By DAVID GREEN
When Morenci mayor Doug Erskin was elected in November 2007, he had campaigned for better enforcement of property maintenance issues.
He also stated that portions of the International Property Maintenance Code—regulations adopted by Morenci City Council in 2003—might be too harsh for a small town.
“They’re really good guidelines,” he said, “and some that you have to comply with, but there should be some leeway on other issues.”
Erskin was looking for change in the enforcement of maintenance problems, but he hoped to find “friendly” ways to create change, rather than demands that came straight from the code book.
Now Erskin is asking council members to repeal the International Property Maintenance Code due to financial conditions.
At the Nov. 10 council meeting, Erskin read the following recommendation:
“Due to the economic conditions that many of us are facing in the community, and since the standards called for in the International Property Maintenance Code place such a high financial burden on the residents of Morenci, the Mayor recommends that the International Property Maintenance Code of 2000, adopted on June 23rd of 2003 be repealed.”
Erskin sought no immediate action from council, but he will seek a motion for the recommendations at the Nov. 24 council meeting.
He will seek opinions from the public about how to proceed with maintenance issues.
Erskin gave one other recommendation for councilors to consider. He said he’s heard concerns from citizens about council voting too quickly on issues.
The mayor suggests that an issue should be read twice—at two meetings—before a vote is taken.
“This will allow time for the citizens of Morenci to interact with council before a vote is taken on the issue,” Erskin said.
Erskin also revived a practice from many years ago of reading the minutes from the previous meeting at the start of the meeting.
POLICE—Police chief Larry Weeks told council about a change in basic standards through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) that requires police officers to log at least 520 hours annually in order to maintain certification, beginning in 2012.
This would hurt many police departments in small communities, Weeks said, because part-time officers are not always able to obtain that much work in a year.
Weeks and other police chiefs are urging the MCOLES to abandon this idea and instead establish minimum standards through training requirements rather than hours worked.
Council unanimously supported a resolution calling for a change in the standards.
CONTRACT—Councilors approved changes in a proposed union contract with police officers.
Legal and finance chair Keith Pennington presented the motion and was asked by Mayor Erskin if this would open the door to further negotiations. Pennington answered that he did not think it would.
“What happens if it’s rejected?” Erskin asked.
“There would be no changes in the existing contract that expired in June,” Pennington said.
Negotiations could begin again during the regular 90-day period before the annual contract expiration date.
APPEALS BOARD—Council and audience members discussed the existence of an appeals board for the International Property Maintenance Code( IPMC), as specified in the code.
City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder said that she thought the city’s Construction Board of Appeals was also designated to serve as the maintenance code appeals board.
Erskin stated that board appointments had expired and said the board no longer existed.
Schroeder pointed out that council re-appointed board positions Jan. 14 to two-year terms, and that same board was designated to serve as the rental inspection board of appeals.
Board members are:
• Don Merillat, general contractor;
• Chris Merillat (chair), general contractor;
• Chris McCowan, mason;
• Tom Barnes, electrician;
• Larry Borton, plumber.
Schroeder said the city’s rental inspection ordinance, adopted in 2004, specifies the IPMC as the applicable standards. Therefore, she believes appeals would go to the rental board.
Erskin suggested that the city attorney give an opinion on the issue.
APPOINTMENTS—Council members approved the mayor’s recommendations for department heads and appointments, with no changes from the existing list: chief of police, Larry Weeks; city superintendent, Lonnie Vanderpool; city administrator/clerk, Renée Schroeder; city treasurer, Stephanie Mossing; library director, Colleen Leddy; zoning administrator, Jack Baird (residential) and Jacob Barnes (commercial); code enforcement officer and building inspector, Kevin Arquette; EMS coordinator, Cindy Lazarz; fire chief, Chad Schisler; city assessor, Marty Marshall; city attorney, Fred Lucas.