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The regular meeting of the Morris City Council was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 14th day of July, 2020, 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 members Wohlers, Solvie, Gullickson, Miller and Mayor Giese.  Also present was City Manager Hill, City Attorney Jordan and Police Chief Welle.  

CITIZEN'S COMMENTS:  Mary Elizabeth Bezanson was present at the meeting to discuss the poor condition of the sidewalks in the City.  Bezanson tripped and fell on a sidewalk on June 14th and encouraged the city to fix sidewalks in town.  Bezanson stated what happened to her was not an accident, it was caused by the city's individual and collective unwillingness to deal with the disintegrating sidewalks in town.  Bezanson stated it is the responsibility of the council and city employees to ensure the safety of residents and visitors to Morris and they have not met that responsibility. 

Wes Flinn, 203 East 1st Street, was present at the meeting to talk about masks.  Flinn stated COVID-19 cases in Stevens County have gone up dramatically in the past week and with school just around the corner, it is likely to get worse.  Flinn indicated his plan was to ask the council to pass a mask ordinance.  While the city code does not directly give the council the ability to do so, MN Stat. 12.29 does allow for a mayor to declare a public health emergency.  Flinn pointed out that while an ordinance is not possible tonight he suggested the council draft a letter or proclamation strongly encouraging the use of masks in indoor public places.


READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES: 6/23/20 Regular Meeting Minutes: Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Gullickson, to approve the 6/23/20 regular meeting minutes.  Motion carried.

6/23/20 Condensed Version:  Council member Miller moved, seconded by Wohlers, to approve the 6/23/20 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.             Revenue & Expenditure Report

C.             Library Board Minutes, 3/11/20

Motion carried.

PETITIONS, REQUESTS AND COMMUNICATIONSMotion to Approve $2,500 of Tourism Funds for Visitor's Guide:  Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Solvie, to authorize the use of $2,500 from lodging tax funds to be used by the Chamber of Commerce for photos and drone videos for a new visitor's guide.  Motion carried.

Motion to Authorize Sale of 2013 Chevy Impala: Council member Wohlers moved, seconded by Gullickson, to authorize the sale of the 2013 Chevy Impala police car.  Motion carried. 

ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONSResolution Appointing Election Judges for the 8/11/20 Primary Election:  Council member Solvie moved, seconded by Gullickson, to adopt Resolution #3701-7-20, Resolution Appointing Election Judges for the 8/11/20 Primary Election.  Upon a roll call vote taken and all presenting voting in favor, motion carried.

CITY MANAGER'S REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONSCity Manager Newsletter:  Hill stated with regard to storm damage, property owners are responsible for taking care of their own damage.  Hill noted the city crew will clean the streets and look at boulevard trees and then for days and days after people will drag stuff out to the street.  Hill indicated the city would not be cleaning up after a storm unless there is some type of an announcement.  Hill noted realistically there is no way the city crew could clean up trees and branches from all the properties in town.

Council member Gullickson suggested announcing a timeframe when the city crew could pick up branches after a major storm.  Gullickson stated while most people have the ability to haul stuff away, there are a lot of citizens that don't have the means financially or a truck or a trailer to do so.  

CARES Act funding was discussed and what the money could be used for. 

Hill noted with regard to COVID-19 the Governor is the one directing all the activities related to masks.  Hill questioned how an ordinance could be enforced if people were required to wear masks.  Hill indicated a better way to do it is to encourage people to wear masks when they're out and about. 

With regard to the budget, Hill stated he is realistically looking at freezing spending for next year at the current level.  Hill will direct department heads to look at cutting their budgets by 10% in anticipation of cuts in LGA.  Union contracts are also up this year.

Hill noted there is no way the city can go out and fix every sidewalk in Morris and the majority of them are owned by property owners.  The sidewalk survey has been completed and a sidewalk project will be put together for next year.  Hill added the city takes care of the boulevard trees, and if a sidewalk is damaged because of those trees the city will fix it.  Hill explained that a project could be bid out with the cost assessed to the property owners, over a number of years. 

Solvie noted the city hasn't done the sidewalks in the past because of the financial responsibility to the homeowner.  Solvie added it is not easy to go someone and ask them to take on that financial burden when the city doesn't own the sidewalks.  Solvie feels there needs to be a little leeway from the people that are complaining about the city sidewalks.    Wohlers suggested a 10 year plan, doing x number of sidewalks each year.

City Attorney Letter to Editor:  Mayor Giese moved, seconded by Council member Wohlers, to accept the County Attorney's letter to the editor.  Motion carried.


OTHER BUSINESSMayor/City Council Statement on Destruction of Signs:  Mayor Giese presented a proposed statement on the damage to the black lives matter signs.  The statement reads as follows:

         As Mayor of Morris and on behalf of the City Council and Citizens, I want to

         say that we do not condone the recent destruction and theft of the Black Lives

         Matter signs in Morris.  Morris is a welcoming city and we believe everyone should

         be able to live, work and play here without worrying about their safety and the

         protection of their property.  Our police department is actively investigating this

         issue and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.  Threatening

         Citizens, destruction and theft of property, discrimination in any way, shape or form

         is not legal and will not be tolerated.

Considerable discussion was held on whether or not to leave in the last sentence of the statement. 

Solvie asked if signs on the boulevards are even allowed.  Hill pointed out during the political season state laws take over and you are allowed to have one sign of any size.  The only issue is you can't put them on city property.  The council asked for clarification about signs and what is/isn't allowed.  Hill will look into it. 

With regard to masks, Mayor Giese stated he would drag his feet on mandating that it must be done, but would definitely encourage mask usage throughout Morris.  Solvie added that he is not in favor of an ordinance mandating masks and questioned how it would ever be enforced. 

Miller indicated if a person doesn't feel comfortable going in somewhere they have the right to stay home, sit outside or go to a different place.  Gullickson agreed that she liked the word encourage.  Mayor Giese ended with stating that he encouraged people in and around Morris to wear masks when they can and in public areas and businesses where possible.   


ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Mayor Giese adjourned the meeting at 6:57 p.m.

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