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

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Planning commission: Group meets for the first time since 2010 2013.04.24

Written by David Green.


Morenci has a planning commission functioning after a break of more than two years, and the group met April 15 to discuss a pair of issues.

Joe Varga was chosen to chair the commission. Other members are Lowell Oberhaus, Brad Frederick, Keith Pennington, Robert Jennings and Brad Lonis. The final member, Art Erbskorn, was absent. Zoning administrator Jacob Barnes will advise the group.

City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder told the group that the planning commission handles zoning changes and land use issues and creates a master plan for the city. In the past, commissioners have addressed the city's sidewalk plan and wrote regulations for the industrial park.

Items of concern can originate with the planning commission, Pennington said, but city council must vote on the group's recommendations.

"I view this as a long-term planning body," he said. "It is my hope that the general posture of the planning commission would be to look at the effect on the community in the long run."

SIDEWALK SEATING—Planners discussed a request from the Village Inn restaurant to allow two outdoor tables for sidewalk seating. Discussion included how much clearance would be available for pedestrians, whether or not smoking would be allowed, and the fact that at least two other businesses already use the sidewalk for display purposes.

Pennington said there's nothing in the city ordinance that allows for private use of a public sidewalk and commissioners should consider an ordinance to make it legal. Schroeder suggested something that's not cumbersome to business owners.

Oberhaus suggested that the restaurant owner could be allowed to try it out this summer while commissioners worked on an ordinance. Frederick suggested collecting information from other nearby communities that allow sidewalk seating. The issue was tabled until the May 16 meeting. (Planning commission meetings are now scheduled on the third Thursday of the month).

AUCTION—Bill Foster spoke to the group about starting weekly auctions on the former Parker Chemical Company land that he owns with his brother. Foster would like to offer Saturday auctions from May through October similar to the Hillsdale auction. Portable toilets and a cash van would be placed on the property for the sale, he said, but everything else would be cleared by the end of the day.

"I think it would be great for Morenci and something good to try," Foster said.

Participants could rent space to use as a swap meet or add items to the general auction. There are four gates in the fenced-in property, Foster said, and one of those would be used as an entry.

The property is currently zoned for warehousing, but Pennington wondered if a form of commercial zoning would allow for more activities. He agreed that it would be good to give it a try, but he wasn't sure how to get to that point since warehouse zoning doesn't allow outdoor storage. Jennings countered that nothing would be stored there.

Lonis suggested issuing a temporary permit to give Foster the opportunity to try it out. If it goes well, he said, Foster could consider seeking a zoning change. A variance could be obtained from the zoning board of appeals, Pennington said.

The issue was tabled pending a decision by Foster.

AESTHETICS—Pennington said city council has discussed the possibility of creating an ordinance to govern the aesthetics of downtown buildings. He seeks a "mild" ordinance that would address how existing buildings are maintained or improved, as well as the appearance of any new buildings.

For example, he said, some communities list what can and can't be used for exterior building materials. For example, used steel siding might be disallowed.

City council has been divided on the issue, he said, with councilors favoring a libertarian view that a property owner should be allowed to do whatever he or she wants.

"I think there's value in some controls," Pennington said.

He contrasted the rehabilitation of the Subway building to that of the building where the State Line Gem and Mineral Society is located. Oberhaus asked what the business community thinks about an aesthetics ordinance.

"There's some opposition," Pennington said. "It depends on who you speak with."

He said there's no thought about a retroactive measure; only on improvements made.

Pennington asked what commissioners think about instituting the Commercial Rehabilitation Act, a state measure that grants a tax reduction when rehabilitating commercial property. He suggested that a basic level of aesthetic control could be put in place for all improvements and a higher level for Commercial Rehabilitation Act participation.

Frederick said it makes sense to offer it.

"Maybe someone is thinking about it and this would get them over the hump," he said.

LIBRARY—Pennington suggested that the planning commission should address the administrative role of the Stair Public Library board. He said there appears to be discrepancies between state law and local ordinances.

He gave two examples:

• A council member attends the board meetings but can't vote, however, state law says ex officio members can vote.

• The library board recommends new board members to council for approval, but state law states that the mayor recommends new members.

"It doesn't make sense how the library board perpetuates itself," Pennington said. "I don't know of another board that selects its own members."

He said it takes away from the role of council that the state intended. Pennington said he is not seeking jurisdiction over library programming.

Library director Colleen Leddy said the board has access to an attorney versed in library law and clarification about the issue could be obtained from him. She questioned if the issue was a matter for the planning commission to discuss.

City attorney Fred Lucas later confirmed that the planing commission should not address the library issue.

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