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MINUTES  -  MORRIS CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING  -  MARCH 14, 2017

The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 14th day of March, 2017, by Mayor Giese in the Council Chambers of the Morris Senior Citizens/Community Center.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE: The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.

ADDITION TO AGENDA: Mayor Giese added to the consent agenda An Application for Exempt Permit from Stevens County Ducks Unlimited.

ROLL CALL: Roll call was taken with the following members present: Council member Wohlers, Solvie, Gullickson, Miller, and Mayor Giese. Also present was City Manager Hill, Finance Director Raasch, Police Chief Tiegs, Fire Chief Dybdal and City Attorney Jordan. 

CITIZEN'S COMMENTS: Lisa Cain was present at the meeting and stated she, along with many other people, is concerned about the recent loss of trees that have been cut down around town. Cain stated she lost one elm tree awhile back that faces the southwest and has seen her utility bills triple in the warm months of the summer because of the lack of shade. Cain noted she bought a new tree as soon as she could, but she won't live to see the benefit as trees take a long time to grow. Cain stated she hoped that there was a plan for replacing trees and that strong consideration be given before any more trees are removed.

Judy Flicker expressed concerned about the trees that have been taken down in the last couple weeks. Flicker suggested a comprehensive research based plan that the Tree Board would be competent to develop. Flicker hoped that the city would adhere to that plan as further trees need to be removed and to trim trees when possible.  Flicker added her concern for the Green River project and asked that the Tree Board review that in terms of environment and aesthetics.

Kevin Flicker stated he was also at the meeting to discuss the recent removal of a significant number of mature and apparently healthy trees from the streets of Morris. Flicker noted it seemed arbitrary and not very well thought out. Flicker indicated he would like to see more transparency and community discussion in the decision making process with regard to taking down trees.

Peter Bremer declared he was concerned that some of the trees may have been unnecessarily cut down. Bremer stated trees are part of the eco-system; they can help raise property values and take co2 from the air, along with many other benefits. Bremer stated if there were some trees unnecessarily cut down, then hopefully everyone can work together to make sure there is a better plan in place to keep the trees.

Vicki Graham pointed out she walks everywhere and was dismayed to see so many trees come down in such concentrated areas. Graham is also concerned about the trees in the Green River area and asked that the Tree Board have a chance to review the project.  

Tracy Anderson reiterated the concerns that have been articulated. Anderson stated the chain of command is unclear to her and also what the role of the Tree Board is and if the council had the opportunity to weigh in on some of these decisions.  Anderson indicated she would like to

know how this came about because it seemed very sudden and dramatic. Anderson also asked what was happening with the wood from the trees that were taken down, as she had heard various things about people using the wood for their personal use and it not being made available to the public.

City Manager Hill explained that there is no fight between the Tree Board and city administration. Hill stated the Tree Board is appointed by the city council and tasked with doing certain things. Hill indicated one of those things is to make recommendations to the city on tree issues. Hill indicated that typically with boards, sometimes there are city council members that sit on there or city employees that serve. Hill noted all things that are brought up through the city council get funneled up through the City Manager. Hill stated he was hired to manage and operate the city. Hill stated this problem is fixed. The city stopped cutting trees until a system is put in place to be able to make those recommendations. Hill noted the Public Works Director is a member of the Tree Board and is also the City Forester. The Forester is the key staff person that works with the Tree Board on tree issues and that hasn't been happening so now that is fixed. The Public Works Director will be part of the Tree Board and will provide information to the Tree Board and the whole communication process will go back and forth.  

Hill explained as far as the cut wood it is typically brought to the landfill. Hill noted he would do some checking as to whether or not people are taking it.

Hill indicated he, along with Public Works Director Dittbenner, was at the last Tree Board meeting. Hill noted the Tree Board is working on a tree policy. Hill stated he asked the Tree Board for recommendations on the tree budget, tree treatment, pruning, trimming, planting and removal. Hill indicated summer is the time for inspecting Dutch elm trees and it needs to be done in a timely manner. Hill also asked the Tree Board to look at the Green River issue. Hill stated that is the main drainage area for all the water that comes out of Morris. The city's engineer will be coming to the next Tree Board meeting to explain what the process is going to be because there are trees that need to come out of there. Hill confirmed that the Tree Board has given their approval to the trees that need to come out for the improvement project on North and South Court, Brook Street and Eleanor Avenue. Hill added that the Tree Board will also be making recommendations on Wells and Eagles Park for planting trees.

Hill noted he knows everyone on the Tree Board and respects all of their capabilities. Hill stated there had been a disconnect in the communications between the Tree Board and city staff but that has been taken care of. Moving forward city staff will have the information it needs at its fingertips.  

Francie Turner asked if it was possible that some organizations give money towards trees or help out in some aspect. Hill stated that was absolutely possible. Hill noted, however, that there shouldn't be an assumption that the Tree Board has to go out asking people for money to plant trees. The city can put money in the budget first, but if there's an opportunity to do something that maybe couldn't get done in a given year, other opportunities are appreciated.

Cheryl Rempel asked if there was some distinctive way to mark the trees that are going to be taken down. Rempel indicated it may help how the public feels about the process if they had a little warning.

