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

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

County law enforcement millage proposed 2012.04.04

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

After Lenawee County Commissioners began talking about the possibility of a county-wide millage for police coverage, an effort got underway to collect information from local government units about law enforcement needs.

Adrian commissioner Tom Neill, a former sheriff’s department deputy, said at a commission meeting in late January that a millage is needed to avoid additional deputy layoffs.

Cletus Smith, a commissioner from Madison Township and another former sheriff’s department officer, said that a millage should be the last option, but he stated the importance of the public believing that Lenawee County is safe. Continuing reductions in sheriff’s department staff can’t continue, he said.

Morenci mayor Keith Pennington attended the meeting and spoke about how the city’s police are often called upon to handle issues in neighboring townships that don’t have their own officers.

His opinion is that a county-wide property tax would not benefit the southern area of the county.

Pennington was asked to serve on a new 12-member Public Safety Advisory Committee to assess law enforcement needs in the county and to research funding options for police coverage.

The group is to offer a report by the end of April. That deadline will give commissioners time to decide if a millage proposal should be placed on the August primary ballot.

Included in the committee’s chores is the order to determine “what impact the proposed cuts to the sheriff’s department budget will have on public safety in each community and Lenawee County as a whole.”

At Morenci’s Feb. 27 city council meeting, Mayor Pennington led council members and other city employees through an eight-question survey form that the committee created in order to obtain information and opinions.

Pennington turned to Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks for his opinion on various Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department services.

Weeks said jail operations are the most significant to him among the seven items listed, followed by animal control.

“You would be shocked with how many animal problems we have to deal with,” he said.

Next he chose mutual aid with local law enforcement agencies, but noted that the service has been scaled back.

Cuts in the OMNI drug enforcement agency has limited its presence in Morenci, he said, but the agency does respond to requests. Unfortunately, the smaller agency is now unable to give as much attention to issues as the chief would like.

“I would be surprised if OMNI exists in a few years,” Weeks said.

He closed out the list with the dive/marine team, complaint investigations and traffic enforcement.

The survey sought information about the effect of proposed budget cuts for Morenci.

“If the county can’t send an officer [to a township location], Morenci Police Department will likely be called,” said Morenci fire chief Chad Schisler. “That will take our officer out of town.”

More and more often, he said, the county and state units arrive on the scene later than in the past and the first response comes from Morenci.

Cuts in Michigan State Police funding will likely diminish the agency’s presence further, Weeks said. 

In response to a question about collaboration, it was suggested that the sheriff could meet with township boards to seek contracts for coverage.

“We already pay for county road patrol through taxes,” Weeks said.

Council was stymied by the sixth question on the form: Do you feel there is a need for providing additional funding for the Sheriff’s Department and for law enforcement services in general?

“That’s a loaded question,” said councilor Robert Jennings. “Of course they need more money.”

Pennington said the committee came up with three ideas for additional funding: a levy, contractual services and reallocating existing county funding (taking from another agency and moving it to law enforcement).

“Do current services meet your needs?” Pennington asked. “Are you willing to pay more?”

With no answers forthcoming, Pennington moved on to the next query: For communities with their own law enforcement services, what additional staff and funding is needed?

“Is council willing to extend our coverage without additional money?” Weeks asked.

“It would increase our costs unless we say ‘no,’” council member Tracy Schell said.

City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder asked how the city’s police could morally not cover an incident in one of the townships if requested?

Weeks said it’s up to council to tell him what they want him to do.

The final question asked councilors if they would be in favor of an additional county-wide millage dedicated to law enforcement funding.

After a period of silence, councilor Jeff Bell said that question leads back to number six, asking if there’s a need for additional funds.

At that point more than one council member gave “no” as an answer.

The sheriff’s department budget for law enforcement has fallen about $800,000 since 2008 and is targeted for a further $500,000 reduction for 2013. Road patrol coverage has decreased by seven officers during that time.

County administrator Marty Marshall reports that about a third of a mill is needed to produce $1 million of revenue for the county. There’s a direct relationship between the revenue the county receives and the services the county is able to provide, Marshall wrote in a letter about the county’s standing.

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