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City of Morris signs climate partnership agreement with Saerbeck, Germany

Mayor Sheldon Giese signed a climate partnership agreement between the city of Morris and Saerbeck, Germany in a ceremony in Minneapolis on Friday, Oct. 16. (UMM News Service)

MORRIS — Morris will be partnering with a sister city in Germany to learn more about community-level renewable energy projects.

On Tuesday, the Morris City Council approved a Climate Protection Partnership Agreement with Saerbeck, Germany, a city of about 7,200 people in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The agreement was officially signed by Mayor Sheldon Giese in a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 16 Minneapolis and is part of a larger program connecting Germany and the state of Minnesota on issues of renewable energy and climate protection.

Under the partnership agreement, Morris and Saerbeck will exchange knowledge and experience over the next three years about climate projection and adapting to climate change.

"They're really leading the way, and we get a chance to look into the future a little bit as far as what they're doing and what we may need to do or could be doing," said City Manager Blaine Hill. "It's really exciting to get to be part of all that."

"It's an exciting thing for us too, to see what you are dealing here in Morris with concerning renewable energies, beginning from say, 'point zero,' or 'point one,'" said Saerbeck Technical Advisor Guido Wallraven. "We are very excited to hear from you how these things may work. We will give you everything of our experience with it."

Saerbeck is a recognized world leader in renewable energy thanks to their work on the Saerbeck Bioenergy Park.

In 2009, the city set to work building a renewable energy park on the grounds of a former German army ammunition storage facility. The facility now combines wind, solar and biomass energy production and can produce 250 percent of the energy needed to power the city of Saerbeck.

Many homeowners have implemented their own personal solar energy projects, further increasing the city's output.

Wallraven and Mayor Wilfried Roos visited Morris in October 2014 to begin sharing some of their experience working on community-level renewable energy.

In a meeting with community members on Tuesday, Wallraven said the Saerbeck Bioenergy Park moved forward in small steps. Community members got on board as projects were completed, and organizers held regular assemblies to keep community members informed.

"We're beginning to show that these things are working, that renewable energies can make an energy price which is below the official price of energy in Germany — this is a big message we can get out," said Wallraven.

Other business

The council approved an ordinance that would allow businesses to begin selling alcoholic beverages at 11 a.m. on Sundays. The current city ordinance does not allow alcohol sales before 12 p.m. on Sundays. The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after being published in the Morris Sun Tribune.

The council approved an Environmental Access Agreement with the University of Minnesota as part of the design phase of a proposed new water treatment plant. The land the plant may go on is owned by the university, so the city needs permission to take soil borings on the property. City Manager Blaine Hill said the city will be meeting with university representatives next week to discuss the project.

The council approved the issue and sale of a Health Care Facilities Revenue Note for St. Francis Health Services for about $2.4 million. Steve Fenlon, representing Midwest Healthcare Capital, explained that the city will not have any liability for the bonds. However, the tax exempt bonds will help St. Francis reduce their interest payments on projects.

The council scheduled a budget work session for Thursday, Oct. 29 at 5:15 p.m. in the city council chambers.