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City purchases more property at paper mill

No solid plans in place for 1 1/2 acres at East, Benton

The Morris City Council approved the purchase of three acres of the former Federal Paperboard property.

The council at its Tuesday meeting, which had been postponed from Monday by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, approved going forward with the purchase of the property with Tax Increment Finance District. The vote was unanimous, with Alderman Ken Sereno absent.

The city will be buying the property for $150,000. The property is located at East and Benton streets and has about 1.5 acres with a building on it. The other half is just ground property.

The city had made previous attempts at purchasing the property for more money, including an offer of $300,000. This time a realtor contacted the city on behalf of the owner to see if the city was interested. The city bid $150,000 and it was accepted.

Mayor Richard Kopczick said after the meeting the city does not have a plan for the property yet, but he has instructed committees to be thinking about it.

Years ago, the city discussed moving the Public Works Department there and this could be looked at again, he said. Or the city could look into purchasing former papermill property to the east of it and possibly extending Wall Street. It could also look into the cost of demolishing the building, he said, among other ideas.

“We need to throw it all around. We’ll take ideas. We’re looking to clean it up and get it back on the tax rolls,” said the mayor.

In other business, the city approved adding Seneca ETSB and the village of Seneca as entities served by the Grundy County Emergency Telephone System Board (911 board)’s dispatch center.

The agreement charges Seneca a dispatching fee of $75,000 to take on Seneca police, fire and EMS calls. In addition, Seneca will pay a one-time impact fee of $15,000.

All 15 parties of the Grundy ETSB have to vote on adding Seneca. A majority will allow them to become a member.

Alderman Randy Larson asked if adding Seneca would require another dispatcher to be hired. Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said it would not and that before any municipality can join, the 911 board’s executive committee considers a lot of data regarding the municipality’s calls and the effect it will have on the Grundy dispatch system.

“If we keep voting others in, could this possibly dilute services to Morris?” asked Alderman Don Hansen.
Hansen said he was concerned with the dispatchers having to learn the streets of another city.

Dite said this is part of the dispatchers’ training process and the ETSB would not allow them to take on something they could not handle.

Dite explained to the council the more parties added to the ETSB, the more parties are paying for the operations of the center.

Braidwood and Grundy ETSB are also in discussions.

The current ETSB contract expires in 2014. The 911 board’s Finance Committee is working on a new formula for the next contract that will include call volume, population, EAV, and other considerations.

In the current contract, Grundy County and Morris took on the bulk of the cost to allow for the other agencies to adjust to the new budget item. Morris and the county have always paid for dispatch costs and were prepared for it, whereas the other parties have not paid for this service previously.

The largest stakeholders are Morris, which pays about $500,000; Grundy, at about $1.2 million; Minooka, about $100,000; and Coal City, about $50,000.

The new formula, once it is decided on, will level the playing field for all of the parties involved. The cost will go down for some, and up for some of the parties, said Dite after the meeting.

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