“The time has come” is what Mayor Kevin Wohlers said to the Morris City Council on February 14 at their regular meeting. The ‘time’ he was talking about is the retirement of City Manager Blaine Hill. The council accepted his letter of intent to retire effective June 30.
Hill has been the City Manager in Morris for 17 years. Previous to that he was the City Clerk-Treasurer in Breckenridge, Minnesota. However, Hill told the council members that his very first job was at the Morris city offices where he worked in accounting. While working there, the city manager in those days allowed him to take classes at the University and Hill would work before and after the classes.
“The city let me go to college,” Hill explained. “It was great to come back to where I started my career.” After college that same city manager allowed him to intern and get experience leading to his job in Breckenridge. He has worked 27 of his 43 years with the City of Morris and 17 of those years as the City Manager.
“I have been on the council for ten years and it has been very educational,” stated Councilman Brian Solvie. “You have kept us well informed. Your job is not easy as you have to say no to the public often. I have enjoyed working with you and I am sad to see you go.”
Mayor Wohlers also thanked Hill for the years he has worked with the city.
The council decided to hold a special meeting on March 7 to discuss the future and begin the search process for a new City Manager.
Hill had several other items to present to the council members. The first was discussion of an invitation from the UMN Campus Student Association for a closed meeting. Hill explained that due to open meeting laws the entire council could not attend but perhaps the mayor and one other council member could go to the meeting. Otherwise the student members could attend a council meeting which is open to the public. The council members expressed a desire to visit with the students in a long overdue discussion.
Hill then told the council that the FEMA funding had arrived and explained that it was a HUGE undertaking. He gave recognition to Whitney Millard who took this on and worked through the process. Hill stated that the city “lucked out” in two ways. The first was to have Whitney work on it, adding that she did a fabulous job.
The second thing the city lucked out on was to be assigned to work with the supervisor from FEMA. Hill was not sure if this would be good or not but it turned out to be a benefit to the city. The supervisor was an expert in working with FEMA funds and often suggested things the city could include in the application. It turned out that the city netted $225,000 to cover labor, equipment and preparation for any future storms. One of the items for preparation was a brand new generator to replace the one that went down in the storm. Some of the city equipment saw a great deal of use and may need to be replaced.
“Thank you Whitney and everyone who helped with this,” stated Councilman Solvie. “That was some hard work.”
Hill told the council members that he has been in contact with all the vendors for the PickleBall Court. This will replace the tennis courts at Green River Park. The vendors are lined up and ready to start work in April or May. The work should be done by June. He added that there are also a lot of donations of benches for city parks and the bike path.
In another bike issue, Hill stated that the Minnesota Bike Tour will stop in Morris on June 21 and camp behind the elementary school. There could be an estimated 200-400 bikers on this tour. He has given the Tourism Board a heads up about the visit.
In purchases approved, the council members approved the purchase of nine AEDs through the Stevens County Ambulance Service. Six of the AEDs will go in public buildings and three in city parks. Josh Fischer will do some training on the AED use when these are installed.
The city approved a three year contract with Searle Farms of Donnelly to haul out the lime sludge from the city. This was put out for bids and the Searle Farm bid was the only one received.