By DAVID GREEN
Morenci city council heard plenty of response to a proposed rebuild of two parking lots, and few very of them supported the project.
Facing a Feb. 22 deadline for submission of an application for grant money, council will meet in another special session at 8 a.m. Thursday to make a final decision about the proposal.
Scott Merillat of Associated Engineers reviewed five proposals with various parking layouts. Each call for additional curbing and each include small concrete “islands” for shrubs, trees or other plantings.
Merillat expressed concerns about the narrow width of Baker and Orchard streets. Police chief Larry Weeks also talked about safety issues on the narrow streets and wondered if one-way traffic would be needed if the streets were curbed but not widened.
Mayor Keith Pennington noted that if the city obtained the grant, 80 percent of each dollar spent would come through the grant. This, he said, might make encourage council to overcome some obstacles, such as widening Baker Street.
He said his main concern for the rebuild would be to create traffic patterns that are safe for both drivers and pedestrians.
“I want everybody to be thinking that there are solutions beyond what’s here now,” he said.
Concerns were expressed about reducing the area of the parking lot that the fire department uses for training and maintenance; about the closure of a private drive north of city hall; about the difficulty for trucks to make deliveries at the back doors of businesses; about the addition of sidewalks behind businesses;
About a plan to have parking spaces up against the back of businesses; about the difficulty of maintaining green areas; about the lack of parking spaces for election days; about green space along the back of businesses; about trees and shrubs blocking vision for drivers; about the possibility of people throwing trash inside the proposed Dumpster containment areas, and other concerns.
Concern about snow removal was mentioned, but city superintendent Barney Vanderpool responded by saying that his crew could work around anything.
Planning commission member Brenda Spiess was one of few people in the audience of 25 people who appreciated the open spaces and addition of greenery to the parking area.
“If we’re going to attract new businesses to Morenci and keep our downtown vibrant, aesthetics are very important,” she said. “Right now, this is an eyesore out here and it could be welcoming.”
Colleen Leddy suggested starting with the assumption that it’s important to incorporate beautification and then work toward making it happen.
Jacob Barnes, the city’s zoning administrator, also agreed that greenery is an important aspect for attracting businesses and customers.
Mayor Pennington thanked the audience for their attendance.
“You have raised very valid concerns,” he said, but added that he doesn’t want to allow the funding opportunity to pass by.
“We’ve never seen this kind of grant before,” he said.
City administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder said it’s very rare to find a grant opportunity that would address parking areas.