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City of Morris will consider tax abatement for Highway 28 development

MORRIS – The Morris City Council will hold a public hearing to consider a proposal for tax abatement for a company that wants to develop property at the corner of Highway 28 and Highway 9 in Morris.

Without tax abatement for Dripps Automotive from the city, Stevens County and the Morris Area School District, an entire planned development and highway improvement in that area are at risk, City Manager Blaine Hill said.

“I think if all three government entities don’t approve the tax abatement, this project might not go, which means probably nothing on Highway 28 would go – it’s a true case where this thing is just hinging on some support for the project,” said Hill.

Under the tax abatement proposal, the city would grant an abatement of the increase in property taxes caused by renovation over a 15 year period. For the city of Morris, this amount is estimated at about $230,000, Hill said.

The city will get a detailed financial report about the project and the tax implications at the public hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 5:20 p.m.

Dripps Automotive has put down a deposit of $7,000 for Ehlers and Associates to gather the financial information and for Briggs and Morgan for legal assistance on the developer agreement for the abatement, Hill said.  

Hill said there are other businesses that may ask for tax abatement for projects in the development, but likely only of this project moves forward.

Hill said he is working with Dripps to facilitate the same request for tax abatement to the Stevens County Board of Commissioners and the Morris Area School Board.

The preliminary plat covers nearly 35 acres from the corner of Highways 28 and 9 past Columbia Avenue. It includes 14 lots in a variety of sizes.  

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has a planned project to widen Highway 28 through Morris, add a left turn lane near Superior Industries, and add three access points to the proposed development. The access points are located on Highway 9 south of Park Avenue, on Highway 28 near the former Coborn’s building, and on Highway 28 across from Columbia Avenue.

The Morris Planning Commission has reviewed a preliminary plat of the proposed project and recommended it to the city council.

Sidewalk shoveling revisited

During citizen comments, Morris resident Mary Elizabeth Bezanson told the council she is “unhappy with the cumbersome nature” of reporting residents for not shoveling their sidewalks in the winter.

Bezanson offered three recommendations: include a notice in an upcoming water bill to explain the city’s shoveling ordinance, encourage landlords to post notices about shoveling in rental houses, and develop “shoveling routes” for common walking paths.

“Students walk from campus down Seventh Street to Willie’s … I would suggest that you think about high traffic routes and figure out ways of encouraging people who live on those routes to shovel quickly to make that experience safe,” said Bezanson.

“I am urging people to shovel their sidewalks and I’m urging you all to take that seriously because it’s an issue of public safety.”

Mayor Sheldon Giese said he liked the idea of putting a notice in October/November water bills to remind residents about the shoveling rules.

City Manager Blaine Hill noted that city staff are still working on an update to the city’s various nuisance ordinances to present to the council for review.

Because unshoveled sidewalks could constitute a safety issue, the ordinance could allow the city to clear sidewalks that remain unshoveled and bill residents for the service. There may also be a “hefty fine” for unshoveled sidewalks, Hill said.

City purchases more land for Industrial Park

The Morris City Council voted Tuesday to purchase 12.37 acres of land for $123,700 from Riley Brothers Properties to add to the Morris Industrial Park.

The new property is located south of Prairie Trailer along a platted road, Hull Drive. The city will use money from the Capitol Outlay fund for the purchase and return any money from a future sale to that fund, City Manager Blaine Hill said.

The city will next have to annex the land into city limits and market it for sale to businesses looking for land in the Industrial Park.

Hill said he knew of at least one business who hoped to buy five acres of property in the area.

“We don’t need to make money off it,” said Hill. “I will tell you upfront is that we will never sell a piece of property that somebody winds up owning and turns around and selling again – we have that problem right now in the Industrial Park,” said Hill.

Council member Jeff Miller said he was in favor of the purchase and making sure the land was used effectively.

“That’s our whole purpose with getting involved with [the Industrial Park] is to utilize the land to create jobs,” said Miller.

Other business

  • The city is holding on to a final payment to Dore and Associates, the contractor hired to demolish the old elementary school building, because the company has not paid some subcontractors.

On Tuesday, the council voted to pay one subcontractor for professional services and deduct the bill from the company’s retainage, City Manager Blaine Hill said.

“One of the last parts of the contract is they have to give us a written document from all their vendors that says that they’ve been paid,” Hill said.  

  • The council approved a transit grant application for 2015. The city is up for a bus replacement in 2015. The city will pick up about $15,800 of the estimated $79,000 cost of the new bus.
  • The council approved a partial payment to F and S Concrete of Garfield of $12,800 for curb and gutter and sidewalks on Pacific Avenue.
  • The council approved a final payment to Mudpumpers Mudjacking of Moorhead, bringing the total cost for concrete mudjacking on East Fifth Street and East Sixth Street to approximately $20,000.