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MINUTES – MORRIS CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING –OCTOBER 28, 2014

The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 28th day of October, 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, Solvie, Miller, Storck and Mayor Giese.  Also present was City Manager Hill, Finance Director Raasch, Public Works Director Dittbenner, Police Chief Tiegs, City Engineer Fier and City Attorney Jordan.

ADDITION TO AGENDA:  Mayor Giese added to the agenda a Pay Estimate to Par Piping & Fabrication, LLC for the DENCO project. 

CITIZENíS COMMENTS:  Native American Willow Structure – PDT Park:  Eric Littlewing was present at the meeting and stated he is seeking assistance in constructing a healing lodge for students, staff and community members.  Littlewing stated he feels it would be a positive contribution to the community.  Littlewing explained because of the separation of church and state they are not allowed to have it on campus property.  Littlewing indicated Pomme de Terre is a peaceful area and it felt like the right spot for the structure to be built. 

Hill noted that this was discussed at the Park Board meeting with no objections.  Hill recommended the council pass a motion to allow them to build this structure next to the dam area.  Hill stated the stipulations are that it not be a permanent structure and if there are any problems the structure would need to be removed.  Hill pointed out the structure is made of willow and there are some willow patches along the river that could be used.

Littlewing stated that due to the nature of the structure it would be best to get it done before the ground gets too hard so he is hoping to get it done within the next month.

Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Storck, to allow the construction of a Native American willow structure in Pomme de Terre Park near the dam area.

PUBLIC HEARINGSReschedule Public Hearing and 2nd Reading of Ordinance No. 98, An Ordinance Amending the Zoning Map and the HB District to Allow for an Additional Conditional Use:  Hill explained that the Planning Commission did not have a quorum at their last meeting to review this item so the public hearing needs to be rescheduled.  Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers, to reschedule the public hearing for Ordinance No. 98 to 5:25 p.m. on November 25th.  Motion carried.

Public Hearing and 2nd Reading of Ordinance No. 99, An Ordinance Amending Section 7.05 of the Morris City Code Pertaining to Ice and Snow on Public Sidewalks:  Hill stated this would replace the ordinance that is in place right now with regard to sidewalk shoveling.  The old ordinance talks about having snow shoveled within 12 hours but this would allow for two days after the snow stops and then on the third day the city has the right to come in and start their process.  Hill explained that because of it being a public safety issue, notice will not be given to the property owners prior to the snow being removed.  Hill added that at the same time it depends on the resources the city has available as to whether or not the sidewalks are cleared.  Hill suggested an administrative fee be implemented with a first offense of $25, second at $50, third at $75, fourth of $100 and anything after that would be $200. 

Giese asked if there is any consideration on depth of snow or measurable snow.  Hill stated that is why there is still going to be a decision to make as to how this is implemented because there are going to be different scenarios to deal with.   

Mayor Giese opened the public hearing at 5:27 p.m.

Sid Wilcox, 210 Montana Avenue, stated he heard City Manager Hill say that one of the big problems the city had was policing of the sidewalks because everyone is out busy clearing snow.  Wilcox stated about 1/3 of the city has sidewalks and he took his golf cart and crisscrossed the city, going by every street that has a sidewalk.  It took him 4½ hours.  Wilcox noted the majority of the time the city has two police cars out driving around or parked looking for speeders.  Wilcox suggested each policeman be given a pad of paper to write down addresses as they drive around town.  Wilcox stated if they drive as slow as he does on the golf cart it shouldnít take them more than 2¼ hours each.  Wilcox noted they are already on the payroll and they're not involved in the snow removal.  Wilcox felt this was a very easy way to handle the situation and asked the council to take it under consideration.

Jerry Lesmeister, 502 East 4th Street, stated he likes some of the verbage in the ordinance but doesnít know why it was changed from 24 to 48 hours.  Lesmeister stated if people wait too long to shovel it's packed down.  Lesmeister stated it doesn't take very long to figure out who shovels and who doesn't and the repeat offenders are absentee property owners and renters.  Lesmeister indicated he looks at it as a public safety issue.  Lesmeister suggested educating people that you need to shovel for the postman, elderly, handicapped and anyone else who uses the sidewalks.

Mike Sax, 13 Meadow Lane, stated he has some serious problems with the ordinance.  Sax stated his problem isnít necessarily with the intent, but his personal perspective is that the current ordinance can solve the problem if the city actually enforces it.  Sax believes the issue is that a local city has the right to define public nuisances and the right to abate a public nuisance but state law governs what the city can do about it.  Sax stated he believes this ordinance is an attempt to circumvent state law and eventually it's not going to fly.  Sax noted his opinion is that the city has a history of being creative with their ordinances because they donít want to follow state law.

Sax indicated the existing ordinance complies with state law in that the city has to provide a notice to property owners.  Sax explained that there is one condition in which you can abate a public nuisance without a notice and that is when it's a hazard to life.  Sax does not believe it's a hazard to life walking through a little bit of snow.  Hill affirmed that when it comes to public safety and health and welfare it can be done without a notice.  Sax stated that he looked and couldnít find a single case where the courts agreed with the position that snow on a sidewalk is dangerous to life.  City Attorney Jordan stated it's common sense.  Sax added that cities across this state require notification for this.  Solvie pointed out the notification is the problem with the existing ordinance, because by the time it's all done people are walking knee deep in snow trying to get where they want to go.  Sax suggested finding which properties aren't clearing their snow and sending them a certified letter.  Discussion was held as to how long that would take.  Sax addressed the council and stated he feels theyíve been given some information that he believes isn't credible. 

