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MINUTES–MORRIS CITY COUNCIL-REGULAR MEETING- OCTOBER 23, 2012

The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 23rd    day of October, 2012, by Mayor Giese in the Council Chambers of the Morris Senior Citizens/Community Center.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:  The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.

ROLL CALL:  Roll call was taken with the following members present:  Council member Wilcox, Miller, Storck and Mayor Giese.  Council member Carrington arrived at 5:19 p.m.  Also present was City Manager Hill, Finance Director Raasch, Public Works Director Dittbenner, Fleet Manager Searle and City Engineer/Surveyor/Inspector Fier and City Attorney Jordan.

CITIZEN'S COMMENTS:  Jerry Lesmeister was present at the meeting and asked the city to be proactive about snow removal on city sidewalks.  Lesmeister stated it is a hardship for everyone who has to use the sidewalks to commute and absentee landlords are the worst.  Lesmeister suggested putting a reminder notice in the water bills some time in the next couple months.  It was the consensus of the council that some type of notice would be a great idea. 

PUBLIC HEARINGSWest 9th, 10th & 11th Street Improvement Project and Resolution Ordering the Plans and Specifications for the Project:  City Manager Hill pointed out state statute authorizes the city to take action to establish an improvement project and put it together.  Another way projects are done is if property owners petition the city, which happened recently on East 8th Street and East 6th Street. 

Hill indicted the City takes a look at all of the infrastructure and how to improve it.  Hill stated when looking at areas of town that needed streets, water, sewer and curb and gutter, this area was one of the worst. Hill stated all a person has to do is drive through there to see the roads and curb and gutter are falling apart.  Hill explained a feasibility study and cost analysis has been done.  City staff doesnít like to do these projects because it involves a lot of money and tearing up neighborhoods but this absolutely has to be done.  

Hill gave an explanation of the improvement process.  Hill stated if the council decides to move forward the next step is to order the plans and specs and authorize a bidding to take place.  Typically the city likes to bid in February or March and the market is really good right now for contractors.  The bids the city has received over the last four projects have come in 25% less than the estimated cost.  Once bids are opened they are brought back to the council and that's when a decision is made whether or not to move forward with the project.  If it moves forward a contract is awarded and bonds are issued to pay for the work.  Final assessments are determined after the work is done and next November would be the final assessment hearing.  Property owners have the right to object to the assessment and appeal it in district court.  There is also a period of time when the assessments can be paid without interest or it can be placed on the tax rolls.    

Jeff Kuhn of WSN was present at the meeting.  Kuhn reviewed a map of the project area.  Kuhn indicated they would start working from the downstream side of the sanitary sewer on West 8th Street going north.  The project would be completed in 3-4 phases.  While the underground work is being done property owners will be notified so they can get their vehicles in a place that's accessible.  There will also be emergency access.  Once all the underground is complete the contractor moves onto surface restoration and curb and gutter and sidewalks.  The standard street width is 36' but 9th Street is one exception and that will remain at 30' because of the trees.   

Kuhn explained they hope to bid the project in late winter or early spring with an anticipated start date of early May.  With a project this size the construction season would be from May until the end of October or mid-November.  Generally each phase of the project is a month to a month and a half.  The city engineer is on site to coordinate access.   

City Engineer Fier explained that there will be a temporary water line put in to make the project go faster.  It is completely safe and has worked out well on the last three projects.  Fier pointed out he will also have a weekly meeting at a designated time and place to fill everyone in on the progress and deal with any problems.  The work hours on the project will be from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and the road will be backfilled each night to a driveable surface.      

Frank Nelson, 108 West 9th Street, asked about having his own line done during the project.  Fier indicated he would be available to help coordinate individual service lines.  Fier noted there have been a few occasions when it can be done at the same time, otherwise it is probably best to wait until after the city has done their work. 

Tom Smith, 523 Pacific, stated that when 6th Street was done in 2006 he was assessed over $10,000 so he is quite concerned about getting assessed again.  Kuhn stated the portion Smith is concerned about along Pacific Avenue from West 5th Street to West 6th Street has been taken out of the project.   

Mike Sax, 315 West 9th, asked that service not be put on a bare lot on this project as was done on the East 8th and 9th Street project.  Sax declared that there was a property owner that had a bare lot that specifically said he did not want service there but it was done anyway.  Sax indicated he has a 100 foot wide lot with a building on one lot and he does not want service to the other part of the lot.  Hill pointed out by city code the city is required to put a service in on any lot that will be developed in the future.  There is no assessment to the property owner until such time as the property is developed.  The way it is typically done is to stub in a water and sewer service so the road doesnít have to be dug up again if it's ever developed.  The assessment is then deferred until development takes place.  Sax argued that Don Ritter paid an assessment that he did not want on a bare lot.  Hill and Fier affirmed that Ritter requested that service.    

