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MINUTES – MORRIS CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING–NOVEMBER 12, 2013

The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 12th day of November, 2013, 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 Wohlers, Solvie, Miller, Storck and Mayor Giese. Also present was City Manager Hill, Finance Director Raasch, City Engineer/Surveyor/Inspector Fier and City Attorney Jordan. 

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS:  None

PUBLIC HEARINGS:   Resolution Adopting Assessments in Conjunction with the West 9th, 10th and 11th Street Improvement Project:  Mayor Giese opened the public hearing at 5:18 p.m. 

City Manager Hill explained that there is a right to appeal the assessment and by the end of the hearing the council must be presented with a written notification to appeal the assessment.  Once this resolution is adopted property owners have 30 days to make the appeal to district court and the courts will rule on whether the assessment was appropriate. 

Jay Fier, City Engineer, stated there are a few places where sidewalk needs to be fixed and that will be done next spring.  There are also some driveways in phase 3 that haven't been done yet but will be completed this week.  Fier indicated Vicky Dosdall has put a temporary blanket on the unseeded part of the project.  The white pipes in the boulevards will be cut down and buried yet this fall.  The alleys still need some black dirt as they look shabby in some places.   

Fier reviewed the six different assessments on the project.  The sanitary sewer assessable cost, after the city’s 25% share was taken into consideration, was $131,981.  This figure was adjusted to reflect an 8” pipe rate, not the 12” that was put in.  This amount was divided by 71 users for an assessment of $1,858 per user.  The estimate used at the improvement hearing was $3,440.

The total assessable cost for water was $251,394 divided by 67 users for an assessment of $3,752 per user.  The estimate was $4,430 per user. 

The total assessable cost for storm sewer was $63,736.  Fier noted the water shed wasn't quite as big as originally thought.  This amount was divided by 732,999 square feet for a total of $.087 per square foot.  The estimate used was $.061 per square foot.

The curb & gutter bid price was $11.02 per lineal foot.  The original estimate was $13.57 per lineal foot.

Fier stated with regard to sidewalks, he walked through the project area three separate times, once by himself, once with WSN and once with the contractor.  There were some cases where there was pretty good sidewalk but it had to be taken out to get to a sewer and water connection.  The bid was $3.40 per square foot for a 4” sidewalk, $4.57 per square foot for a 6” sidewalk.  The estimate at the hearing was $5.43 per square foot. 

The total cost for the street assessment was $1,032,173.  The city picked up 75% of the street on this particular project with the remaining 25%, or $258,043, being assessed to property owners.  This is the first time the city has done a street assessment.  Fier explained that a 50 x 140 foot (7,000 square feet) lot is considered a standard lot so he took the actual lot sizes, and in some cases the parcel sizes, and divided that by 7,000.  He then added up all the units and came up with 127.24 units for $2,028 per unit.  The estimate used at the improvement hearing was much higher.   

Wohlers noted from what Fier has shared, most of the assessments came in lower than what was originally proposed. 

Karen Berget, 909 Nevada, stated she was upset when she found out her sidewalk was taken out.  Berget stated it wasn't heaving and there was one tiny little crack that went through two sections of it.  Berget stated this has been a really expensive project for her and cost a little over $10,000, which included some charges for sewer problems. Berget indicated she talked with Fier about it this summer and was surprised to find out that she would be paying $1,158 for a sidewalk that she didn't think needed to be replaced.  Berget pointed out to the council that they need to be careful when they’re spending someone else's money.  Hill informed Berget the council could adjust the amount or she could file a written appeal.   

Fier noted that it was a safety issue.  There were other sidewalks that weren't in as tough of shape but Fier stated each time he walked through there was not a sidewalk that he thought should be saved.  Fier stated anyone that knows him knows he doesn't take things out that shouldn't be taken out.  Fier noted he and Berget have differing opinions on things.  Berget indicated she could see taking it out if it was heaving or a safety hazard.  Berget stated overall the project went well but she is upset and thought the council should know that. 

