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City's downtown improvements may be wrapped up Nov. 1

Street work in Morris' downtown area could be completed Nov. 1 or shortly after.

City Manager Blaine Hill told the Morris City Council at its meeting Tuesday that the improvement project is moving along on schedule, despite recent rains.

There are about two weeks of work left on East 7th Street, and East 6th Street and Oregon Avenue are being prepped for paving, Hill said.

City Engineer Jay Fier said Wednesday that crews are working through the wet conditions, and that, barring more bad weather, the Nov. 1 completion date is possible.

A first layer of blacktop will be put down this fall, and final blacktop lifts will be completed by June 6, 2009, Hill said.

In other city business:

• The trailer park north of the Highland Homes Addition has been sold. Hill said the new owner plans to clear out as much debris as possible, with the intention of farming some of the property until it can be developed at a later date.

• In its effort to televise City Council meetings, the city has received almost all the equipment needed, with the exception of microphones.

Once the equipment is in place, Council Chambers will be wired and equipment installed and tested.

• Joe Basel has been working with the city to complete work on a home renovation project. The house was placed on a foundation, but work halted on the project for many months until the city threatened to take the building down because it constituted a hazard.

• Hill is working on proposals to remove asbestos from the old elementary school. Once the abatement is completed, the city can begin planning on how to demolish the building and how to pay for the work.

Hill is expected to bring a Request for Proposal before the council in about a month, and a cost estimate soon after.

• Hill and Stevens County Engineer Brian Giese are working on cost estimates for work to be done under a Safe Routes to School grant. The city plans to submit a grant application in November.

• The city reviewed a letter from Pat Franey, pastor of Morris Community Church, about the church's decision to suspend plans to buy the former United Building Center building on West 6th Street and Pacific Avenue.

Franey announced last month that negotiations with the building owner were suspended because of the purchase price and repair estimates that have doubled since negotiations began.

"I think it was a worthwhile effort, everything they went through," Hill said. "But it doesn't look like anything will happen right now."

The city became involved in the project after MCC requested and received rezoning to accommodate the church project.

Council member Jeff Miller said that he was disappointed the plans fell through but that rezoning was a good move.

"I think rezoning was a positive for the area," Miller said. "It's more fitting for what's in there now instead of industrial."

• The Morris Transit System had 5,003 passengers in September, up from the 4,822 it carried in September 2007. To date, the system has carried 46,985, which is 761 more riders than last year, when the system set its all-time ridership record.