The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Morenci city council 2012.02.15

Written by David Green.


Morenci city council members began a discussion Monday about a problem that’s troubled city employees for years: Tracking down the responsible parties from rental units and land contract deals.

City hall staff is trying to get on top of problems they experience frequently with people moving in and out of houses, said mayor Keith Pennington.

“They’re tracking down not only who owns the property but also who is responsible for water bills,” he said.

Several homes in town are advertised for rent or for sale. In many cases, the potential renters agree to sign a land contract to purchase the home.

Building inspector Kevin Arquette and city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder suggested to city attorney Fred Lucas that land contract sales could be included in the rental inspection program. Pennington explained the recommendation from Lucas was that land contracts could be registered with the county register of deeds, any property that was not registered would immediately fall under the rental inspection program. If a question of ownership arose, staff could call the county office. If registered, city hall would not be involved. If not registered, the property would fall under the rental inspection program.

Councilor Brenda Spiess didn’t see how that would help with water and property tax payments. In order to obtain water service, she suggested, perhaps renters and land contract buyers could be required to sign an agreement stating they are responsible for water payments.

At times, the mayor said, multiple parties are identified as the land owners and the water bill is split up. He knows that apartment complexes generally accept only one person of record to be responsible for water bill payments and he suggests the city do the same.

If property is not recorded, added city treasurer Crystal White, it cannot be claimed for the Homestead Property Tax Credit in the buyer’s name.

City staff needs to find out who’s accountable for the bills with people just moving in and out, White said.

Assistant city clerk Diane Varga said the problem is a little out of hand and does affect the water program.

“I do want to make sure that property taxes and water bills are not only handled fairly, but also efficiently,” Pennington said, “so our staff is not spending hours and hours chasing all of this down.”

Arquette asked council members if they thought it would help to include land contract sales in the rental inspection program.

Council member Jeff Bell said although it may be helpful with problem cases, it would also burden other buyers who are paying their bills.

Pennington thinks a lot could be accomplished simply by adding a line to water service agreements stating that the signer is responsible for payments until they give written notice that they are no longer living in the residence.

“That should really clarify who’s responsible for the bills,” he said, “and it  gives them some impetus to come in and say, ‘I’ve moved out.’”

Police chief Larry Weeks told council there was one situation where the buyer of a land contract got into trouble in an unrelated issue, but in discussion with the person, Weeks learned he was receiving state rental assistance that was being applied for the purchase of the home on a land contract. 

He suspects that some people may be circumventing rules regarding state assistance.

“Your understanding,” Pennington said, “is that state assistance that is awarded for rent is not eligible to be awarded in a land contract or purchase?”

“Yes,” Weeks responded. “That’s what I was advised when that incident came up previously.”

He said that other interaction in similar situations imply there are potentially more occurrences taking place.

“That’s why I think it’s important that council addresses the issue and takes a look at it.”

Oversight of the issue is provided by the Department of Human Services. Pennington said he’s willing to speak with representatives of the department to make sure funds are dispersed correctly in the city.

Council member Robert Jennings suggested tabling discussion on the issue while gathering further information while councilor Greg Braun cautioned that council needs to continue working on the matter. Braun suggested speaking with other community leaders to see if they have ideas that Morenci could adopt.  Mayor Pennington suggested we could gather information and have further discussion of the issue within 30 days.

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