By DAVID GREEN
The City of Morenci owns four vacant properties and has an option to buy a fifth that could each bring in some needed cash. City council members talked Monday about marketing the land and buildings in hopes of finding a buyer.
Legal and Finance committee chair Jeff Bell told councilors that his committee has spoken with local Realtor Brad Frederick about listing the property and will continue to meet with him to determine pricing.
The property includes:
• The former NWD building on Chestnut Street behind Wakefield Park;
• More than two acres of land along the east side of Mill Street;
• The green space between the Observer office and the hardware store;
• The former skating rink on East Main (the city has an option to buy the property);
• The former Morenci Area Hospital property between Sims Highway and Lincoln Street.
Council voted Monday to begin the process of splitting 7.78 acres of former hospital land from 1.65 acres associated with the Morenci Area EMS building.
CRA—Following a public hearing, council voted unanimously to establish two districts for the Commercial Rehabilitation Act (CRA) that gives city council the option of offering tax relief for new development and renovation for up to 10 years.
One district covers downtown property and the other encompasses businesses on the east end of town.
Morenci mayor Keith Pennington noted a common feeling among property owners that if they fix up their building, they will just be taxed more. The CRA would prevent any tax increase related to the value of the property for 10 years. The improvement must equal at least 10 percent of the taxable value of the property.
There is some vacant land in the districts, Pennington said, and if a building were constructed, the cost could be abated for a decade.
The tax abatement does not apply to local and state education taxes.
“Is it a good idea?” Pennington asked. “The city does need tax revenue, but the city doesn’t receive any increases in taxes anyway. That goes to the DDA and instead its funds would be cut.”
County equalization director Marty Marshall attended the meeting and responded to a question about whether a project would also receive the required approval from the county.
“We’re not going to undermine a local community’s efforts to increase its tax base,” he said.
If an abated property were to be sold, Marshall said, it could be transferred to the new owner with city council’s approval.
The rehabilitation districts could be in place by the end of the year.
PHONES—Mayor Pennington said he shared some citizens’ concern about the city’s new menu driven phone system. He will have the Public Safety committee discuss whether to continue using the new system or return to the old system where a person answered a call.
SUPPORT—Pennington responded to a letter to the editor regarding proposed downtown building design standards. The writer suggested that the city would be placing a burden on business owners rather than assisting them.
Pennington said that council has assisted business owners in many ways, such as in the demolition of old buildings, construction of the new parking lots and working to arrange grant programs that help property owners.
SEWER RATE—Council voted to set the sewer use charge at $3.37 per thousand gallons of water used, the same rate as the two previous years.
The rate is established annually to create a fund for maintenance and repair of the system.