By DAVID GREEN
Morenci city council members voted unanimously Monday night to accept one-year options to purchase two parcels of farmland on the east side of the industrial park.
A 17.7 acre parcel owned by the Lay family lies adjacent to the industrial park and includes the Morenci Skateland building. A 19.3 acre parcel to the east is owned by the Horton family and includes a house and outbuildings.
Mayor Keith Pennington told council that he heard the property might be available for purchase and he negotiated the 12-month option agreements at a cost of $1,000 for each parcel.
That will give council a year to decide if it wants to move forward with the purchase. Also during that time, the industrial park will be marketed as having a much larger area available, and also place the skating rink building in property databases.
“It’s not that we have a buyer waiting in the wings,” Pennington said, “it’s not that we’re going to somehow acquire grant money to buy more property, but it does help the city plan for the future.”
The time to buy, he said, is when prices are low, when a party is ready to sell, and when you’re ready to buy, but not in an emergency situation where you have to buy. I think the city will be served well by these agreements.”
The cost of the properties comes in at $226,600, but that could be partially offset by the sale of the skating rink and the house, and by farmland rent.
Council member Brenda Spiess gave her support of the mayor’s plan. A lot of time is being devoted to industrial development, she said, and this property will open up more options. After a year council can reassess the situation.
Councilor Rebecca Berger said that development groups suggest planning for changes many years down the road and purchasing the land now could avoid having to expand industrial property in a different area of town, with the need of bringing in utilities.
PALM PLASTICS BUILDING—Mayor Pennington met with a representative of the Toledo-based Regional Growth Partnership, an independent group serving as an economic development agency for a region that includes Monroe, Lenawee and Hillsdale counties.
Pennington was told that the Palm Plastics building appears to be in the top tier of industrial space. Currently, there are no other buildings of that caliber available in the region, and very few in the next class down.
Pennington said the report gave him encouragement for future use of the facility.
CHARTER—City council members are willing to move forward on major revisions to the city charter, if approved by voters.
Some minor changes were made in 1963, Pennington said, but no major changes have occurred in 78 years.
Council will discuss the issue in more detail in future meetings, but Pennington gave a few idea about what might be done. For example, the charter makes reference to the town constable, a position that no longer exists.
Changes could also be made in the organization of employees, with department heads reporting to the administrator rather than to council.
In order to make changes, voters would have to approve a request to do so and then elect nine people to a charter commission. Finally, voters would decide whether or not to accept the commission’s recommendations.
ADMINISTRATOR—The City is accepting applications to replace city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder through March 22. Schroeder will retire at the end of the year.
Interviews are scheduled to begin the first week of April and the successful candidate is expected to be hired at the April 22 council meeting.
WEBSITE—Council voted to hire the Okemos-based firm Web Ascender to create a new website for the city. The cost is $4,500 to build the site and $500 annually for maintenance and hosting.
Councilor Brenda Spiess said she wants a more functional website that’s not a generic template. The website will include an economic development section.
FROST LAWS—The state and county frost laws are preventing semi trucks from entering Morenci, said city supervisor Barney Vanderpool. He spoke with an MDOT representative who will appeal the situation higher up in the organization.
Frost laws place seasonal restrictions on vehicle weight when winter is ending to prevent damage to roads while thawing is underway.
AUDITOR—City treasurer Crystal White will seek bids from auditing firms for a three-year contract.