Sax stated he doesn't believe state law gives the city the authority to impose a fee.  Sax stated most people send a letter and if the property owner doesnít shovel, the city abates the process and charges a fee as part of that abatement, which is clearly within the realm of case law.  Sax does not believe the city has the authority to assign a fee up front without any notification. Hill noted the city is trying to avoid charging everyone who fails to shovel their sidewalk with a misdemeanor.  Sax stated the city is creating a problem for itself that doesn't exist.  Sax indicated he does not believe he is a problem landlord.  This issue is one of his soapboxes because of previous conflict he has had with the city and the fact that the city doesn't recognize they have to follow the law. 

Wohlers stated he isnít going to sit and wait until somebody falls and hits their head and kills themselves to act on this.  Solvie argued that itís Saxís opinion that itís not following state law and itís the cityís opinion that it is, and if it gets pushed to an upper court theyíll make their opinion.  Sax declared that he and the city have had a number of disagreements over what state law allows them to do or not do and somebody has never lost.   Sax stated the city is breaking the law.  Solvie stated the city is challenging it.

Jordan informed the council that before this ordinance was put together he did extensive legal research.  Jordan pointed out there are many state laws and the cityís own ordinances similar to the way this was drafted and they have been found to be legal.  Jordan stated that despite Mr. Sax's years of unlicensed practice in the law, he is confident that this is legal and it will survive a challenge.

Mary Elizabeth Bezanson, 207 East 8th Street, wanted to thank the council for changing this very rapidly but she too is puzzled by the 24 hours turning into 48.  Bezanson noted ordinances for communities around Morris seem to be 24 except for Benson which is 72.  Bezanson stated she hopes the new owner of the elementary property understands that it's important to clear those sidewalks.

Bezanson explained that awhile back her daughter slipped on some ice and suffered a massive concussion so she knows how dangerous it can be.  Bezanson challenged everyone in Morris to walk more and to shovel their sidewalks. 

Wilcox pointed out that there is almost two miles of sidewalk in town where it's street and then the curb right next to sidewalk and these get piled high with snow.  Wilcox noted every year he has to go out and reseed because the salt from the snow plow kills all the grass for the first three feet.

Sax stated the city clears most of the sidewalks that Wilcox described.  Sax stated in addition to those types of properties he also clears the snow that the city or state pushes onto his sidewalk and the city should do something that addresses that.  Sax indicated this is an issue he shouldn't have to worry about because heís not creating it.  Sax noted that the League provides guidance on this and the fact that it is a city problem not a homeowner problem.  Hill explained one thing to keep in mind is that it's not the city's snow and the snow plow is made to throw snow up on the boulevard.  Sax stated the reason the League provides the guidance is that the city doesn't have the authority to require that a resident clear snow from the street.  The city's ordinance should put something in place that recognizes that people who are being asked to do that need to be treated somewhat differently.

Considerable discussion was held on whose responsibility it is to clear snow off the sidewalks that has been put there by the snow plow.  Wohlers added that itís no different than what happens at the end of a driveway.  Wohlers thinks the city crew does a bang up job removing snow and should be commended for getting the streets open. 

Lesmeister noted that Hill references not having enough resources but it seems like when the snow emergency ordinance was enacted there were enough resources to issue 70 or 80 tickets.  Lesmeister asked if 2nd Street and 7th Street could be widened when plowing snow because they get pretty narrow.  Lesmeister asked if it was true that the snow emergency ordinance wouldnít be utilized this winter.  Hill stated that has not been discussed but the biggest problem is getting tow truck drivers.  Hill explained that it takes a long time to write the tickets, tow the cars, set up an impound lot, then set up the process to get them back and pay the fees.  The easiest thing is to get people to move their cars off the streets and shovel their sidewalks.  Hill added that finding vendors to remove the snow is also a problem. 

Mayor Giese closed the public hearing at 6:00 p.m. and brought the matter back to the council for action. 

Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Wohlers, to adopt Ordinance No. 99, An Ordinance Amending Section 7.05 of the Morris City Code Pertaining to Ice and Snow on Public Sidewalks.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

 

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES10/14/14 Regular Meeting Minutes:  Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Council member Storck, to approve the 10/14/14 regular meeting minutes.  Motion carried.

10/14/14 Condensed Version Minutes:  Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Solvie, to approve the 10/14/14 condensed version minutes.  Motion carried.

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

         A.      Audit of City Bills

         B.      Application for Exempt Permit – Deer Hunters

         C.      Gambling Applications

         D.      Community Education Information 

         E.       Pay Estimate – Par Piping & Fabrication, LLC (DENCO Project)

Motion carried.

PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND COMMUNICATIONSGambling Report from American Legion:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Solvie, 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 RESOLUTIONS:  None

CITY MANAGER'S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONSFailed Liquor Store Compliance Check:  Hill stated the liquor store hasn't had a problem since 2011 when the new till system was implemented which required all licenses be scanned.  Hill explained that the software and the tills were being updated when the compliance check took place and one of the clerks misread the date on the ID.  Hill indicated he does not believe the store will have any problems moving forward.  There is a graduated system of fines and penalties and since nothing has happened since 2011 the minimum fine is $250.  If there are four violations within five years the store would lose its license, and that time limit is up in May of next year.  Hill stated he knows a lot of people complain because they have to show their ID but this is why. 

Reschedule 11/11/14 Council Meeting:  Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Solvie, to reschedule the November 11th council meeting to Monday, November 10th at 5:15 p.m.  Motion carried.    

Schedule Canvassing Board Meeting:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Solvie, to hold the canvassing board meeting on Monday, November 10th at 5:00 p.m.  Motion carried.

City Manager Report:  This was informational for the council.

NEW BUSINESS:  None 

OLD BUSINESS:  None

INFORMATIONAL ITEMSYellow Ribbon Network Committee Minutes:  This was informational for the council.     

Thank You:  This was informational for the council.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 6:25 p.m.

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