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
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
PUBLIC HEARINGS: West 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
was held on the issue of who should pay for the pavement and how much they
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.
CONSENT AGENDA: Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member
Storck, to approve the consent agenda with the following items:
of City Bills
for Exempt Permit – Deer Hunters
& Expenditure Report
9/18/12 & 10/2/12 Planning Commission Minutes
PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND
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.
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.
CITY MANAGERíS REPORTS
& RECOMMENDATIONS: City
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.
NEW BUSINESS: None
OLD BUSINESS: None
INFORMATIONAL ITEMS: CGMC in Brief: This was
informational for the council.
ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, Mayor
Giese adjourned the meeting at 7:15 p.m.