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City Council will consider raising pavement assessments on 2013 construction project

MORRIS - A preliminary public hearing on a proposed construction project on the west side of Morris in 2013 will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 5:20 p.m.

The construction project includes West 9th, 10th, and 11th Streets between Pacific Avenue and Park Avenue, along with Idaho and Nevada Avenues from West 8th Street to Park Avenue.

City Manager Blaine Hill has proposed changing the city's assessment policy for pavement, starting with the 2013 project. Currently, the city does not assess residents for pavement in street construction projects. Hill is proposing the city begin assessing 75 percent of the cost of pavement.

Hill said he also plans to make an update to the city's Public Improvement Code to more clearly explain what types of projects the city completes and whether those projects should be assessed.

"I think, based upon the language that's in the city code now, we should be assessing for payment," said Hill.

Another consideration when it comes to assessing projects is how the city will pay for each project. If less than 20 percent of the project is not assessed to property owners, the project has to go to a public referendum, said City Inspecting Engineer Jay Fier. In the past, the city has scaled projects back in order to meet this criteria because assessments weren't high enough.

Hill said he plans to present information about the project and the proposed assessments at the public hearing, but it won't be entirely clear what the assessments will be until the project is bid on in February or March of 2013.

The city council can continue to discuss the proposed pavement assessment as the project is developed and can choose to stop the project at any time.

City to apply for grants for infrastructure at DENCO II plant

The City of Morris will be applying for two grants that will be used to help improve the infrastructure at DENCO II in Morris.

The grants, if approved, will be used to reduce the amount of groundwater DENCO II uses to produce ethanol by treating and reusing wastewater and, ultimately, help keep jobs in Morris, Hill told the council Tuesday.

The first grant is with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which has set aside $1 million for projects to reuse municipal wastewater or stormwater in ethanol production. There are only four ethanol plants in the state of Minnesota who are eligible for the program, and Hill said it appeared only two - Morris and Little Falls - would be applying.

The City of Morris won't have to invest any money in the project, just time and representation as the grant applicant.

"My message to the ethanol plant is that the city does not want to put any money into this, and we don't have to," said Hill. "The ethanol plant is willing to take on the responsibility for any costs that aren't funded by grants."

The city will also be applying for a public infrastructure grant through the Department of Employment and Economic Development to help pay for the $1.5 million project.

Although the city would ultimately would own the infrastructure at DENCO II, Hill said he has reached an agreement with that plant that DENCO II will take on responsibility for maintaining the equipment once it is installed.

DENCO II estimates that it takes about 6.5 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol, said Hill. With the new equipment, that number could drop to 4.5 gallons. Part of the 4.5 gallons could also come from better water recycling.

"They're going to capture any of the water that was going to be wasted and sent out the back end, and they're going to refine it and they're going to recycle it and put it right back into the system," said Hill.

Other business

• The council voted 4-0 that an Environmental Impact Statement is not needed for a project to demolish the old elementary school building. Provided there are no appeals filed in the next 30 days, the city will be free to demolish the building without further action by the middle of October.

"I think the school is at a point now where people see it as an eyesore more than anything of value, and it's time it goes," said council member Carol Wilcox.

"I think people have seen it as an eyesore for a lot longer than that," said council member Jeff Miller.

Council member Matt Carrington abstained from the vote.

• In the last year, the Stevens County Housing and Redevelopment Authority has helped rehabilitate five homes in Morris and Donnelly, and is on track to do work on nine more by the end of 2013 thanks to money from a Small Cities Redevelopment Grant, HRA Director Jodi DeCamp told the council.

The HRA is working to determine eligibility for two home projects this year, and seven have already pre-applied for the rehabs in 2013. DeCamp said the HRA is looking into applying for more money through this program, since the waiting list for projects still has 45 projects on it.

• The council approved a third payment to Kuechle Underground for work on Pacific Avenue. The total bill for the project so far is $518,500.

• The council approved a final payment of $11,500 to Breitbach Construction for work on East 8th, 9th and Arizona Avenues, bringing the total project cost to about $808,000.

• The council voted to revoke a residential rental license for Carla Drumbeater of Hopkins, Minn., for failing to to renew her rental license and pay an overdue fine. Drumbeater will no longer be allowed to rent her property at 208 East 9th Street in Morris.