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
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 HEARINGS: Reschedule 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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
READING AND APPROVAL OF
MINUTES: 10/14/14 Regular
Meeting Minutes: Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Council
member Storck, to approve the 10/14/14 regular meeting minutes. Motion
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
of City Bills
for Exempt Permit – Deer Hunters
Estimate – Par Piping & Fabrication, LLC (DENCO Project)
PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND
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
& RECOMMENDATIONS: Failed
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.
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
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 ITEMS: Yellow 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.