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Morris City Council looks ahead to infrastructure projects

Correction: This story originally stated that the Stevens County Historical Society sent a letter to the city in response to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the old elementary school building. This was incorrect. The letter about the EAW was from the Minnesota Historical Society. We apologize for the error.

MORRIS - Big ticket improvement projects are on the horizon for the City of Morris, and were the topics of discussion for the Morris City Council at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

Soon, the city will need to decide how to finance demolition of the old elementary school building, how to deal with the city's water and wastewater systems, and how to move forward with needed road improvement projects, City Manager Blaine Hill told the council Tuesday.

The comment period for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the old elementary school property has closed, putting the city one step closer to being able to demolish the building.

Hill told the council that he had received only one additional comment on the EAW since the council last met. In a letter, a representative from the Minnesota Historical Society said they didn't think the city had done enough research into how to reuse the old building, Hill said.

The next big step towards demolishing the building will be to figure out how to finance the project. Hill told the council he has been looking into the prospect of using a Tax Increment Financing district to help fund the project, and will bring recommendations to the council soon.

"The goal is not to spend millions of our own tax dollars to pay for the demolition - we need that money for roads," said Hill.

The city will also need to make some big decisions about their water and wastewater systems soon, particularly with recent changes to the city's wastewater discharge permits, Hill said.

Hill told the council he has been meeting with engineering firms to discuss how these projects might go forward, and may suggest contract with a new engineering firm that has expertise in water issues for the project.

Hanging over both of these projects is the city's ongoing need to address road improvement projects. Hill told the council he planned to get all city staff together to talk about public improvements and how to prioritize road projects.

"We need to be sure we go to the right place first," said Hill.

Council member Bill Storck said he had done his own street survey, and that it was important to be sure that the underlying city infrastructure is sound before deciding which roads to work on.

Other business

• The council will get their first look at a preliminary budget and levy for 2013 at their next regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Hill said the biggest discussions about the budget will be on capital outlay projects and franchise fund issues.

• The council approved a service agreement for dispatch services with Stevens County. The five year agreement reduces the city's share of expenses for dispatch from 20 percent in 2013 to zero percent by 2017. This agreement was previously passed by the Stevens County Board of Commissioners.

• The council approved an assessment of $685 to 103 East Seventh Street for a curb stop replacement, and $500 to a property in Dawson, Minn., for a fire call to an automobile fire.

• The council approved a payment of $75,702 to Riley Brothers for street improvement projects around the city of Morris. The payment is for about 22 percent of the completed project.

• The council approved a recommendation from the Tourism Board to pay $1,250 from the Lodging Tax to Superior Industries for work designing a new tourism brochure for the city. Hill told the council that Superior's marketing department would be working on designing the brochure.

Council member Carol Wilcox praised the decision, noting "Their marketing group knows Morris better than anyone outside."

• The council approved a street dance permit for Old No. 1 for Saturday, Sept. 8.