By DAVID GREEN
The benefits of in-car computers for police cruisers are so overwhelming, says Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks, that there’s no question in his mind about replacing the existing models.
City council members agreed with him at the Aug. 13 meeting and voted to join in on a county initiative.
The existing computers came through a county grant, Weeks said, and some departments in the county are experiencing problems with them.
The county government has offered to replace the computers with a special rugged model at a cost of $1,382 annually, starting in the 2013-14 budget year. Technical support is included.
Tracy Schell, head of council's Public Safety committee, said the computers cost about $5,000 each.
Weeks said the program has no long-term commitment and the city could withdraw at any time if council decided to buy its own units.
Features of the county program include an automatic police car locator that tells the command post in Adrian, as well as any officer out on the road, the location of all other law enforcement vehicles in the county. This will allow rapid dispatch of officers where needed.
The computer will provide details on the nature of each call reported, including follow-up information that's not given on the regular radio channel.
The history of each address in regard to law enforcement matters is also available and the computer is connected to the nation-wide LIEN network of data.
Weeks also received council's approval to incorporate the Report Management System software that would provide what Weeks describes as “real criminal intelligence.”
Officers would use the software to enter data into a countywide records system that will store data off-site. Morenci officers would have access to records from other county agencies that could give insight into their own dealings with suspects.
“It’s a significant law enforcement tool and it makes officers safer,” Weeks said.
The program offered by the county is cheaper than the existing software, he said, and is much better.
The cost of the two computers and software is initially $4,604, plus a $380 annual maintenance fee for the software.
“We couldn’t do it without county support,” Weeks said before obtaining council's support. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
PILOT—Morenci city council members expect to learn more about the PILOT program—standing for “payment in lieu of taxes”—when a representative from the county equalization department visits Aug. 27.
The PILOT program allows certain entities that provide low-income housing to pay a fee rather than taxes. The program is in accordance with Michigan’s State Housing Development Authority Act of 1966.
A PILOT agreement allows the housing owner to pay up to 10 percent of rental income, minus utilities, instead of taxes.
The owners of the York Hills apartment complex have applied for the tax exemption and all 24 units are described as serving low income individuals.
City treasurer Crystal White told council members at the July 23 meeting that Whitman Crossings is also considering an application.
“It seems like we’re being forced to do something that’s not to the best interest of the city,” councilor Tracy Schell said Aug. 13 at council’s second discussion about the topic.
The York Hills application leaves council members with several questions. Mayor Keith Pennington wondered if the savings to the apartment owner must be used to reduce rent or to take on maintenance projects. He also wants to learn more about the qualifications that an applicant must meet to obtain the break.
Pennington said he’s conscious of anything that reduces revenue, not only for the city but for the school district, as well.
SALES—Schell said at the July 23 meeting that council has been asked to look at regulations governing door-to-door sales. Other than children’s fund-raising efforts, sales could be banned, she said, or they could go through a licensing restriction to know what items are being offered for sale.
Schell urged residents to contact city hall with suggestions about the issue.
PLANNING COMMISSION—A couple of issues are coming up that the planning commission must address, said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder, and a couple members are still needed.
POLICE—Chief Weeks told council that he has lost two part-time officers. Cory Daza and Brad Elston have both accepted full-time jobs elsewhere.
MAINTENANCE—Council voted to seeks bids to paint the exterior of city hall and to replace awnings. For the United Way Day of Action project, the City will suggest painting the Wakefield Park concession stand, and furnish the materials.
LIBRARY—Heather Walker and Kym Ries were approved to continue as Stair Public Library trustees for three-year terms.
TREES—A $1,300 grant will be sought from Consumers Energy to purchase 13 trees. The planting locations have been chosen, said city supervisor Barney Vanderpool, and if the grant is received, the trees will be planted in the fall.
TRAFFIC—Council approved a request by an E. Chestnut Street resident to close the 200 block of the street during a wedding ceremony Aug. 25. Closure is not crucial to traffic flow in the area, Chief Weeks said, and the people requesting closure consulted neighbors who would be affected.
Any future requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
MODEL T CLUB—Council discussed parking for the Model T Jamboree members who will visit Morenci on Saturday. More than 80 cars are expected. The Jamboree is based in Adrian and the group will travel to Hudson and Morenci in the morning before visiting Blissfield for lunch.
The final decision about parking will be left to Chief Weeks.
“I say we oblige them any way we can,” city administrator Renée Schroeder. “It’s bringing a lot of people to town.”
GOODWILL—Goodwill Industries of Southeast Michigan will bring tubs for another donation drive Sept. 24-28. The tubs will be placed at the recycling center.
HABITAT—Schroeder said that only one prospective family attended the informational meeting at the library to learn about becoming a Habitat for Humanity home owner. An Aug. 27 deadline was set to find a Morenci family interested in participating in a Habitat restoration project.