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City Council approves proposal for plans to demolish old elementary school building

City Attorney Aaron Jordan (left) swears in new City Council member Brian Solvie (right) at the Morris City Council meeting on Tuesday. Solvie was elected to fill the remainder of a two-year term on the council. (Kim Ukura/Sun Tribune)

MORRIS - On Tuesday, the Morris City Council approved a proposal for an engineering company to prepare plans and specifications for demolishing the old elementary school building.

The proposal, from Willmar-based engineering firm Bolton & Menk, will include construction plans, specifications and contract documents that bidders will use to come up with bids. The cost for the plans is $22,300 and $3,000 for bidding assistance.

The company has already been in consultation with A.E.S. Environmental Engineers to identify the hazardous material in the building to include plans on hazardous material abatement. They also have all of the buildings' original blueprints to help with the process.

City Manager Blaine Hill said that the planning will likely go through November, December and possibly January, and bidding for the project will be in February or March. Bolton & Menk, as assisting in the bidding process, will be advertising for bidders. They will also be fielding questions that bidders have and prepare the bid award recommendation.

Council member Brian Solvie asked if the demolition can be stopped if needed. Hill replied that the next steps will be the completion of the plans and specifications, then decide whether to advertise for bids.

"We would have to come back to the City Council and ask for authorization to go ahead and bid it out," explained Hill. "And once the bids come in then you have a decision to make whether or not you want to award a contract and go ahead with the demolition."

Hill also said he will be checking with the county landfill to see if the demolition debris can be dumped there "without local charges. I think that would be fair."

The plan is for the city to be reimbursed for these costs through tax increment financing (TIF). Hill told the council that the city's bond consultant "believes that the process should generate enough funding to tear down the old school."

Hill said that there are developers interested in the 17-acre property. The property has been appraised, and Hill reported that he believes the city would want to see it for a market rate.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council also voted to enter into an engineering services agreement with Bolton & Menk to work on the city's water and wastewater issues. Widseth Smith Nolting will remain the city's engineering firm for road projects.

The agreement is not attached to any specific projects, although Hill said that he anticipated a number of upcoming water projects after the city's water system is reviewed and concerns about the aging plant and water quality issues are raised.

"We need someone to lead us through it," said Hill.

Stevens County fire departments seeking grant

The fire departments of Chokio, Hancock, Donnelly and Morris of Stevens County are seeking a grant to further explore sharing services. The grant, which will be from $20,000 to $27,000, will require each city to make a match of 10 percent. If the grant is awarded, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners will act as the fiscal agent.

Other business

• Brian Solvie was installed as a two-year City Council member after taking his oath of office.

• Bill Storck was welcomed back as a four-year City Council member.

• The public hearing for the Pacific Avenue project is set for Nov. 27 at 5:20 p.m. at the Stevens County Senior Center.

• The rental housing ordinance has been updated, with no major changes, and will be presented to the Rental Housing Commission for review. Hill is looking into a making a change in the handling of Contract for Deed properties.

• The Morris Area is to be made a Yellow Ribbon Network. The designation ceremony will be in Willmar on Dec. 7 at 3:00 p.m. and will be attended by Governor Dayton and the Adjutant General.

• Hill told the council that a final budget has been made and will be presented in December. The tax levy in the proposed budget will increase by three percent.