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City Council renews building lease with Historical Society

MORRIS - The Morris City Council approved another five year building lease with the Stevens County Historical Society and amended two loan agreements with the organization at their last meeting of the year on Thursday.

Under the terms of the lease, the Historical Society will continue to pay $1 for use of the building for five years, City Manager Blaine Hill explained.

The new lease includes two changes. First, it authorizes the Historical Society to sub-lease the building with the city's approval. Currently, the University of Minnesota, Morris leases space in the building for research.

The lease also clarifies who will be responsible for maintenance on the building. The city remains responsible for the building and grounds and major repairs, but now the Historical Society will be responsible for the general care of the building - garbage removal, vacuuming, and dusting, for example.

The city currently pays $300 per month to a cleaning service to take care of these issues. Hill said it would be up to the Historical Society to decide how they plan to maintain the building.

The council also amended the terms on two loans of $110,000 total to the Historical Society to address some technical problems with how the loans were originally approved and clarify when and how the loans will be repaid, Hill said.

As part of a renovation project, the Historical Society took out two loans from the city: $30,000 from the city's revolving loan pool and $80,000 from the Economic Development Authority revolving loan pool. At the same time, the Historical Society also took out a $615,000 loan from area banks.

At the time, an agreement was made that the Historical Society would pay off the bank loans first, then repay the loans from the city. To date, the Historical Society has paid off $341,200 of the bank loan.

The amended loan agreement clarifies that the loans through the city are interest free loans that will be due when the bank loan is paid off or will be reviewed in eight years.

City to revise Rental Housing Ordinance

The Morris City Council gave the first reading to two ordinances that will update the city's Rental Housing Ordinance at the recommendation of the Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The first ordinance would repeal the existing section of the city code related to rental housing, while the second would establish a new rental licensing ordinance.

The new ordinance includes four major changes, Hill explained. It now:

• requires Contracts for Deed to be filed with the court in order to be recognized as a legitimate sale and change of ownership as related to rental licensing requirements;

• removes code language in order to recognize that the building code in place when a building was constructed will dictate what can be enforced, not more specific codes in the ordinance;

• changes some policy and procedure language for the Rental Housing Program; and

• changes language related to exempt properties.

The council scheduled a second reading for both ordinances on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 5:20 and 5:25 p.m. respectively.

Other business

• The council approved a payment of $3,532 to Riley Brothers Construction for work done at the fire hall.

• The council transferred leftover money in the funds for two completed construction projects into the funds for two upcoming projects. The city has the authority to make these transfers, explained Hill. In the past, the city's practice has been to take any money leftover after a project is completed and using it to pay off the bonds the city has taken out.

• The council approved a beer license for Pizza Hut.