Morenci city council voted 5-1 Monday to exercise its right on a purchase option for property owned by the Paul Lay Trust and also approved the sale of a portion of the property.
The property is located on the east side of Morenci and includes the former skating rink.
Council approved a one-year purchase option on the land in March, noted mayor Keith Pennington, with the idea of selling the skating rink property and keeping the farm land for an industrial park expansion. The 85 acres currently available in the industrial park would grow by 18 acres with the Lay property purchase.
Last month the city listed several proper-ties with the Gil Henry real estate fi rm and that led to a contact who became interested in the former rink. In order to sell the rink, Pennington explained, the purchase of the farm land was also necessary.
Jay and Kerry Nieman have signed a purchase agreement to buy the rink for $38,500 plus $1,000 in property taxes. Jay, who owns a fishing lure and fishing charter company, expects to invest another $50,000 in the building to suit his needs and to create offi ce rental space at the front of the building.
Purchasing the property would also give the city access to the industrial park from Main Street.
Pennington said he’s encouraged by the number of inquiries for vacant development land, however, a few investors are seeking more property than what’s currently available in Morenci’s industrial park.
“By taking an option on the farmland,” he said, “we were able to respond to an inquiry seeking 110 acres. We don’t know where we stand.”
The property could be sold tomorrow, he said, or a year could pass before another inquiry arrives.
The mayor said he’s a firm believer in acquiring property when it’s available and selling for a reasonable price rather than waiting until it has to be quickly purchased to meet a developer’s needs. The price would certainly increase in that case, he said.
“If the city wants to bring jobs to town,” Pennington said, “we have to plan more than a year in advance.”
The deal gives the city possession of the skating rink for $35,000—to be sold to the Niemans immediately—and to the 18 acres of land for $66,600 ($3,700 per acre).
The financing plan calls for a $70,000 loan over 20 years at 3.41 percent. Annual payments are set at $4,880 and annual revenue at $3,800 through farm land rental and property taxes.
Council’s newest member, Ron Apger, suggested that citizens should be outraged with the transaction in light of recent cuts in staff and services.
Apger suggested declining the of er for the sale of the rink and negotiating a higher price. He also urged council to sell the portion of the industrial park that resides in Ohio so the city would no longer pay taxes on it.
Council members Brenda Spiess and Tracy Schell both expressed support for the sale, saying that the city should take advantage of the situation despite the current financial challenges.
Apger then said he wasn’t opposed to the transaction, but wanted it to be done differently. He did express some caution about the deal, however. Every time other nearby communities such as Hudson and Blissfield expand their industrial parks, it’s a negative for Morenci because they all have something Morenci’s park lacks: direct access to a state highway.
Pennington said he isn’t attached to the Ohio property, but it’s landlocked on three sides by another property owner and therefore would be of interest only to that one party.
Only Apger opposed a motion to buy the Lay property for $101,600 and he also voted against the borrowing $70,000.
Council later approved Apger’s motion to offer the 16 acres of land in Ohio for sale. Pennington voted against the motion because he is interested in working toward a land swap, trading the Ohio property for land in Michigan adjacent to the industrial park.