"Morris Manufacturing is concerned about the children of this town. We've always been concerned about them." said Mike Morris. "I have talked to our employees about watching out for children on Mechanic Street, especially about the possibility that a child might run from between two vehicles parked on the north side of the road."
Morris was commenting on a complaint by Anita McIntire, a resident of Mechanic Street. McIntire said that the children didn't have a chance, referring to the traffic and speeding on the street.
McIntire was very vocal about the traffic situation on Mechanic Street at the city council meeting on Jan. 14. Although McIntire was complaining about a proposed ordinance prohibiting parking on the south side of Mechanic Street, it was noted that she lives on the north side of the street.
McIntire was also instrumental in making the intersection of Mechanic and Ringo streets a four-way stop.
"We (Morris Manufacturing) have never done anything to harm the community and we never will," Morris said. "Our roots are here. It's personal to us. We're not doing any damage to the city. The uncaring image about us is wrong."
Morris pointed out that, although people complain about the traffic and semis, they don't complain about the property taxes Morris Manufacturing pays. Further, it is estimated that the company's almost $2 million payroll circulates five to seven times in the community.
"I have received calls about speeding vehicles, but I have no control of how people drive after they leave my property. If my employees speed down city streets, the police should be called, not me," Morris said.
Meetings have been planned to determine if Morris Manufacturing will be expanding by 50,000 square feet or by 100,000 square feet.
"If we need to expand by 100,000 square feet, it will have to be done elsewhere, because it isn't possible here," Morris said. "We're currently employing more than 100 people, and if we grow, that number will increase. Unfortunately, the semis delivering steel to our operation are necessary. Without them we would have to close down.
"Mayor Crabb has been very forthcoming. He was late to react to our problem because he wasn't aware of the situation," Morris said. "We didn't foresee the impact on Vandalia Street and U.S. 40 being an issue. The move here wasn't as good as we had hoped for."
Morris said that he is reviewing an option that might be best for all parties, however, he did say that if the community pressure increases enough, he may be left with no choice but to move.
Negotiations concerning the use of the railroad grade are continuing, however it will take time for the situation to be resolved.