City council received only one comment from the public regarding a downtown development project.
Councilors voted unanimously Monday night to authorize city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder to submit an application for CDBG funds for the project.
The grant would help in the improvement of blighted property located at 203 and 205 W. Main Street and is pegged at $164,000 for exterior work on the buildings. Developer Ketan Patel would furnish matching funds of $237,000 to cover the exterior work.
Patel intends to open a Subway restaurant and office space on the street level and apartments on the second floor.
Patel told council that he already successfully operates a Subway in Hudson and he hopes to do the same in Morenci. He thanked council for his welcome to the community.
Mayor Keith Pennington said he received one comment from Morenci resident John Van Havel who spoke against the city seeking any grant. Van Havel told the mayor the government should not be giving away taxpayers’ dollars.
Councilor Tracy Schell disagreed.
“I think it is very wise for the city to take advantage of funds that have already been set aside,” she said.
SNOWMOBILES—City council voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to write an ordinance that would allow police to ticket the owners of snowmobiles rather than the operators.
Councilors had discussed options in the past in response to complaints of careless operation and trespassing on private property. One option is banning operation inside the city, as most communities in southern Michigan do.
There are many snowmobile operators who follow the existing law, Schell said, and she didn’t favor banning operation.
Because of the difficulty of apprehending snowmobile operators, council favored a measure that would allow police to follow a machine’s tracks back to the owner.
LIQUOR SALES—Councilors heard the first reading of a proposal to allow the sale of liquor on Sundays.
Existing city law does not allow Sunday sales, but due to a recent change in state law, council could decide to adopt the same wording as the state. The state now allows Sunday sales with a permit.
Now that the state law has changed, said Chief of Police Larry Weeks, a local business owner has requested the change for Morenci, also.
CONTRACT—Councilors voted 5-2 on a tentative contract extension for DPW workers. The new contract would leave benefits the same, but increase wages 1.5 percent in each of the next three years.
“I think the days of increases just because it’s another year are past,” Schell said. “You don’t see that in private companies, especially if they’re not unionized.”
She favored leaving wages and benefits steady during a time of falling city revenue. Jason Cook joined her in opposing the contract proposal.
Mayor Pennington noted that the city does not yet know about revenue sources for the next year.
SENIOR—Council voted to hire a worker through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, coordinated through Region II. A.A.R.P. will pay minimum wage and workman’s compensation costs for one senior to work up to 20 hours a week.
The city has the right to cancel the program at any time.
The employee is expected to assist the DPW at the cemetery and the recycling center.