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City turns down taxpayers committee request

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The Morris City Council will not take action on a resolution asking the city to oppose Stevens County's building plans.

According to City Manager Blaine Hill, Morris Mayor Sheldon Giese received a letter from the Stevens County Taxpayers Committee requesting that the council pass a resolution stating that the $15 million project, which includes a controversial jail component, should be stopped.

The council considered the request at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The taxpayers committee was formed in opposition to the building plan, which was passed by the Stevens County Board of Commissioners last summer. Three members of the committee are on an advisory panel now reviewing the building project.

Giese also is a member of the advisory committee, and he said that the group would be getting into the "nuts and bolts" of the county's plan in the next two to three weeks.

"I don't think the City Council has any authority to ask the county to do anything other than what it's doing," Giese said. "They don't come in and tell us what to do."

Council member Jeff Miller said he has heard from residents about their concerns about the jail project, especially related to the long-term operations costs. But he, too, didn't think taking any official position on the matter was appropriate. The council could rely on Giese to keep it updated about the advisory committee's work, he said.

"We've got a good committee working on it," Miller said. "Let them do their work."

Council member Bill Storck said that getting accurate figures on jail operations at this point is difficult.

"It's tough to say what it's going to cost (to operate) until you get in there," Storck said.

Hill noted that the city still has a say in various aspects of the building project, such as variances and setbacks, but that should be the extent of its involvement.

"The decision to build or not is up to the county," Hill said.

In other council business:

• The council voted 4-0 to contract with West Central Environmental Consultants, of Morris, for a Limited Site Investigation of the old elementary school property.

The city is required to conduct the LSI by the Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Fund. The city can be reimbursed for cleaning up fuel spills if it follows specific guidelines set out by the PETRO Fund.

West Central Environmental wasn't the lowest bidder for the project, but its bid was just $47 higher than the low bid submitted by Great Plains Environmental, of Fargo.

Hill said he contacted PETRO Fund officials to determine if WCEC could be hired despite not submitting the low bid. PETRO agreed if the proposals were comparable. WCEC also had experience with the site since it consulted with the city on removal of the fuel tank and identified the potential leak.

WCEC's accepted bid is $7,727, compared to Great Plains' bid of $7,680.

The contract will be finalized if PETRO approves a final review of the proposals from WCEC and Great Plains.

The city will pay for the review from its Capital Outlay Fund, and can receive reimbursement from PETRO.

• The City Council is tentatively expected to conduct its regular meeting at the Morris Area High School on May 12. The meeting is at 10:15 a.m.

The council has held meetings at the school the last two years to allow students a chance to observe how city business is conducted.