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City moves ahead on ATV, carts issue

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Proponents of using golf carts and All-Terrain Vehicles on Morris streets moved a step closer to that reality on Tuesday.

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The Morris City Council held its first reading of a proposed ordinance that would allow the use of alternative vehicles on some city streets.

Some Minnesota cities have allowed such uses for many years, and others are currently considering it given the high price of gasoline.

Council member Bill Storck raised the issue last month, and earlier this month several residents attended a council meeting to push for adoption of an ordinance.

City Attorney Charlie Glasrud had a draft copy of an ordinance the council reviewed Tuesday. The draft will be revised following a meeting of city officials and residents and presented at a second reading of the ordinance in August.

The ordinance would allow the use of golf carts and ATVs on city streets, but access to many areas, especially high-traffic highways running through town, would be prohibited. Those wishing to use the vehicles would be required to buy permits and would be allowed on streets only from sunrise to sunset.

Morris Chief of Police Jim Beauregard also urged the council to limit use to people 21 years or older. Beauregard said he's received calls on the issue.

"They say, It's OK, we like it, but make it 21," he said, noting that they are worried about younger drivers on ATVs in the city.

In other city business:

• The council approved a new joint powers agreement with the West Central S.W.A.T. Team.

The city has been part of the team for several years, and the updated agreement includes added insurance recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities, Beauregard said.

The agreement calls for the entities in the team to train and make available personnel for S.W.A.T. situations, thus cutting the expense for cities and counties that otherwise couldn't afford to maintain its own S.W.A.T units.

The agreement also sets out standards for training, operations, under what circumstances the team would be used, liability and command and control. Team members also have the ability to refuse to send personnel if a situation in their own jurisdictions are considered more pressing.

Beauregard also was designated as the city's representative for joint powers board meetings.

The agreement includes the cities of Browns Valley, Glenwood, Hancock, Starbuck, Wheaton, the counties of Stevens, Pope, Big Stone and Traverse, and the University of Minnesota, Morris.

• The council approved by-law updates recommended by Fire Chief Doug Storck, but omitted a request to increase the number of firefighters in the department.

The department currently has 34 firefighters. Storck recommended an increase up to 38 firefighters. However, current budget constraints make the increase untenable, City Manager Blaine Hill said.

Storck said he did not oppose keeping the staff at current levels, and that he made the request now looking to the future because the by-laws are only updated every 10 to 12 years. Council members stated that if the department needed more firefighters, a request could be made at any time.

The by-law changes include increasing the maximum starting age of firefighters from 35 to 38, adding a chaplain as an officer and establishing duties, setting the elective position starting date at Jan. 1, and changing the mandatory retirement age from 62 to 58.

• An underground storage tank and playground equipment at the former elementary school will be removed.

The council approved using funds from the Capital Outlay Fund for the tank removal, which is estimated to cost between $5,000 and $6,000. The cost could change if there is contamination, Hill said, but the city's expense likely wouldn't increase because federal clean-up funds would be available.

Estimates state that there is about 700 gallons of fuel in the 10,000 gallon tank, Hill stated.

The city also will advertise for bids for the sale of the playground equipment.

Insurance risk analysts have suggested the city remove the equipment as soon as possible because of liability issues, Hill said.

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