Gary Thorstad, 1009 Nevada Avenue, asked about sidewalks.  Kuhn stated sidewalks are part of the project.  Hill stated sidewalks are assessed 100% to the landowner.  Hill noted the city section by the park will be picked up by the city. 

Frank Nelson asked how far into the boulevard the contractor would be working.  Kuhn stated approximately 8 to 10 feet from the back of the curb. Fier added that curb stops would be changed out.  Nelson also asked about driveway approaches and if those would be replaced.  Fier indicated the driveway is replaced from the back of the curb to the sidewalk and homeowners are not assessed on that.  Nelson noted most of the driveways on West 9th Street have steep dips.  Kuhn explained that through the design process they will see if they can do a road raise grade to try and correct some of the steepness on driveways. 

Sax asked if the city planned on doing drain tile right in the curb.  Kuhn stated yes and there will be an opportunity for homeowners to hook up their sump pump right into the drain tile if they want to.    

Hill stated the estimate for the project has been updated to about $3.4 million.  Hill emphasized this is an estimate.  The last bids have come in anywhere from 25-30% less because contractors are hungry.  Contingency money is also built in.  Hill noted that some of the infrastructure is from the 20's and because the expected life is only 40 years it is hard to tell what will be underneath the road.  Hill stated the bottom line is that the city is trying to finance these projects on the backs of the general city taxpayers.  The net result of the city not doing projects is that there are massive amounts of infrastructure that arenít getting done.

Hill declared the city is not financing pavement the right way.  Property owners have never been assessed for pavement for the last 30 years.  Hill noted 35% of the property in Morris is tax exempt, while the other 66% has been paying for the road.  If the city continues to do it that way taxes will be raised by 15%.  Hill stated most other cities charge for pavement.  The code states the city should be assessing 100% for roads.    In the code it says sewer and water should be assessed by front feet but that is not how itís done, it is assessed by hook up.  Hill explained the city has to change how itís doing business or residents are going to be stuck with bad roads, bad water, etc.

Tom Schneider asked if the projects from the last three or four years had been assessed differently.  Hill stated yes, there was no pavement included on the assessment.

Linda Cook stated she canít afford to pay the assessment and that theyíve been helping everyone and now no one is going to help them.

Tom Smith pointed out that because it's an assessment instead of a tax the tax exempt properties would have to pay which makes it a much bigger pool to split the costs.

Hill noted the last four projects have come in cheaper and Riley Bros. will be able to bid this one.  If the bid doesn't come in cheaper then the city is probably not going to want to do it.  Hill stated a standard 50 foot lot is looking at an assessment of $10,000 to $12,000.  The project area was appraised and the benefit is valued at between $7,000 and $11,000.  This is done to provide a basis in case a property owner wants to appeal their assessment to district court.    

Tom Schuster stated if heís going to get assessed and the city is going to increase the value of his property heís actually getting hit twice then.    

Sax asked if the actual sales that were used by this assessor would be made available to the public.  Sax stated an empty lot in Morris doesn't sell for much more than what the appraisal figure is.  Sax believes there is no way a judge would agree with those numbers and it would become an issue.  Sax believes in order to be fair the city needs to proceed with the current model and if it means raising taxes thatís what happens because thatís what has been done in the past.  Sax agreed that in this particular area the roads are a piece of crap but feels the city shouldn't have fixed roads on the East side that didn't need it.

Council member Carrington left the meeting at this point at 6:30 p.m.

Sax continued that the cityís priorities are all out of whack.  Sax indicated his road was resurfaced and feels that it should have been very low on the priority list compared to other streets in town.  Hill explained that those projects came out of franchise money.  Sax suggested using those funds for this project instead of on roads that donít need it yet.  Hill indicated there is not enough money in the fund for that.  Hill stated those roads were done to try and save them before they get to the level to where these roads are at. 

Schneider asked what kind of amortization the city is looking at for the assessment.  Hill stated it would be spread out over 15 years but there has been talk about extending it over 20 years if people are interested.    

When asked how much the last project cost, Fier stated East 8th & 9th Street was substantially lower at about $6,000 because there was no pavement assessment.  If it was just sewer and water it was around $4,000.

