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City begins clearing alleys

MORRIS - Morris city crews have started clearing the right-of-ways in alleys in town, and it's not always making citizens happy.

During the Morris City Council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Blaine Hill explained that the standard alley right of way is 20 feet. It usually falls 10 feet on either side of the alley.

"But if you drive around Morris and you'll see that the alleys are nowhere near 20 feet wide and in some cases are not straight."

Hill told the Council that any number of things have encroached on the city's right of way.

Hill said the alleys are meant to provide access for emergency vehicles like fire trucks as well as for maintenance vehicles like snow plows and the garbage truck.

But Hill said that residents have filled the right of ways with shrubs, garbage cans, debris and other items.

Hill said he has heard from one homeowner upset because her hedges were cut back and she wondered why she wasn't notified. He responded that it would be very time consuming to try to identify all the properties that had issues, find the owners and send out a notice.

Council member Jeff Miller said this is really a safety issue and the city is clearing the alleys for public safety. He noted that in several alleys, items like shrubs are making it hard for drivers to see oncoming traffic.

Hill stated that it has been a long time since the city cleared the alleys and he will continue to meet with any property owners who are affected.

Council members also approved the bids for street improvement projects on California, Colorado and Montana Avenues and the city hall parking lot for this year. Bids for the project were opened Tuesday morning. The city had hoped to include milling and overlay improvements on South and Glendale Street as well as Meadow Lane in this project, but their spending limit was $390,000. The bid for all of the improvements identified was nearly double the budget, so the Council voted to have work completed on the projects close to East 8th and East 9th Street.

Council members also approved the annual application to the State of Minnesota for funding for the city transit. City Finance Director Gene Kroschell noted that the city expects it will cost $409,000 to operate the transit in 2012. Of that, they expect to receive over $327,000 in grants from state and federal sources. Fares for the transit are expected to generate another $81,000 which means the city's estimated expense for next year is $695.

Kroschell did tell the Council that the state may decrease its contribution to the transit by 10 to 15 percent.

"We will monitor that closely," Kroschell said.

Kroschell said that if that happens, the city may have to raise fares or cut service to compensate. Another option would be to have the city make up the difference. In the monthly transit report, it was noted that ridership in July was down slightly compared to 2010, but overall ridership for the year is up. There were 3,338 passengers in July. The year-to-date passenger total for 2011 is 38,448.

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