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City outlines conditions, proposed price for old elementary school property

MORRIS – The city of Morris has provided a list of conditions for the sale of the old elementary school property to the local company interested in purchasing the property.

On Tuesday, City Manager Blaine Hill told members of the Morris City Council that he met with representatives from Riley Brothers Properties to review the terms and conditions for a purchase agreement.

“They seemed to agree, but will have their attorney review them,” Hill said.

Under the proposal being reviewed by Riley Bros., the company will pay $177,500 for the entire 17.5 acre parcel, tentatively closing on the property on May 1.

The general purpose of the sale is “to provide some needed residential property,” said Hill.

Because Riley Bros. may not be the future developer, the agreement requires that future developers need to be approved by the city council if they want to use Tax Increment Financing to pay for projects.

Additionally, if no construction takes place in the first five years, the city reserves the right to buy the property back.

Members of the council commented on both the price of the land and timeframe for development.

Council member Brian Solvie said he was in favor of asking for more money for the property, noting that the city paid more than $700,000 to remove the old school building.

The current bid is about $10,000 per acre. Riley Bros. originally offered to purchase the property for $135,000 without the use of TIF financing. Prairieland Partners, another developer who submitted a proposal, offered to pay $35,000 to $500,00 for nine to 12 acres, provided that the land is “pad ready and buildable” with utilities to each location.

“I’d like to see it a little more,” said Solvie. “I’d like to see if you can push them a little harder.”

“I agree with you,” said council member Jeff Miller. “It’s got water and sewer along the outside edge of it, it’s in the middle of Morris.”

Council member Bill Storck asked whether there was a stipulation in the agreement that development start within a year.

“I don’t know that you want to get too far into an agreement that stipulates a lot of stuff,” said Hill. “You’re selling land. The purpose for selling the land is to see residential development. That’s what they came to you and said they’re going to do. I imagine they’re going to do that as soon as possible.”

At the same meeting, Hill said he discussed purchasing property south of Morris to add to the city’s industrial park, a request the company is also reviewing.

“I gotta believe these two projects work together a little bit,” said Mayor Sheldon Giese. “I’m not saying that there’s a trade going on here, but if you watch my back I’ll watch yours type of thing. That’s the only way our industrial park can expand. … We’re looking for a win-win.”

Once the purchase agreement is drafted, it will come to the city council, acting as the city’s economic development authority, for consideration. Mill suggested the council could also hold a work session to work out details with the developer.

Other business

  • The council designated TDKA, an engineering firm out of St. Paul, as the city’s airport engineer. City Manager Blaine Hill said requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration require that city’s solicit qualifications from firms every five years. The city also received a proposal from Bolton and Menk of Willmar, the city’s water and wastewater engineers, but Hill recommended that the city continue to work with TKDA.

  • The council set a public hearing for Tuesday, March 25 at 5:20 p.m. on a proposal to serve as a conduit bond issuer for approximately $10 million in health care bonds for St. Francis Health Services. Cities are authorized to act as bond issuers on behalf of health care facilities, but will not have any liability for the bonds.

  • The council approved assessments for services for several properties: $500 for a fire call at 19383 110th Avenue; $500 for a fire call at 107 East First Street; and $218 for utility services at 111 East Seventh Street.