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Cemetery boards seek land from old elementary school property

MORRIS – Two cemeteries in Morris are landlocked and have nearly exhausted their options for expanding in town.

Bob Stevenson and Jay Dietz told the Morris City Council Tuesday that the only option to expand the Summit and Calvary Cemeteries is to expand into the old elementary school property.

“We are against the wall, gentlemen, and we would certainly like to have some of that land,” said Stevenson.

The cemetery board approached the city back in 2005 about expanding into the property, but was asked to wait and see what development options might surface, Dietz said.

In the past, the cemeteries, located along Seventh Street and College Avenue, have expanded by working with neighbor the University of Minnesota, Morris and by closing roads inside the property.

“We understand that the property is in high demand by a number of people, but we have a unique reason for our asking and because of our location it seems like the right space to expand,” said Dietz.

While council members were sympathetic to the request for land, they questioned whether giving away valuable downtown property was in the best interest of the city.

Mayor Sheldon Giese and Council member Bill Storck noted that the city had already put out a request for development proposals on the property.

“Because we're in the process for proposals now, we really can't do anything to stop what we've already done,” said Giese. Proposals are due to the city on June 20.

“I don't know how the city can give any land away,” said Storck. “I agree with you guys, you need some space … I hope somehow it can be worked out.”

Council member Brian Solvie asked how long the cemeteries could remain open if they did have more land donated and questioned whether there were other options available.

“There's land around the city that can be given or donated by people to serve that purpose where you could expand pretty much infinitely,” said Solvie.

“We could put a proposal in, but it's really up to you guys,” responded Stevenson. “We presented we need some land. … You could build another cemetery out in the country but, I'm not trying to be smart, most cities handle the cemetery and we certainly would gladly give you the whole damn works and you take care of it.”

City Manager Blaine Hill echoed Solvie's comments and pointed out that potential developers may not want to build on land directly adjacent to a cemetery.

“There's developers that want to do assisted living – the minute you cross the cemetery over the road, it's a done deal because they will not build an assisted living facility next to a cemetery,” said Hill.

City changes state aid roads to get state, federal road funding 

The Morris City Council voted Tuesday to remove a portion of state aid highway on East 10th Street from Oregon Avenue to Colombia Avenue and College Avenue from East Seventh Street to Highway 28 in order to add Oregon Avenue from East Seventh Street to South Street.

The road re-designations will allow the city to have more access to state and federal road funding for improvement projects. In this case, the city has nearly $300,000 in state aid available and access to a portion of $1.5 million in federal funding for roads, Hill said.

The state and federal money will help cover the cost of a planned storm sewer repair for Oregon Avenue from East Fourth Street to Elm Street.