Morenci city council 2014.11.05

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci city council members scheduled a pair of public hearings Nov. 10 to consider the approval of Commercial Redevelopment Exemption Certificates (CREC) for properties at 1096 and 1098 E. Main St.

CREC status would freeze taxes at the current level for 10 years regardless of improvements made to the property.

Jay Nieman owns the property at 1098 E. Main, the former skating rink, he bought as a facility to create fishing lures. His application is for the first phase of his project—a rehabilitation effort to create two 600 square foot offices—and he hopes that would lead to three to five employees in the future. He also expects 14 temporary construction jobs. He lists $30,000 as the investment for the entire project, but the second phase is not yet identified.

Rex Vernier filed the application for 1096 E. Main, the former grocery store, under the name Silver Creek Ventures. His project is listed as a $70,000 investment for a restaurant and additional space for another business. The project should employ four to five part-time workers, four full-time workers, and at least 30 temporary construction workers. 

Future projects at the building could involve investments costing $260,000.

Council approved the Commercial Redevelopment zone on the east edge of the city in 2013.

"I'm very happy to see [the development plans]," councilor Brenda Spiess said at the Oct. 27 meeting. "Our goal was to improve and expand businesses."

AUDIT—The City of Morenci received a favorable audit report from Gary Owen of the Robertson, Eaton and Owen accounting firm. 

The City's fund balance for the year ending June 30 increased to $190,000 which represents about 23 percent of annual expenses, Owen said. Savings between 20 and 25 percent of expenses is recommended for cash reserves.

The sale of property valued at $40,000 was a great help in increasing funds, he said, since taxes and assessments had decreased.

All city funds increased, with the exception of the library, Owen noted. Library funding was cut $14,350 by the City in the year Owen audited.

The City paid off $146,000 in debt, leaving $678,300 in outstanding debt. The purchase of a backhoe ($90,000) and a heart monitor ($26,798) increased debt. Water system debt stands at $100,000 and downtown construction debt is at $470,000.

"All in all," Owen said, "it's a better financial picture than last year. The sale of property helped, but you have also been bringing down expenditures and getting a better handle on that."

Owen also praised the accounting work of city treasurer Crystal White.

"Crystal has done a great job with that," he said.

City administrator/clerk Michael Sessions echoed Owens's words, in commending White. He also mentioned that department heads were cooperative in reducing spending.

ASSESSOR—Council approved a contract with the Lenawee County Equalization Department to provide property assessment services. Equalization had been providing the service, but without a contract that lays out expectations.

Sessions said he explored changing to a new assessor, but wasn't able to find one in the allotted time. The contract includes a review of services in June 2015 and allows a maximum of three days before Equalization must respond to a citizen's request.

"Over recent years we've heard mostly unfavorable responses from residents," said finance and legal chair Jeff Bell. "The contract should hold them accountable to the level of service we expect."

Sessions said he will continue to explore other options.