City Council  |  Contact the City  |  Home

MINUTES  –  MORRIS CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING  – AUGUST 26, 2014

The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 26th   day of August, 2014, 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, Miller, Storck and Mayor Giese.  Council member Solvie was absent.  Also present was City Manager Hill, Finance Director Raasch, Fire Chief Dybdal, Public Works Director Dittbenner, City Engineer Fier and Police Chief Tiegs.    

CITIZEN’S COMMENTS:  None

PUBLIC HEARINGSResolution Approving Property Tax Abatements and Awarding a Business Subsidy to Assist in Financing Improvements to be Made by Dripps Automotive LLC in the City of Morris, MN:   Mayor Giese moved up the Resolution Approving an updated Subsidy Assistance Policy to coincide with this agenda item.

City Manager Hill stated the city has had an assistance policy in the past but it needs to be changed to make it more generic to include JOBZ, tax abatements and tax increment financing.      

Hill stated the Dripps Automotive request is a proposed agreement to abate $225,000 worth of taxes over a period of 15 years.  This would provide assistance to Heartland Motors to move to a new location and put up a new building.  Hill noted that there is a resolution on the agenda to approve the final plat for Riley's Commercial Development where this new business would go.  Hill explained that part of the abatement requires some job creation goals.   

Hill stated that in talking with the project manager from MN DOT, they will still move forward with the Highway 28 project and keep the turn lanes by Superior, but if this project doesn’t move forward they will eliminate the turn lanes on highway 28 and 9 that go into this development.  If the turn lanes are not put in now, they will not be put in at a later date unless it is at the expense of the developer. 

Dan Dripps, 600 West 5th Street, was present at the meeting and gave some background on this project.  Dripps stated part of GM’s vision is to improve all their Chevy dealerships so when they looked into a remodel it was going to cost approximately $1 million.  Dripps stated they then looked into building new and after factoring everything in, including land acquisition, infrastructure and site prep they got close to $3.5 million.  Dripps noted he heard from a lot of people that it would be good for the community to get something going in that corner of the development.  Dripps pointed out they are not eligible for TIF because this would be new construction so tax abatement was another option.  Dripps explained that the project won’t move forward if the tax abatement from all three entities doesn’t go through.  Dripps stated they’re stretching themselves by doing this project and they’re not in a huge, booming economy or a growing economy.    

Dripps stated the company has started hiring in anticipation of the project and will commit to having a total of 35 jobs within two years.    

Dripps stated he would be buying his land from Paul Martin and paying Riley’s for the infrastructure.  All other lots would be sold through Riley’s with the infrastructure built into the cost.  Miller noted it looks like there are 15 lots and wondered if there would be 14 more people coming to the city looking for abatement.  Council member Wohlers stated that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing because if people are asking for assistance that means they're interested in developing something.  Giese added that he thinks this is a great investment for the city.    

Hill noted the city talked about doing tax abatement for the whole area but each project has to stand on its own as to what they’re going to be doing and what they need for tax abatement and why.  Hill stated they would rather have TIF but it doesn’t meet any of the TIF requirements because it's undeveloped.   

Council member Storck stated he wants to see the city grow and it will probably grow a lot quicker than people think once this takes off.  Wohlers stated he believes the city has to look at what it can potentially gain, not what it is giving up.   

Hill explained there is an added cost for having to come off the highway onto a frontage road, as opposed to getting a driveway off the highway to a business so that has really cranked up the cost. 

Miller asked if Dripps was planning to use any of the economic development funds available through the city and county.  Dripps stated he does plan to. 

Tom Krusemark, Valu Ford - 205 Highway 9 South, stated he operates two dealerships and asked if they would have to move forward and split up if they would be eligible for tax abatement to build a new building on that property.  Hill noted they absolutely would be eligible.  They would have to come and make an application to the city.  Hill indicated it would be a hard one to turn down if one has already been done for a car dealership.  Hill pointed out that TIF may be an option available to redo the existing dealership. 

Michael Haynes stated the real difference between TIF and tax abatement is the authorities granting ability.  TIF is just the city.  Haynes stated it is unrealistic to think that someone would come in to develop this property without assistance.  Haynes noted he doesn’t see it being anything but a cornfield for the next 30 years without this assistance.   

Haynes explained that abatement is not unfamiliar to other cities, big and small.  This is a signal to the outside world that the city is willing to invest in businesses.  Haynes indicated they are ready to make a pretty good loan to Dripps.  Haynes stated there is also a hotel that is very interested in buying property in this development.   

Geoff Richardson, 709 Wyoming Avenue, stated he thinks tax abatement is a good tool but it should be used to attract new businesses to the area.  Richardson expressed concern about what would happen to the other properties, like Thrifty White or Town and Country.    

Hill stated one of the things out here on the prairie is that we don’t lure big businesses as much as we grow what’s already here.  The city tries to help and if they say no, then there won’t be development.   Hill stated it's hard to get things developed without some kind of assistance.  Miller noted that Dripps has an agreement with Superior to buy his existing building.   

With regard to the downtown businesses, Haynes indicated he has businesses looking for open space to relocate and there are no empty buildings.  Haynes stated Thrifty White would like drive through capabilities and their wanting to move has nothing to do with the current property owners. 

Richardson reiterated that he appreciates the tools the city is talking about but wondered why the city would resort to that when it’s not generating new business.  Mayor Giese stated if it’s generating 15 new jobs that is as good as generating new business. 

