Whatever happened to... 2013.01.16

with photos

Not all news items from the Observer reach a conclusion by the end of the year. Some things continue into the next year, and a few go on year after year.

Following is a sampling of plans and events that are still in flux.

• WALKING TRAIL—Morenci city administrator Renée Schroeder has worked to attract funding for a walking trail along Bean Creek from the back of Wakefield Park. Some initial design work was done and a donor offered to pay the cost—sometime in the future. 

"We are still working toward a walking trail for our community, but haven't heard from the prospective donor in a long time," Schroeder said.

Schroeder is working with Patrick Judd of Conservation Design Forum of Ann Arbor to create a new five-year park/recreation plan that is required in order to obtain a state grant.

• JEB—Remember the story about Jeb, the town cat of Fayette? He often risks his life by crossing downtown streets and we wondered if he's still among the living. "Definitely," reported now-retired tax administrator Dee Lawrence. She had a visit from him just a couple of weeks ago.

• HABITAT—A meeting was scheduled in Morenci last summer to see if any local families were interested in becoming part of a Habitat for Humanity project.

"We do have a Morenci family identified," said Lenawee Habitat director Lynne Punnett. "We expect they will go to the Board for final approval either at the end of this month or perhaps in February."

It won't be a building project this time. The family will be involved in the renovation of an existing home on their way to home ownership. Punnett said a house might be donated for the project.

Applications from prospective families may be downloaded from Habitat's website (www.habitat-lenawee.org) and submitted at any time.

• DAIRIES—Southern Michigan Dairies, owner of the two former Vreba-Hoff dairies northwest of Morenci, were completely closed last year and offered for sale. A representative from a local environmental group was told that there were at least two prospective buyers, but the deal never was completed. A representative from Southern Michigan Dairies (SMD) did not respond to a request for information.

The permits currently held by SMD could be transferred to a new owner once a sale closes, said Nicole Zacarda, an enforcement specialist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Any requests for changes to the existing permits would have to be evaluated by the DEQ.

"All of the historic Vreba-Hoff related orders have been satisfied," she said. "A new owner will need to request the transfer. Provided that the Department determines that the existing permits will continue to be protective of water quality under both state and federal regulations, then the transfer would be allowed."

• SIGNS—There are still no signs on U.S. 20 or State Route 66 directing traffic to Fayette's school. Following a bad traffic accident on U.S. 20 after a young driver missed the unmarked turn to reach the school, school and village officials both made attempts to have signs placed on the state highways.

The Ohio Department of Transportation office said the request for a sign at U.S. 20 and Country Road 23 "does not meet our criteria for a traffic generator that warrants signs."

A sign downtown at the main intersection and at Gamble Road falls under the Village's authority, according to the ODOT letter, and would be based on its sign policy.

• SEARS HOUSE—In June 2012, we sent out a bulletin to look for a special Sears Home from the early 1900s. Somewhere in Fayette, a Sears Milton model home was built and an expert on the homes—Rosemary Thornton—wants to see a photo. If it's still standing, it must be well disguised because no one has identified that model from Sears.

• PALM PLASTICS—The former Palm Plastics factory building was emptied before the end of the year as Arca-Schoeller ceased all operations here. Norbert Bauman, the owner of the 96,000 square foot structure, has created a brochure to help in his attempts to market the building.

• POST OFFICES—Area post offices survived a closure threat last year, but a reduction in hours did occur at Weston and a reduction is Clayton is expected soon.

• BUSINESS OFFICE—As the Morenci Area School district continues to look for ways to cut costs and work its way out of a deficit, one of the proposals discussed by the board is the closure of the business office. The board of education office on Page Street would be closed and the Lenawee ISD would be hired to handle district finances, as it does for the Tecumseh district.

No decision on the proposal was made last year, but Superintendent of Schools Michael Osborne will soon release his proposed list of additional cuts. At that time the public will know if the business office idea is still being considered.

• THE WALL—We're often asked about the lovely south wall of the Observer office. The question is usually something like this: "When is the City going to clean up that mess?"

As you may remember, the City bought the old Dunbar building next to the Observer and had it demolished. Unfortunately, roofing tar applied by previous owners and the plaster wall of that building remained on the Observer bricks, and in September 2011 city council approved this motion: "The city will take the next step in attempting to remove the plaster from the side of David Green’s building. If that doesn’t work, discussion with the owner will be continued."

An informal offer was made several months ago, but the Observer has not agreed to accept the offer. More recently, the City has suggested seeking an infrastructure improvement grant to tackle the problem.

Eighteen months of exposure to the weather hasn't had much effect, so it's one more unresolved story.

• SKELTON BROTHERS—For a second year, a cloud hangs over Morenci due to the disappearance of the three Skelton brothers: Andrew, Alexander and Tanner.

The boys' father, John, remains in prison serving a sentence for the unlawful imprisonment of his sons and police continue probing the case as a murder investigation. So far, not a trace of the boys' whereabouts has come to light.