Jerry Lesmeister acknowledged that he knows his street will be due for an assessment soon and is looking for options and alternatives.  Lesmeister stated the assessment is really just a trumped up name for a tax.  Lesmeister indicated there are a lot more rural people that come in and run on city streets than city people go out and run on rural roads.  Lesmeister suggested taking some money out of his county taxes to put towards city taxes as one alternative.  Lesmeister stated there are franchise fees and lodging money but suggested a penny or two gas tax.  Hill noted the legislature would have to get involved in order to pass a gas tax.

Tony Gausman believes the city should phase in the pavement assessment, possibly starting at 25% and increasing to 50% and eventually 75% because this is a big challenge right now for people.  Hill stated that could be discussed but the pavement assessment canít remain at zero.

Considerable discussion was held on the issue of who should pay for the pavement and how much they should pay. 

Hill stated if someone is driving in a neighborhood and it has nice streets it does increase the value of the homes.  Cook stated she doesnít drive on streets and think she would pay $10,000 more for a house because of it.  Cook asked why it had to be all or nothing when the 72 taxpayers on this project have been helping pay for improvements for years.  Hill stated he is suggesting 75% for pavement.  Cook stated she pays for the other 25% with her taxes.

Sax asked if old assessments could be reopened because the increased market value of what the city is assessing is not right.  Hill stated an assessment thatís already been done cannot be reopened.    

A citizen in the audience asked why the city picked up the majority of the cost for Pacific Avenue.  Hill explained that it was a special project funded with federal and state money. 

Storck stated everything costs more but at some point in time when the road is done and it needs maintenance the franchise fees will take care of it.  Storck indicated nothing is written in stone as to what will be charged until bids come in. 

Sax stated the appraisal the city received was from an outside firm that the city paid that is in the business of selling a report the city needs to say its worth x amount of dollars.  Sax believes that the market value of property is essentially unrelated to the infrastructure and if the city is going to do this they must raise taxes on everybody.    

A lengthy discussion was held on the appraisal process. 

Council member Miller indicated things are not set in stone and the city is hoping bids come in under the estimate.  When the city has the bids and all the necessary information that's when a decision will be made.

Mayor Giese closed the public hearing at 6:55 p.m.

Council member Miller moved, seconded by Mayor Giese, to adopt Resolution #3112-10-12, Resolution Ordering the Plans and Specifications for the West 9th, 10th and 11th Street Improvement Project.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES:  10/9/12 Regular Meeting Minutes:  Council member Storck moved, seconded by Wilcox, to approve the 10/9/12 regular meeting minutes.   Motion carried.

10/9/12 Condensed Version Minutes:  Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Miller, to approve the 10/9/12 condensed version minutes.  Motion carried.

CONSENT AGENDA: Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Storck, to approve the consent agenda with the following items:

         A.      Audit of City Bills

         B.      SCMC Administrative Report

         C.      Gambling Reports

         D.      Application for Exempt Permit – Deer Hunters

         E.       Revenue & Expenditure Report

         F.       8/21/12, 9/18/12 & 10/2/12 Planning Commission Minutes

Motion carried.

PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND COMMUNICATIONSGambling Report from American Legion:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Storck, to accept the gambling report from the American Legion.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor and Mayor Giese abstaining as an officer of the Legion, motion carried.

Tourism Board Recommendation on Web Hosting Service:  Council member Wilcox moved, seconded by Miller, to approve the recommendation from the Tourism Board and authorize payment to Iceberg Web Design for $203.90/year for the website hosting service and $699.00 for the Morris tourism content management and blog development.  Motion carried.

ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS:   None

CITY MANAGERíS REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONSCity Manager Report:  This was informational for the council.   

Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Storck, to approve the purchase of a new police car which will come out of the 2013 budget.  Motion carried.  City Manager Hill stated the car needed to be ordered in order to get it delivered by the first of the year. 

Morris Floral:  Mayor Giese stated he would like the city to back off on its November 1st date to clean up the Morris Floral property.  Giese stated he has been in contact with the owner and he is not entirely on the same page as the city.  Giese stated it has taken a long time but it is coming along and the city should try and help businesses.  Miller pointed out that the city wants it cleaned up so there isnít an eyesore in the middle of town and he expects to see some progress.  Wilcox noted it is looking a lot better. 

Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Wilcox, to have the city contact Morris Floral on May 1st of next year to see what progress has been made at that time.   Motion carried.

Set Date for Canvassing Board Meeting:  Council member Storck moved, seconded by Mayor Giese, to set the canvassing board meeting for Noon on November 9th in the Council Chambers.  Motion carried.

NEW BUSINESS:  None

OLD BUSINESS:  None

INFORMATIONAL ITEMSCGMC in Brief:  This was informational for the council.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 7:15 p.m.

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