Wohlers stated he believes this is a defining moment in this town's history.  Wohlers indicated he would be abstaining from voting as an employee of Heartland Motors.  Wohlers gave a brief history on the Dripps family presence in Morris. 

Storck stated he believes that the project should be a go.  Miller stated he hates to see the city waive taxes but it's a big development and if this goes through other things will happen for the city. 

Hill noted he would share this agreement with the county and school because if either of those two entities rejects it it will be null and void.

Mayor Giese closed the public hearing at 6:03 p.m. and brought the matter back to the council for action. 

Giese stated he believes this sends a message to the business community that the city is pro-business and that we do what we can to help businesses. 

Council member Storck moved, seconded by Miller, to adopt Resolution #3248-8-14, Resolution Approving Property Tax Abatements and Awarding a Business Subsidy to Assist in Financing Improvements.  Upon a roll call vote taken and Council members Miller, Storck and Mayor Giese voting in favor and Council member Wohlers abstaining and Council member Solvie being absent, motion carried.

County member Miller moved, seconded by Mayor Giese, to adopt Resolution #3249-8-14, Resolution Approving an Updated Subsidy Assistance for Private Development Policy.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES8/11/14 Regular Meeting Minutes:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Wohlers, to approve the 8/11/14 regular meeting minutes.  Motion carried. 

8/11/14 Condensed Version Minutes:  Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Miller, to approve the 8/11/14 condensed version minutes.  Motion carried.

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

         A.      Audit of City Bills

         B.      Partial Pay Estimate #5 – F & S Concrete

         C.      Change Order – Airport Hangar

         D.      Final Pay Estimate – Airport Hangar

         E.       Street Dance Permit – Old #1

         F.       Revenue & Expenditure Report

Motion carried.

PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND COMMUNICATIONSGambling Reports from American Legion:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Storck, to accept the gambling reports 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 School Resource Officer Agreement for the 2014-2015 School Year:  Hill stated the school wanted to go from 2/3 time to half time.  This amounts in about a $1,200 difference from the last agreement.  Tiegs noted they essentially had to use some of this money to pay for a different mandate from the state.  This means that the officer will be at the school three or four days a week instead of five.  Tiegs stated that even though it was considered a 2/3 position before, it was still closer to full-time because it was advantageous to the department for investigations and problems down the road. 

Council member Miller moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers, to adopt Resolution #3250-8-14, Resolution Approving a School Resource Officer Agreement for the 2014-2015 School Year.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Approving Final Plat of Riley's Commercial Development:  Hill noted the only issue with this plat is that the city probably doesn't want to file it until the vacation of streets on the old plat is complete. 

Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Miller, to adopt Resolution #3251-8-14, Resolution Approving Final Plat of Riley's Commercial Development.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Authorizing the Submission of a DNR Park Legacy Grant Application:  Hill stated the Park Board has been looking at doing something with the old concession stand at PDT Park for a long time and there is a need for additional showers/bathrooms.  The Park Board is recommending the city council authorize the submission of a legacy grant application to remodel the concession building for showers and to add a community room.  Hill added that one of the options includes putting in a patio area that connects to the big picnic shelter and then remodeling some of the kitchen in that building. 

Hill suggested the city pay Pat Conroy of WSN to write the grant.  The costs include $111,960 for construction, $16,794 for contingency, $48,000 for architectural drawings, bidding and contract oversight, and $4,000 for the grant writing.  The city’s share would be 20% or $36,150. 

Council member Miller moved, seconded by Storck, to adopt Resolution #3252-8-14, Resolution Authorizing the Submission of a DNR Park Legacy Grant Application.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Approving a West Central S.W.A.T. Team Agreement:  Police Chief Tiegs stated the city approved this agreement in January but it didn't take into consideration that two of the employees are not government employees, so all references to that needed to be changed. 

Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers, to adopt Resolution #3253-8-14, Resolution Approving a West Central S.W.A.T. Team Agreement.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Approving the 2014 DNR Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Contract:  Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Miller, to adopt Resolution #3254-8-14, Resolution Approving the 2014 DNR Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Contract in the amount of $2,500 for turn out gear.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Adopting Assessment for Current Services:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Wohlers, to adopt Resolution #3255-8-14, Resolution Adopting Assessment for Current Services for repair of a water shut off at 16 East 2nd Street.  Motion carried.

CITY MANAGER'S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONSCity Manager Report:  Hill noted

the preliminary budget would be presented at the next council meeting.  The city will be able to freeze the tax levy and everything looks good for going into next year.  At the next meeting the council will be asked to set a public hearing for the Oregon Avenue road project.  Hill will be meeting with the unions the second week in September. 

Giese asked about the increase for mayor and council salaries.  Hill indicated that could be discussed during the budget and it may have to be done before the election.  

Miller asked about the concessions at Wells Park that are used by the youth of Faith Lutheran Church.  They are wondering about using the brick building that houses the bathrooms and having a roll up window put in.  Hill stated there was a discussion from the park board and if the church was willing to pay for the cost of the windows they didn’t see problem.  Miller added it was his understanding that there was no interest from the baseball association to take on the additional concessions at Wells and it's a nice service to have there with all the use the field gets. 

NEW BUSINESSAppointment to Canvassing Board:  Mayor Giese appointed Kevin Wohlers to the Canvassing Board. 

OLD BUSINESS:  Wohlers asked for an update on the status of the Mi Mexico restaurant.  Hill explained that when the owners went to put in their equipment there was an issue with the flooring.  Hill stated it was another building problem and that's what's been hampering this project all along. 

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:  None

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 6:42 p.m.

Website Services by Iceberg.