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Most of Morris' big 2014 projects set for spring

Published: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 10:19 p.m. CDT
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As part of the plans for 2014, Morris hopes to get started on the Morris Municipal Airport runway expansion this spring. The ultimate goal is to allow the runway to accommodate larger aircraft.

MORRIS – The city of Morris has big plans for 2014 including road improvement projects, big business prospects and a harder push to get illegal drugs off the street.

Many of the projects won’t begin until the spring when the weather is more construction friendly, starting with the state’s widening of Route 47.

“As we go forward it is going to be a bit hectic on the north end as the state prepares to widen 47 to five lanes,” said Mayor Richard Kopczick.

Route 47 will be reconstructed with two northbound and two southbound lanes from north of Interstate 80 in Morris to north of Sherrill Road. The work also will involve the replacement of bridges carrying the highway over Saratoga and Valley Run creeks.

The project is expected to begin in the spring and take about two years. It is a state and federally funded project, but the city will contribute about $857,000 toward affiliated work with the project, such as moving telephone lines, gas and sewer mains. A new traffic signal at Route 47 and Prologis Parkway is included in this, as well as the addition of roadway lights.

Also north of I-80 will be the construction of a new Pilot Travel Center on the east side of Route 47, Kopczick said. Another business proposed for that side of town is a production facility for Costco, which already has a distribution center there.

Costco is looking at making a $110 million investment by possibly building a new facility. The proposed area is just west of its current distribution center at 3800 N. Division St. The company has submitted a draft annexation agreement to the city. The parties are starting negotiations so the project is not official yet.

“If it goes well, maybe we will see it break ground this spring, also,” Kopczick said.

The city also is looking forward to a Goodwill store coming on Mission Parkway just east of the Aldi store. Another possibility for this spring.

The Morris Municipal Airport continues to be a priority for city officials, as well.

This month it is hoped the state will obtain bids on the runway extension project so construction can start on it in the spring, Kopczick said.

The city plans to extend its north-south runway and taxiway to the north by 500 feet, making it 5,500 feet, to accommodate larger aircraft. In the more distant future, the extension also includes widening the runway from 75 to 100 feet and overlaying it with more asphalt to accommodate heavier aircraft.

As part of this project the city had to obtain numerous parcels of land to accommodate the expansion. So as part of this project, Whitman Road will be extended west of Ashley Road with a bridge and roadway, which is needed to provide residences on that road new access since the airport work will no longer allow them direct access to Route 47.

From the Morris police perspective, Chief Brent Dite has high hopes for 2014, too.

In 2013, Morris police was able to add four new officers to its department. This allowed Dite to assign a new Morris officer to the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad.

“With a new officer assigned to that, not that it wasn’t always our focus, but it adds to our programs we use and our strategies to combat illegal narcotics in the area,” Dite said.

Morris police previously had an officer with MANS, but that officer left to work for the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office, Dite said. When the city’s staff was reduced, they were unable to assign an officer to MANS for a time.

The police department also plans to bring back the Morris Police Citizens Police Academy this year.

Last year it was canceled because there was not enough participants. The class needs a minimum of 15, Dite said.

“We’ve held 20-some classes in the past so people who have wanted to be involved in it really have,” he said. “For awhile we were holding them two times a year.”

The interest has declined some so Dite said he is hoping it will pick up again this year. The department will start putting information out on the academy closer to March, he said.

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