Gila Health to have a newly paved parking lot

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A CKC Construction crew member shovels pavement as other crew members attend the paving machine in the Gila Health Resources parking lot in Morenci. This phase of the improvement project was conducted Saturday, Aug. 25, and is to be finished and ready for use by Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Will be ready for use this Wednesday

By Walt Mares

MORENCI – There will be something quite different that greets folks when they step on to the Gila Health Resources parking lot this Wednesday. It will not be the sweet smell of grass that borders the facility. It will instead be a tar-like odor. It will come from the freshly laid pavement that is a great and much-needed improvement of the badly deteriorated parking lot.

It had potholes and quite noticeable cracks in it. It will be an especially important improvement for access to a medical facility. The work is being performed by CKC Construction of Safford, It has previously completed other critical paving and projects in the Morenci-Clifton area.

The paving is being paid for by Freeport McMoRan, which owns the medical facility property. FMI owns and operates the giant Morenci copper mine. The clinic is very important for copper miners, their families and the public in general.  

I visited the worksite on a hot afternoon, Saturday, Aug. 25. The heat of the day made being outdoors very uncomfortable. I had to wonder how in the world CKC crew members could hold up under the heat of the blistering sun combined with the intense heat of the asphalt they were working with. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A CKC Construction crew member smooths pavement after it is laid at the entrance of the Gila Health Resources parking lot in Morenci.

FMI engineer Jordan Noriega is supervising the project. As I approached a parking lot entrance that was being paved, Noriega politely but firmly cautioned this old newsman that he could not be in a working area, especially without a protective helmet and bright-colored safety vest. 

While outside of the work area Noriega said the paving project should be completed by Wednesday, Aug. 28, to accommodate those needing to access to the medical facility. That will include customers of Walton Drug, which is also located in the same building. The pavement will be striped by Wednesday, Noriega said. Prior to that, Bowman Engineering, also of Safford, will visit the facility to inspect the paving work. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Grass makes for an interesting foreground as a man sits high in a rolling machine that will compress pavement that is being laid in the parking of Gila Health Resources in Morenci. The lot is several feet higher than the grass.

I’ve been in Morenci-Clifton for 36 years and could not recall when the parking lot was freshly paved. I spoke with others who had been in the area longer than I and they, too, could not recall, any new paving at the facility in the past four decades. That included when the facility was a hospital operated by Phelps Dodge. PD previously owned the Morenci mine and all surrounding property in Morenci.   

The time span of much-needed improvement is said to be about the same for the large parking lot in the Morenci Plaza. It was repaved a few months ago. It was in terrible condition with large pot holes, which posed a danger to pedestrians and hard bumps for vehicles passing over them. That was particularly true for passenger cars.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Crew members from CKC Construction look at the machine they are using to pave the parking lot at Gila Health Resources in Morenci. In the background is the iconic Spanish-style tower that has been part of the facility since its construction many decades ago.

During and after a heavy rain, ankle-deep water filled the potholes. The holes were filled in with patches of pavement but the fix never lasted long. Several months ago, the first recent improvement of the overall Morenci Plaza parking lot was done in front of the Bashas’ grocery store and Ace Hardware. Not only do the areas that were repaved look far better, they no doubt are much safer, especially for those walking to and from their vehicles.