By DAVID GREEN
Morenci might have downtown trees once again if city council is successful in winning a grant.
Council members voted 5-1 Monday to seek a state Downtown Infrastructure Grant that would cover 85 percent of the cost for 20 concrete sidewalk planters and small trees, plus two benches.
City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder collected information for the grant that would pay for the 60-inch wide containers that stand 42 inches deep. Each container weighs nearly a ton and includes a reservoir at the bottom to hold water.
Four would be placed on North Street and the remainder on Main Street. The benches would also be placed on Main Street.
Schroeder said her preference was to order containers that have recycled glass embedded in the concrete. The color would come close to matching the downtown streetlight poles, she said, and the glass would glitter in the sunlight. This option would add $2,200 to the city's cost for a total of $8,680, minus private contributions. Verbal commitments from four local organizations would reduce the city’s cost by $1,750.
Councilors Robert Jennings and Rebecca Berger stated their opposition to paying extra for the glass-embedded style, but Jeff Bell said he thought the green containers would be more aesthetically pleasing.
Tracy Schell joined Jennings and Berger in voting against the motion, and with Greg Braun absent, the motion died in a tie.
Pennington said council wouldn't even be discussing the issue if it weren't for the grant money.
"To get 15 cents on the dollar, I would get as many of those dollars as I could," he said.
Berger wasn't convinced. Even the plain, gray containers would be an improvement over the existing ones, she said, and she thought the money should go for other needs. Schell agreed.
"I just don't think we should be spending the money," she said.
A vote to go with the gray containers also ended in a 3-3 vote.
After further discussion, Pennington asked if any of the initial "no" voters wished to reconsider. Another vote left only Schell in opposition to buying the glass-embedded containers.
"If we are successful," Pennington said, "I'm willing to try to get additional private support."
Schroeder expects to learn in March whether or not the city was selected to receive a grant.
CONTRACTS—Council unanimously approved continuing contracts with electrical inspector Dean Newell, zoning administrator Jacob Barnes and building official Kevin Arquette.
ALPINE—Council voted to acquire the two vacant buildings on Salisbury that were built by M&S Manufacturing and most recently used by Alpine Manufacturing. The Lenawee Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) will pay for a Phase I environmental inspection, and if no concerns result from that, the city will buy the property for $1.
This will resolve all issues the city has with LEDC concerning the failure to repay the city for a loan given for previous environmental work at the property before Alpine moved into the facility.
COMMITTEES—Mayor Pennington made the following committee appointments:
Finance and Legal—Jeff Bell, chair; Greg Braun and Brenda Spiess.
Public Safety—Tracy Schell (chair), Robert Jennings and Braun.
Public Works—Rebecca Berger (chair), Spiess and Jennings.
MILEAGE—Council approved a mileage reimbursement rate of 56.5 cents a mile to match the federal schedule.
LEDC—The City will resume making quarterly payments of $900 to the LEDC now that the Alpine building issue is resolved.
POLICE—Chief of Police Larry Weeks announced that officer Ryan Hillard will serve as acting sergeant while Weeks attends classes next year.
HEARING—No comment was heard from the public regarding a proposed apartment rehabilitation project in cooperation with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
Ketan Patel, owner of the building that houses the Subway restaurant, intends to use MSHDA funds to create two one-bedroom apartments above the restaurant. Patel would pay $18,250 to go along with $54,750 in state funds.
In order to obtain a grant, at least 51 percent of a community's population must be in the low-to-moderate income category. Morenci stands at 58 percent. One of the apartments must have rent based on the income of the tenant.