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City plans financing options for old elementary school demolition

MORRIS - The City of Morris hopes to finance the destruction of the old elementary school building using a combination of existing and new taxing districts.

The city will hold a public hearing on a recommendation to modify two existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts and add a third district on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 5:15 p.m.

When a TIF district is set up, the organizers establish the land that will be included in the district and set a project plan and budget for the district. In order to use TIF funds from the city's two existing districts, the city will need to modify their project plans and budget, said City Manager Blaine Hill.

The two existing districts - District 4 and District 8 - were used for Skyview Plaza and development near the Morris Fire Hall. The proposal also includes creating a new TIF district, District 15, to capture money generated on development at the old elementary school property.

The TIF money being generated by the existing districts won't be needed at the end of 2012 because the obligations for the district have been funded. The city could then, therefore, capture those funds, combine them with a new district on the old elementary school property, and generate money to finance a project there.

The TIF district proposal will also need to be approved by Stevens County and the Morris Area School District. Hill told the council he has already spoken to representatives from both municipalities.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for the school district because they got rid of a school building that they didn't have to pay to remove," said Hill. "This is a way for us to get that off of everybody's back and get that property back developing and doing good. ... That's going to help everybody."

Other business

• The council approved a new drug and alcohol policy for city transit employees. The city now has a zero tolerance policy for drivers found to be using drugs or alcohol while driving, a policy that is more in line with federal standards.

"The policy that we have right now is kind of a combination of zero tolerance and second chance - many, many things already are zero tolerance in the current policy," said City Finance Director Deb Raasch. "We felt that because it's transit, you're driving people around, that safety was number one and that it should be changed."

• The Morris Police Department had identified unlicensed junked cars that need to be removed and has sent letters to owners.

"If they aren't removed, then the cars will be towed away like we do with snow removal," Hill told the council in a memo.