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.

Weston Road work scaled back 2012.06.27

Written by David Green.

Lenawee County Road Commission managing director Scott Merillat thought he had a good project lined up for Morenci area drivers.

The county’s portion of Weston Road from Mulberry south to the city limits was scheduled for seal coating and the city’s short section leading to Main Street would be rebuilt.

Then came a policy change from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the project fell apart.

“At the last minute, MDOT stopped all projects for review and then came back with a $400,000 limit for force account projects for any one agency,” Merillat said.

A “force account” is when noncompetitive bidding is used. In this case, the road commission uses its own labor, equipment and materials rather than contracting the work out to private companies.

Merillat said his agency had plans for  various resurfacing projects throughout the county using $2.1 million in federal funds.

“This left us scrambling to assemble a revised construction schedule for this year,” explained Merillat.

Seal coat for the county portion of Weston Road was eliminated from federal funding and instead county funds will be used. The work on the city’s section was also taken out of federal funding plans and scaled back. 

The City of Morenci was expected to pay 20 percent of the costs, plus engineering, to have the old surface removed and rebuilt with a new, wider base and improved drainage.

Now the project has been reduced to resurfacing, what Merillat calls a “Band-Aid to make it drivable” for a few more years. The city will pay $14,372 for the work.

Merillat said when he left the road commission in 2000 for another job, road overlay cost $35,000 a mile. Twelve years later the cost is close to $100,000 a mile.  Seal coating cost $7,000 a mile, but now stands at about $18,000.

Those cost increases pose a huge challenge when revenue is tied to tax revenue via the sale of gasoline.

“The state tax per gallon was last raised in 1997 and the gallons used are decreasing based on increasing pump prices,” Merillat said. “Unfortunately, during the same time period the cost of materials has increased by two to three times the amount.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says the state needs to invest $1.4 billion every year in road repair, but the funds haven’t been forthcoming in that amount.

Like many people in Merillat’s line of work, he’s worried about the future of the country’s roads and bridges.

“Reduced revenue with increased costs makes for a terrifying outlook on our national infrastructure,” he said.

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