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Alexandria explores expansion at RCC

A plan to expand the Runestone Community Center (RCC) in Alexandria took another baby step forward Tuesday night.

The Alexandria City Council voted 5-0 to pay up to $7,000 to JLG Architects of Alexandria to conduct a “phase one” needs assessment and pre-design work for an expansion that would add a third sheet of ice to the RCC.

JLG will review and assess the physical condition of the RCC and its ice systems. It was among six architectural firms that submitted proposals to the city's request for quotations.

A big question looms, however, as to how the expansion, expected to cost several million dollars, would be funded. Council member Virgil Batesole said he was hesitant to move further along with the project withought knowing where the money would come from. He noted that the current RCC was built mostly with donations and that he would not spend taxpayer money to expand it.

Council member Todd Jensen said the city should focus on the pressing needs at the current facility, incuding replacing the roof and converting the refrigeration system, before adding on.

Council member Owen Miller said a key part of the phase one study will determine exactly what the facility needs.

JLG plans to meet with stakeholders and RCC users as part of the initial design process. This includes the Alexandria Area Hockey Association, Vikingland Curling, Alexandria Figure Skating Club, Alexandria Blizzard and the high school hockey program.

JLG plans to compile preliminary programming information, share it with an RCC Expansion Committee and hold a workshop with all user groups and the city to review the goals, needs and wishes that have been gathered from all the groups.

The next step, “phase two” would be pre-design services, which could begin this August.

JLG has received 90 design awards in its 25-year history. It has been involved in the design of many prominent ice arenas, including the University of Minnesota Mariucci Team Arena and the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.

It also worked on Alexandria Area YMCA project, completing the project $85,000 under budget.

In other action, the council:

--Agreed to allow the Douglas County commissioners to hold their meetings in the City Council Chambers this summer while the Douglas County Courthouse is under construction.

--Tabled awarding the bids for the waterline expansion project in the phase four, part two orderly annexation area. The low bid came in at $3.99 million, much higher than the city’s estimate of just over $3 million. Staff was directed to study the financial impact of proceeding with the project this year. The city may delay the project until 2015. In related action, the council amended a resolution to extend the contract award deadline for the waterline extension until May 2015.  

--Approved a special event permit for the Vikingland Band Festival on June 29. The event will take place on Broadway, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. More than 15,000 are expected to attend. Because of road construction, the parade staging areas will move to the west side of Broadway and will center around Sixth Avenue. The parade will start at the intersection of Sixth and Broadway. Five police officers and eight to 10 sheriff’s posse members will assist with traffic.

--Approved a special event permit for the first-ever Faith Rose 5K Run/Walk that will raise awareness of infant and pregnancy loss. It was approved on the condition that organizers will ovbtain liability insurance for the event. It will take place on Saturday, October 4 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Between 50 and 250 people are expected to participate. The event will start at City Park, go 1.6 miles and turn around, ending at City Park. Maria Lopau organized the event after her daughter, Faith Rose, died in an emergency C-section at the Douglas County Hospital. Proceeds will benefit the Alexandria support group, Mothers In Sympathy and Support (MISS).

--Accepted a low bid from Central Specialties of Alexandria to overlay four local streets this summer. The sections include South L’Homme Drive, Parkside Road, Van Dyke Road and Edgewater Drive. Central Specialties will do the work for $164,200. The project will be financed using state aid maintenance funds and $3,200 in the city’s capital improvement fund. Two other overlays, Bridgeport Lane and Karnis Drive, are not going forward because of a lack of funds.

--Waived city ordinances regulating water treatment standards and water ponds in order to reconstruct 50th Avenue between South Broadway and the Soo Line Railroad. Alternative water treatment methods will be used to reduce the impact the project will have on adjacent wetland areas. This includes a baffled sump treatment system that will remove suspended solid material and phosphorus. A similar system is in place near Dakota Street.

--Accepted a petition for annexation from three property owners along Meadow Lane and Donna Drive who want to receive city water. They are Chad Bartholomew and Jerry and Rose Hansen. The council also approved a first reading of an ordinance to annex their property, which consists of 1.22 acres in LaGrand Township, and a nearby 0.25-acre parcel owned by Bob Close. The township board didn’t object to the request.

--Gave preliminary approval to annexing a 0.66-acre parcel of land along Bay Lane in Carlos Township. It’s owned by Michael and Mary Thompson. The boundary line between the city and the township goes through their house.

--Agreed to act as a sponsor for a $350,000 grant application the owner of the Lakewood Apartments is seeking through the Small Cities Development Program. The money would fix up the three apartment buildings, built in 1978 on Kenwood Drive, to allow 53 units of income-restricted housing and 10 units of market rate housing. The owner is a non-profit, private agency, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. It plans to replace flooring, roofing, walls, doors and windows on some of the units. The city will be reimbursed for any administrative or legal costs it might incur. The total cost of the project is estimated at $7.3 million.

--Accepted a petition from two property owners on 22nd Avenue East for sanitary sewer. It was submitted by the Russell Johnson Trust and Wayside Farms. The city will prepare an engineering report on the feasibility of the project and how the costs could be assessed. The owners agreed to pay the full costs of improving the street, which is roughly estimated at $75,000.

--Approved a request from Viking Plaza Associates to vacate a platted public common access area southeast of Highway 29. The property was originally intended to provide access to lots on the westerly edge of the subdivision because they couldn’t be accessed from Highway 29. The area has since been realigned and it will now become part of a parking lot for a new building, which will house Q’Doba and Dollar Tree.

--Rescinded the appointment of John Lervick as assistant city attorney. Lervick is retiring from practicing law on June 30, 2014. In a letter to the council, Lervick said it was a pleasure to have served with city administrators Arlan Johnson, Jim Taddei and Marty Schultz, along with many other city employees, council members and seven different mayors during his 39 and a half years of service.

--Defeated a motion to make walkway modifications, a cut-through, in the reconstructed city parking lot on Seventh Avenue and have the city absorb the $1,249 cost. Jensen made the motion, saying that the lot design was not convenient for residents living in a nearby building because it forced them to walk around several vehicles. Dave Benson, who represents the ward the parking lot is in, said that he hasn't received a single complaint about the lot. Council member Roger Thalman said that paying for a cut-through just to benefit nine residents was a frivolous expense. Batesole called the lot a design flaw disaster.  Batesole and Jensen voted for the motion; Benson, Thalman and Miller opposed it.   

--Issued the following licenses: charitable gambling – Alexandria Senior Center for bingo and raffles on July 24, West Central Food and Beverage Association for a raffle at Broadway Ballroom on October 18; excavating – C and L Excavating of St. Joseph, D. Carlson Plumbing and Excavating of Menahga; peddler’s – The Country Shop of New London; and heating – Tim’s Heating and Refrigeration of New York Mills.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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