Morenci city council 2014.01.08

By DAVID GREEN

The path is clearing for the sale of the former skating rink property on the east side of Morenci, but any decision on purchasing the adjacent farmland is still on hold.

Morenci city council voted last month to ask the Lay Trust if it would consider splitting the skating rink building from the farmland. Council also asked for protection from liability if contamination were to be found on the property.

City council’s finance and legal committee heard Monday night that the Lay Trust would split the property, but the group urged that action should be taken soon or another buyer will be sought.

Jay Nieman from Hudson is ready to buy the former skating rink, and the City has looked at the prospect of buying the farmland to add to the industrial park.

Council also learned that the trust is not interested in an environmental clause, but welcomed the City to pay for its own investigation. Testing for environmental problems would cost an estimated $12,000.

Contamination concerns stem from a visit to the adjacent Horton property by council member Ron Apger and mayor Bill Foster. Agricultural chemicals were found in a barn on the property and at least one citizen filed a report with the EPA. 

That report made its way down to Lenawee County Emergency Management Director Curtis Parsons who examined photographs taken by Apger and declared the site a “level one” contamination problem, according to Apger.

At this time, neither Parsons nor a representative from the Michigan DEQ has visited the site. Property owner Kathleen Horton has had contact with the DEQ about cleaning up the chemicals.

Councilor Everett Cool said Monday that Parsons has not declared it a “level one” problem but stated that those involved with the clean-up should wear suits suitable for a level one problem. Council member Brenda Spiess spoke of the need to see in writing what Parsons has said about the problem.

City administrator Michael Sessions said he has not heard back from a bank with details about financing for the purchase of the property. Part of the city’s cost would come through rent of the land to a farmer.

Cool suggested collecting bids for the farmland lease and obtaining a firm agreement before moving forward with the purchase of the land.