes the demolition of three buildings.
The city agrees to spend nearly $160,000 on the project. The Downtown Development Authority will kick in an additional $4,000 and the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce will give $2,000.
“The completed project will address an expensive maintenance issue that Morenci has been staring at for several years,” Mayor Pennington said. “It should meet the needs of the south commercial district for decades to come while greatly improving the safety and aesthetics of the area.”
The project will rebuild the city’s two parking areas south of Main Street and widen the adjacent Baker Street to meet a standard width.
Orchard Street from LaGrange to city hall will also be widened from the existing narrow width. To accomplish this, the house on the northeast corner of Orchard and LaGrange plus the old community center building will be demolished.
The proposal also calls for acquisition, but not demolition, of the car wash property for parking, although the business is now in the process of being repaired for re-opening.
On North Street, the proposal would bring parking and two-way traffic in the alley north of Johnson’s Hardware through the demolition of the Dunbar Auction House.
Morenci’s share of the project would be paid with money from the sewer and water and street funds. The project would involve curbing and gutters on the widened roads and a new water line.
Concern was expressed last month about the city’s expenditure of funds, but Pennington pointed out the project would bring a return of more than 400 percent for every dollar invested. City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder told council that it’s very rare to see state funds available for parking lot projects.
The mayor has hopes of future development in areas that will be served by the new parking surfaces. In the initial planning for the grant application, he spoke of his desire to protect Main Street frontage for commercial purposes.
Pennington thanked city council members last month for working quickly to meet the application deadline—a process that required extra work beyond the normal roles of council.
“I appreciate the work of a forward thinking council that is not satisfied with maintaining what Morenci has been, but is actively pursuing what Morenci could become,” the mayor said.
He thanked staff members for the work accomplished and noted that a lot of effort remains for a successful completion of the project.
“Assuming all the paperwork is completed successfully,” he said, “we hope to be ready to award bids for construction in July.”
A tentative schedule calls for the survey work to begin in the next two weeks and the preparation for property acquisition within the month.
Demolition bids would be advertised in early May and details of the renovation plan would be made final within six weeks.
Final grant approval is expected within 60 days, followed by the acceptance of demolition bids and the advertisement for the construction work.