Hill pointed out that all the old sidewalk that's left is in pretty good shape.  Hill indicated it is kind of a dilemma the city has because they can't go to every property owner and talk about sidewalk.  Hill suggested in the future notifying owners that they will have sidewalk replaced so they are aware.  Fier added that there was 15 to 20 feet of that sidewalk that definitely had to be removed to get the sewer and water back there.  Berget confirmed that was true because they had to replace the sewer line. 

Kelly Nichols, who owns two properties at 813 Pacific and 107 West 9th Street, stated he has owned property in Morris for 25 years.  About 7 years ago he had an assessment for $3,000, about 3 years ago it was $6,000 and now at 107 West 9th the assessment is almost $13,000.  Nichols stated the city must be familiar with M.S. 429 which states that a city cannot assess for more than the benefit to the property.  Nichols asked if the city did a determination of the values prior to the project.  Hill explained a company called Nagel Appraising did the work and the general appraisal was between $7,000 and $11,000, depending on the size of the property.  Hill noted this is a general appraisal and not for each specific property.  Hill indicated Nichols has the right to appeal and have a property specific appraisal.  Hill stated sidewalks kicked up the value of these assessments, especially on a corner lot.  Hill pointed out if the appraisal comes back higher then the city is going to ask for more money.  Nichols stated he was not too concerned about that.

Hill stated this project should have been done 30 years ago.  Hill firmly believes it increases the value of the property because you can't sell a property if you can't get to it.  Nichols informed the city that he has an appeal letter but asked if there were any negotiations other than district court.  Hill stated he did not plan on having any negotiations.  Nichols noted this assessment is just not realistic with a market value of his house at $28,000 and a $13,000 assessment.  Nichols stated West 6th Street was a pretty comparable project and that assessment was $6,000.  Fier pointed out this is a 100 foot lot, which accounts for two units on the street assessment.  Hill indicated the city is not allowed to asses based on the value of the house.  Nichols noted the assessment has to coincide with the benefit to the house.  Hill indicated it could be that the land is worth more than the house.  Nichols pointed out that a bare lot in Morris, Minnesota isn't worth more than $20,000-$25,000.  Council member Solvie stated if a lot is located in a neighborhood where everything is done it would be worth more. 

Mike Schneider, 204 West 9th, thanked the city for fixing the street.  Schneider stated with regard to establishment of the grass it is apparent that some of it is not going to make it.  Also, Schneider referred to his sidewalk and stated initially their location only had one or two sections that were going to be replaced.  It was fairly new and was done to straighten out the sidewalk but wasn't in the original plan.  Fier explained that it was moved back father to where the property line was to make his driveway more of a gentle slope. 

Shannon Meyer, 823 Pacific, requested that all steel posts in future projects have tennis balls on them as a safety issue.   

A number of written appeals were presented to the council.  Hill notified all those that presented appeals that the next step is for them to file the appeal with district court so it gets put on the court docket.  The time limit to do that is 30 days from today.  Hill indicated that the city will not order an appraisal until someone has filed an appeal with district court. 

Nichols asked if it would make more sense to hire the appraiser before they go to court.   Hill stated he didn’t think so because that is basically saying the city would get an appraisal and then sit down and negotiate.  Hill asked what the city is supposed to do in these small towns when these roads are failing.  This discussion is taking place across Minnesota and some cities are talking of assessing streets on utility bills.  Nichols believes the streets should come out of the general fund.  Hill argued that there isn’t possibly enough money for that. Hill pointed out the appraiser, who does this for a living, said that neighborhood was one of the worst he's ever seen. 

Doug Kill Jr, 300 West 10th Street, stated he doesn’t understand how the city decides to assess 9th, 10th and 11th Street and have them pay for 25% of the street but nobody else in town has had to do that.  Kill asked if that was something that would be assessed going forward with every other project.  Hill stated the city has to do something to get caught up on fixing roads and eventually it will come around to everyone.  Hill noted the city was originally going to assess roads at 75%. 

