By DAVID GREEN
Beer will be served at Morenci’s next Town and Country Festival. City council members voted 5-2 Monday to accept a proposal from the festival committee for a beer tent in Wakefield Park.
The proposal was opposed by council members Greg Braun and Keith Pennington.
Committee member Michelle Grieder said beer sales would be used as a fund raiser and as an effort to attract more people to the festival.
Kori Christle, also on the festival committee, told councilors that the beer tent proposal is a safer approach than the unsupervised drinking area that council has approved in the past for softball tournaments.
Council voted against a drinking area permit for this year’s festival and the annual softball tournament was subsequently moved to Fayette where alcohol consumption is allowed at the ball fields.
The proposal calls for cooperation with Morenci’s Eagles club. The Eagles will obtain a liquor license and use that to buy beer and supplies. The club will also purchase an insurance policy for the festival weekend.
Festival committee members will assist in the tent and the Eagles will donate half of the profits to the festival.
The beer tent will be in operation from 6 p.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights during the festival.
Members of REACT, a volunteer security group, will be on hand during the sales and they will have radio contact with the Morenci Police Department. At least eight security guards are expected when the tent is open.
The location of the tent has not yet been determined, but the tent will be surrounded by two snow fences, with only one entrance/exit. A portable toilet will be located inside the tent.
Identification will be checked at the entrance and no beer will be allowed outside the tent.
Council member Dick Hewitt noted that the committee has attempted to obtain permission in the past, but councilors have stated concerns.
“It looks like they’ve taken care of our questions and concerns,” he said.
Councilor Art Erbskorn said a commitment has already been made to Little League about having a tournament at the festival and he would be opposed to the sale of alcohol while the tournament was played.
Sue Snyder said that no one has contacted the committee about a Little League tournament and Erbskorn said that it’s tentative.
“Our intent is to have a softball tournament,” Snyder said, “but there’s no reason we couldn’t do both.”
The tournament for the youngsters could be scheduled to end before 6 p.m., Snyder said.
Keith Pennington asked if those working in the tent would evaluate whether or not a person should be served additional beer.
Christle said they would and noted that committee members have had state sponsored alcohol consumption training.
Audience member Colleen Leddy said she supported Pennington’s argument against issuing the permit for this year’s festival, and she thanked him for it, but she was looking at the issue differently now.
“It all comes down to a value judgment,” she said. “It’s the people’s park and it’s the role of the city to support what people want.”
Councilor Tracy Schell said there are many people who are opposed to alcohol sales.
“I know there are and I’m among them,” Leddy said. “But maybe we need to keep the value judgment out of it and focus on the business end.”
Schell said she thinks it’s not just a morality issue for many people, but also concerns about safety.
“We’re working to make it as safe and secure as possible,” Grieder said. “We want to turn this into a positive experience.”
Snyder added that it’s also part of an effort to offer something for everyone.
“The thing I like about the proposal is that it will be controlled,” said mayor Doug Erskin. “You’ve touched all the bases we asked for a year ago.”
RECYLING—Pennington expressed his gratitude to the Seneca Township board for donating $3,000 again this year toward the city’s recycling center. The gift is a great help toward covering the cost of operation.
He said the city would welcome contributions from other townships—something in addition to recyclables.
CEMETERY—Council approved changes to the cemetery rules, including a prohibition against the discharge of firearms except during authorized ceremonial activities. Snowmobiles and other motorized off-road vehicles are not allowed in the cemetery.
FARMER’S MARKET—Council tabled a motion to allow a once-a-week farmer’s market in the city parking lot behind Borchardt Brothers grocery store.
Planning commission member Tracy Schell said that commissioner Karen Mepham asked for council’s consideration of the request.
Pennington said he likes the idea as long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on Borchardt’s, a tax-paying business.
Schell asked for the motion to be tabled until Borchardt’s was contacted.