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City's Planning Commission will review county building project

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Morris, 56267
Morris Sun Tribune
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Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The Morris Planning Commission is expected to review and hold a public hearing on a conditional-use permit request from Stevens County for its planned building project.

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The project, which will be reviewed by the commission in December, includes construction of a jail and Law Enforcement Center and courthouse renovations.

County officials reviewed the project with the Morris City Council during its meeting this week.

The county is preparing to begin construction this spring, and the $15 million project is expected to take 18 months to 24 months to complete. The jail would be a 20-cell, 40-bed facility, and the Stevens County Sheriff's Office, Morris Police and dispatch services would be moved from its current courthouse location to the new LEC.

The 52-year-old courthouse would be completely updated and the renovations and reconfiguring would create space for the county's Human Services Department, which currently is located at a facility on Highway 28.

It appears the county will have adequate parking and will meet setback requirements on all sides of the building, City Manager Blaine Hill stated.

Architects and police officials are planning for the department's space needs in the new LEC. The city is unable to manage the current estimate of $450,000 for its share of the space needs, Hill said, but he added that the city and county have a good working relationship and should reach agreement on what the city puts into the project.

The county also wants to close a block of Colorado Avenue between 4th and 5th streets in front of the courthouse to create an area for parking and a walking plaza to the main doors. The county is working with the owners of a home on the corner of Colorado and 4th Street on a plan that would relocate the family and allow the county to remove the house.

Hill said the city won't take action on the Colorado Avenue issue at this point, and that it was determined that the county won't need any other variances to proceed with the project.

In other city business:

• The council approved applying for a $175,000 Safe Route to Schools grant. The grant would include installing sidewalks, crossing lights and markings to make it safer for children to walk and ride bikes to and from schools. The project includes the new paths, education and additional law enforcement patrols.

The SRTS committee identified primary routes on Columbia Avenue, South Street, 7th and 5th streets, Pacific Avenue and Colorado Avenue. Since the areas around the school are most dangerous because of traffic volume, sidewalks and paths are planned at each end and at the back of the school. A path from Green River Road to the back of the elementary school was recommended, along with sidewalks at the north end of the elementary school parking lot and the west side of Columbia Avenue near Federated Church. Crossing lights will be installed for safer access to the high school.

What money remains will be used to improve sidewalks and crossings and for markings.

• The council approved putting the administrative duties for two city revolving loan funds in the hands of Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission Executive Director Michael Haynes. The city will continue to be the authorizing agent for economic development, but Hill said the process will be more efficient with Haynes as a "one-stop shop for economic development loan processing."

• The city is hoping two downtown property owners can work out differences related to parking near the Pizza Ranch.

The city is contemplating ordering the trailers moved since it does not appear they meet requirements of zoning for the area.

Two semi trailers have been parked in a lot adjacent to the Pizza Ranch for some time. The owner says the trailers are for a salt business. However, research by City Attorney Charles Glasrud seems to indicate the trailers do not qualify for business use. Although not confirmed by one property owner, the trailers may have been moved to the site to prevent Pizza Ranch from using the parking lot, or access through a side door, which is handicapped accessible, to the restaurant.

Hill said the city's involvement in asking the property owners to resolve their dispute is to help create as much parking space as possible in a busy business area. At one point, the city was considering buying the lot, but Hill said that option is no longer being pursued.

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