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Students get first-hand look at city government in action

The Morris City Council held its regular meeting at the Morris Area High School auditorium on Tuesday morning so students could attend and see how local government conducts business. For the last three years, the council has held one meeting a year at the high school. On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to accept a bid from Northland Securities for bonds that will be used to finance infrastructure repairs in the Highland Homes Addition this summer. Photo by Sue Dieter, Sun Tribune.

By Sue Dieter

Sun Tribune

Morris Area high school students got a first-hand look at how city improvements are financed Tuesday morning.

The Morris City Council held their regular meeting at the school for the benefit of Morris Area civics students.

Much of their agenda was focused on the sale of general obligation bonds for the Highland Homes improvement project.

Mark Ruff of Ehlers and Associates told the Council that there were three bidders for the $2.1 million in bonds. The low bidder was Northland Securities of Minneapolis, with a bid of 3.8546 percent for a term of 15 years. That is one-half of a percent lower than the projected interest rate for the sale and only .03 percent lower than the next bidder.

Ruff was very pleased with the bid process and told the council that both the bond rating and the interest rate demonstrate that "you're doing some good things."

Ruff spent some time reviewing the city's bond rating, which is A3 according to Moody's. Ruff explained that the rating considers the city's tax base, financial position, and debt burden as well as the presence of the University of Minnesota and how the city has reacted to changes.

"This is a very positive report for the city," Ruff said.

Council members unanimously voted to accept Northland Securities' bid.

While the council was finishing up the paperwork to pay for the project, work had already started in the Highland Homes neighborhood.

City Manager Blaine Hill reported that letters went to homeowners in the neighborhood outlining the project. Additionally, a construction update meeting will be held each Thursday during the project so that folks living in the neighborhood can ask questions. These meetings will be held in the open lot at the corner of Sunnyslope Road and Scotts Avenue.

Federal funding for airport improvements was also on the council agenda. The city receives an annual allotment of Federal Aviation funds for improvements to the airport. Currently, the city has funds in their account which were allocated in 2006 and have to be used by the end of this month or be turned back to the federal government. Since there are no plans for improvements at the airport this year, the council voted to transfer $100,000 to the city of Sauk Centre for an improvement project they are working on this year. Sauk Centre would reimburse Morris for the funds. The resolution was approved unanimously.

Hill said that there is an airport improvement project that the city will begin to work on and asked the council to approve a professional services agreement with TKDA Engineering of St. Paul. The firm would complete an environmental assessment for a parallel taxiway project at the airport. The estimated cost of the assessment is $50,000, but Hill said the city has that much in its aviation fund.

In other business:

• Council members approved the placement of crossing lights at the crosswalk from the parking lot to the Stevens Community Medical Center on South Street. SCMC will pay the costs for the crossing lights.

• The council approved a license agreement/temporary construction easement that would grant the city access to the water tower. Hill said the tower is in essence landlocked because the University of Minnesota owns all of the land around it. The agreement also grants the university access to the city property so that repairs can be made to the retaining wall at Big Cat stadium.

• Hill informed the council that he will be touring the city and making note of unlicensed cars, and properties that have junk, debris or need mowing. Property owners will receive warning letters. Hill will also be sending letters to residents who have dogs reminding them that the city does have a license requirement. The license fee is $2.