Nichols stated he is under no illusion that his assessment is going to go back to zero but his attorney has dealt with these situations all over the state and has won in every case.  Hill indicated that Nichols should be fine then.  Nichols pointed out that this is a cost that he’s going to have to pass along to his tenants and asked Hill if he was advocating that rents in Morris be increased.  Hill stated he is saying the roads should be fixed. 

Council member Storck indicated the city will never get done fixing streets because by the time all of them are done it will be time to start over.  Storck stated he does not know the answer but asked the audience to put themselves in the council’s shoes.    

Berget stated with regard to the value of assessments, if a house is sold the seller is going to have to pay it off and it will reduce the equity in the home.  It may increase usability but will not increase the sale value of the property.  Solvie argued that it has increased the value because who is going to want to buy it knowing those things don’t work.  Solvie commended every one that came to the meeting because that shows they’re concerned about their property.  However, the roads need to be fixed otherwise the whole town will end up like this neighborhood was.  Nichols agreed that the city has to continue to maintain its infrastructure but they’re going to have to figure out how to pay for it.

Jeremiah Kill asked what happens if the sidewalks start cracking or upheaving and if there was a warranty on them.  Fier noted the warranty is one year from the final payment on the project.  Fier stated that the general contractor is so reliable that even if something goes wrong a couple years down the road they will deal with it. 

Mayor Giese closed the public hearing at 6:23 and brought the matter back to the council for action.

Hill informed everyone that the city will send out a second notice to property owners letting them know the assessment has been approved and that they can pay it off within 30 days without interest.   

Wohlers stated he thought the project went very well and thanked Jay for his efforts.  Wohlers has lived in Morris his whole life and feels this neighborhood is going to look great. 

Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Solvie, to adopt Resolution #3192-11-13, Resolution Adopting Assessments in Conjunction with 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 MINUTES10/22/13 Regular Meeting Minutes:  Council member Storck moved, seconded by Miller, to approve the 10/22/13 regular meeting minutes.  Motion carried.

10/22/13 Condensed Version Minutes:  Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Wohlers, to approve the 10/22/13 condensed version minutes.  Motion carried.

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

         A.      Audit of City Bills

         B.      Pay Estimate #6 – West 9th/10th/11th Street Improvements

         C.      Pay Estimate #5 – Dore & Associates

         D.      Revised Final Pay Estimate – F & S Concrete

         E.       September Transit Report

         F.       Gambling Report

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.

ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONSResolution Approving a County Project Within the City of Morris Corporate Limits:  The County has asked for a resolution to approve a road project on County Road No. 22 located in the City limits near the fairgrounds and public works garage.  Fier indicated he has met with Brian Giese from the county and they will work together on some catch basins that have a little bit of leakage.  

Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers, to adopt Resolution #3193-11-13, Resolution Approving a County Project Within the City of Morris Corporate Limits.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

CITY MANAGER'S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONSMotion to Order Police Cars:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Storck, to authorize the purchase of two new police cars from Heartland Motors in Morris.  Motion carried.  They will come out of next year’s budget but take several months to get so should be ordered now.

City Manager Report:  This was informational for the council.

Fier stated the tree planting over the past weekend went very well with 33 people coming out to help, ranging in age from 3 to 67.  They planted 10 different species of trees with 60 being planted in Green River Park and 32 in East Side.  The reason for the abundance of trees is that there are so many ash trees in these parks and they are susceptible to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Wohlers noted he received a call wondering why the trees were purchased out of town.  Fier stated it was simply a matter of going with the low bidder. 

NEW BUSINESS:  None

OLD BUSINESS:  None

INFORMATIONAL ITEMSCommunity Pride Project Dedication:   There will be a dedication ceremony for the new Christmas lights at 5:30 p.m. before the Parade of Lights on November 14th.  The Chamber would like a representative of the city to be there. 

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 6:47 p.m.

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