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Council cuts ties with Wise

Public works chief will serve as interim city administrator

MORRISON – Morrison is closing the books on controversial City Administrator Jim Wise.

Newly seated Mayor Everett Pannier, after a brief closed session at the end of a relatively short City Council meeting, announced Monday that he would not renew the city administrator's contract.

Wise may leave at his discretion on or before May 31, when his contract expires. Public Works Director Gary Tresenriter will serve as acting city administrator. The city will over the next couple of weeks develop a plan to search for and hire a new city administrator.

Pannier offered no reason for his decision – the first major move of his new administration.

Wise was hired in 2011. Former Mayor Roger Drey, who did not seek re-election and relinquished his seat Monday, reappointed the city administrator last May; his decision received few ringing endorsements. Former Alderman Guy Hayenga and former Alderwoman Pat Zuidema were among the only supporters; they also stepped down Monday.

Alderwoman Marti Wood long has opposed Wise.

"I've heard way too many people say that he causes too many issues," she told Sauk Valley Media in April. "A lot of people on the street say we need to get rid of him."

In his first year as city administrator, Wise often found success, although also drew his fair share of criticism. But in the last year, he has lost support on the council and among the people, and often knocked heads with council members and citizens alike. Outgoing Alderman David Rose once acknowledged "bumps in the road" during Wise's tenure. Zuidema also once noted "butt[ing] heads a couple of times." One resident last year called for Wise's ouster.

Wise, a former Army lieutenant colonel and Sterling native, received an annual salary of $75,000, per his contract. He did not get a raise during his time in Morrison. The City Council gave the mayor the power to renew the agreement each year, a decision that must be made before it expires May 31 or within 7 days of its expiration.

The city administrator position was vacant for 7 months before Wise took the helm in June 2011. Tresenriter served as interim city administrator during that time, as well.

Wise, who quietly took down recording equipment in the corner of the room as people streamed out of the meeting room, could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Council approves Enterprise Zone change

A plan for a gas station and convenience store on the south side of town is a go.

The newly seated City Council voted unanimously to amend the Whiteside County Enterprise Zone to include the proposed site for the gas station and convenience store. The two-thirds-of-an-acre site is on state Route 78 next to the Morrison Institute of Technology and across from the Morrison Industrial Park.

Morrison resident Mike Cozzie plans to build a Conoco station and store, affiliated with Gibson Oil Co. of Lyndon. He will get a sales tax exemption on building materials and a 5-year tax abatement as part of the Enterprise Zone.

The $700,000 project will result in four full-time jobs.

Cozzie plans to start construction soon and hopes to have the facility open by Labor Day weekend.

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