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Wilcox returns to city government as interim city council member

MORRIS - Former Morris Mayor Carol Wilcox returned to city government Tuesday when she was sworn in as an interim city council member.

Wilcox will fill former council member Twig Webster's seat until the Nov. 6 election when a new city council member is elected.

Mayor Sheldon Giese thanked Wilcox for agreeing to serve the city again. As part of her interim duties, Wilcox will represent the city council on the Morris Park Board and the Morris Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Thanks to everyone for thinking a 76-year-old brain is worth picking," Wilcox said.

Transit grant application approved, July ridership highest on record

The city council approved a 2013 transit grant application to the state of Minnesota at Tuesday's meeting. As part of the grant, the city will pay 20 percent of the total operating and total capitol costs for public transportation in the city.

The grant application includes estimated expenses of $431,176 for the Morris Transit system. Around $345,000 of the cost will be covered by grants and about $81,000 of the cost will be covered by fare and rent revenue. That leaves the city responsible for about $5,035 in operating expenses.

The city is also scheduled to replace a bus this year at a cost of $68,000. The city share of this capitol expense is $13,600.

Morris Transit saw it's highest July ridership in history last month, with a total of 4,296 passengers. City Manger Blaine Hill and Finance Director Deb Raasch said the high temperatures in July helped increase ridership.

Year to date, Morris Transit has had 34,828 passengers, just over 3,600 fewer passengers than all of 2011.

Few comments on old elementary school environmental assessment

Hill told the council he has only received one comment in response to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet that has been publicized for the old elementary school building.

A professor from the University of Minnesota, Morris e-mailed Hill to say at there are some chimney swifts - small, agile birds found in eastern North American - living in the chimney at the school building. Although chimney swifts are not a protected species, they do call the building their home.

Hill said he was provided with information about building wooden towers that could serve as a new home for the birds.

Other business

• The council approved an agreement with the Morris Area School District for a school resource officer. The school district will pay the city $21,624, 60 percent of the cost of an officer for nine months.

• The council approved an updated joint powers agreement for Community Education. Hill told the council he expects to make a small increase in the 2013 budget to the contribution the city makes to Community Education.

• The council schedule a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 5:20 p.m. to discuss the progress of the city's participation in the Small Cities Development Program, which is being coordinated by the Stevens County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. The public hearing will provide information about hear citizen input about the program.

• The council approved applications for on and/or off sale of 3.2 malt beverages to Assumption Church and the American Legion.