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A tree down at the corner of Seventh Street and Columbia Avenue in Morris on Friday, June 21. Morris city crews have been working hard to recover from the storm, which downed trees and backed up sewer systems across town.

City crews in high gear to clean up after storms

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MORRIS – City staff have been working in high gear to deal with downed trees and other damage as a result of a sever thunderstorm that rolled through Morris last week.

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On Tuesday, Morris City Manager Blaine Hill commended city staff for their hard work and outlined some issues that have arisen since the storm.

“It's never easy dealing with that. In this case, there were a lot of things that happened beyond just getting a big rain storm,” said Hill. “Everybody had to kick into high gear to take care of everything.”

City crews have been focusing on downed trees, including 27 trees down in Pomme de Terre Park, and removing hazards from local roadways.

Residents with downed trees or branches branches can bring them out to the boulevard for city staff to pick up. 

One of the biggest problems for city residents was water backing up into basements, said Hill. Finance Director Deb Raasch fielded calls from more than dozen residents who had sewage backups into their homes. 

Hill said there were likely two reasons for the sewer backups during massive rain events. First, many residents still have sump pumps connected to the sanitary sewer system. This means that when water is pumped into the system it can get overloaded.

Second, sections of the city's sanitary sewer system are not built to today's standards. Having updated infrastructure is critical to making sure it works correctly, Hill said.

Because the city has performed adequate sewer maintenance, Hill said the city's insurance company would likely not cover any claims made by residents.

“The fact that nobody's sitting in the audience right now is probably a testament to us maybe dealing with some of those issues,” said Hill.

Council member Bill Storck said he felt bad for the public because the sewer issues were supposed to be taken care of when new sanitary sewer lines were installed.

“I really feel bad for the public because we said that this was going to be fixed,” said Storck “We try to do the educational thing to tell people to put their sump pump outside. It's kind of like crap on your neighbor as long as my basement is dry I don't care about yours. I think we have to do something.”

“I guess we'll just not order six inches of rain next time it rains,” said Council member Jeff Miller. “We try to do the best we can with what we have, but when you get that much rain and the ground of saturated it just an act of God.”

Hill said addressing the problem might take having someone go out in April to check every house to make sure sump pumps are switched over.

Other business

• City staff and Chuck DeWolf from Bolton and Menk met with the site supervisor at the old elementary school demolition site this week. Hill said the company was about 60 percent finished with the hazard abatement and wouldn't likely start on the demolition by the end of the July. A fence will be installed around the property this week.

• Weather has “really been a struggle” for crews working on the west side road construction project, said City Inspecting Engineer Jay Fier. However, there haven't been too many complaints from neighbors and the company, Breitbach Construction, has been working hard, Fier said.

• The council approved a mutual aid agreement between the Morris Fire Department and the fire departments of Hancock, Donnelly and Chokio. The new agreement calls for “automatic” mutual aid program that has been developed cooperatively by the four departments.

• The council approved $2,000 for fireworks for Prairie Pioneer Days.

• Mayor Sheldon Giese appointed Maggie Buss to the Tourism Board.  

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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