Council member Wohlers presented the council with a letter from Jo Solvie with tree concerns.

Mayor Giese thanked everyone for coming. Giese noted the communication lines are open, but unfortunately what's already been done can't be fixed. 

Council member Solvie stated he also appreciated everyone coming. Solvie stated it makes him feel good that people want to be involved and that it wasn't done in an accusatory manner. Solvie pointed out he lives close to Green River and likes all the trees but also recognizes that the whole city depends on that stream to take away water. Solvie pointed out that if the water doesn't flow, basements can flood and one person has water that comes up to their back door every time there's a 5 inch rain. Solvie stated the council will definitely try to preserve everything it can along Green River.

Council member Wohlers added that he appreciated the calm demeanor and the good ideas that were presented tonight.

Lakes Country Service Cooperative: Jane Eastes and Holly Witt of Lakes Country Service Cooperative were present at the meeting to review the services LCSC provides. Eastes stated it is the 40 year anniversary of LCSC, which is a public non-profit that was started by the legislature. Eastes noted there are 9 of them around the state serving 151 members. Eastes stated when looking at the services they provide, they tailor their services to add too or supplement services, not to take anything away.

Holly Witt stated she works with the CCOGA, which are Cities, Counties and Other Government Agencies. Witt indicated they are connecting with their members to make sure they know about the services they provide. Witt indicated some new training needs they are working on include social media, team building and a series they are planning for the fall. Witt indicated they are also looking at internship and interim programs. Witt welcomes any feedback from the council after they have a chance to look at the packet of information provided.

PUBLIC HEARINGS: None

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES: 2/28/17 Regular City Council Meeting Minutes: Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Council member Miller, to approve the 2/28/17 regular meeting minutes. Motion carried.

2/28/17 Condensed Version Minutes: Council member Gullickson moved, seconded by Wohlers, to approve the 2/28/17 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.         February Transit Report

            C.         2/23/17 Tree Board Minutes

            D.         Raffle License Report - Morris Area Post Prom

            E.         Application for Exempt Permit - Ducks Unlimited Ladies Event

Motion carried.

PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND COMMUNICATIONS: Acceptance of Donation to Fire Department from Crop Production Services: Council member Miller moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers , to accept a donation of $1,000 from Crop Production Services to the Morris Fire Department to assist with the purchase of a utility truck vehicle. Motion carried.

ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS: Resolution Requesting Authorization to Replace, Rehabilitate or Remove Bridges:  Hill pointed out this resolution needs to be done if the city wants to seek state funding for the culverts along Green River. Hill stated Jeff Kuhn has done a good job of trying to round up money.

Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Solvie, to adopt Resolution #3458-3-17, Resolution Requesting Authorization to Replace, Rehabilitate or Remove Bridges. Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Authorizing a Novation Agreement with the Morris HRA and the HRA of Stevens County: Melanie Fohl of the HRA was present at the meeting and stated it has been about two years since she first came before the council to talk about this official transfer. Fohl indicated Grandview has finished a $1.2 million plumbing project so the transfer can now move forward.

Fohl noted the agreement is a HUD prescribed document and the Stevens County HRA will replace the Morris Housing Authority wherever it is mentioned.

Council member Miller moved, seconded by Council member Gullickson, to adopt Resolution #3459-3-17, Resolution Authorizing a Novation Agreement with the Morris HRA and the HRA of Stevens County. Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Updating the City of Morris Fee Schedule: Fohl explained the rental licensing ordinance has been in place since 1999 and fees haven't been increased since 2003. Fohl proposed that fees be increased from $55/unit + $10 for each additional unit to $65/unit + $15 for each additional unit. Fohl indicated they have been running $5,000-$7,000 in the hole and need to make the budget balance. Fohl pointed out she doesn't see a lot of opposition from landlords and they're very cooperative for the most part. Fohl stated they try to be a resource for both landlords and tenants.

Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Solvie, to adopt Resolution #3460-3-17, Resolution Updating the City of Morris Fee Schedule. Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

Resolution Approving a Federal AIP Entitlement Transfer Agreement from Benson, MN for $138,655: Hill stated this agreement with Benson is for the transfer of $138,655 of entitlement funds to be used for a master plan project at the airport. Hill noted there is no requirement to pay the funds back at a later date. 

Council member Miller moved, seconded by Mayor Giese, to adopt Resolution #3461-3-17, Resolution Approving a Federal AIP Entitlement Transfer Agreement from Benson, MN for $138,655. Upon a roll call vote taken and all present voting in favor, motion carried.

CITY MANAGER'S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS: City Manager Newsletter:  This was informational for the council.

Wohlers asked if it would it be beneficial to have a council member on the Tree Board. Hill noted that would be up to the council. Council member Gullickson volunteered to be on the board but she may have a conflict with the meeting time. Hill stated he would check on the scheduling of the Tree Board meetings. Gullickson added that the tree removal was not a very well-thought out plan and could see why people were upset. Gullickson stated its water under the bridge but it shouldn't happen again.

Schedule April 11th Meeting at High School: Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Solvie, to schedule the April 11th meeting at the high school at 8:30 a.m.

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS: Board of Review Information: The Board of Review is scheduled for April 3rd at 5:15 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 6:27 p.m.

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