Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — For a long moment it seemed the proposed severance agreement with former City Administrator Andy Morris might fail for lack of a council member willing to put it up for discussion.

It finally received the required motion and second, but it still wasn’t smooth sailing. The council made a key change to the agreement before voting unanimously for its approval.

City Attorney Joni Keith called the fundamentals “a standard agreement. … A city administrator will not come to a city without a similar agreement in place.” Morris’ contract with the city included six months’ severance.

The proposed agreement included a 2 percent raise to the severance on what would have been his employment anniversary. Councilman Marc Roe said the contract didn’t allow for such an increase, and asked that it be removed.

His amendment received unanimous support, as did the revised agreement. It was clear members of the council wanted to move on.

“I think this is fair,” said Councilman Matt Dalbey, who is serving as mayor pro-tem while Mayor Tom Lazio is acting city administrator. “I think this is what we agreed to when we hired Mr. Morris.”

Councilman Skip Stevens agreed.

“I think we need to move forward on this,” he said.

What was not immediately clear is whether the agreement, which was negotiated with Morris in recent weeks, would be acceptable to him as revised. Given the council’s initial decision to table it two weeks ago and the unanimous approval of the amendment, though, it seems unlikely the council would restore the cost of living raise.

The final agreement will cost the city more than $75,000, plus six months of health insurance and a buyout of accrued vacation time.

The council meeting also included an answer to questions about an apparent delay in the city’s planned quiet zone. Lazio said in early July the application would be formally made soon. It was not.

The work is finished and the council approved the final $16,390 payment for the work. Public Works Director Larry Seals said the formal submission of the application is still a couple weeks away.

“A final walk through meeting has ben set for Oct. 4, 2019 with the SRF and FRA, which will start the 30-day countdown,” Seals said. “The actual application will be handed to them that day.”

Once the city makes its formal application, federal authorities have 30 days in which to approve or reject it. If the quiet zone is approved, trains will not be required to sound their horns as they approach crossings along Ottumwa’s riverfront.

The key word is required. There is no ban on the use of horns, and trains may still sound them in emergency situations.

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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