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Alexandria has 'plan B' to pay for big projects this summer

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Three big projects will take place in Alexandria this summer – the Broadway reconstruction project, a waterline extension in newly annexed areas of Alexandria Township and the 50th Avenue reconstruction.

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What will happen if there is a snag or delay in the state and federal money the city expects to receive for those projects?

The city now has a “plan B” in place.

At its meeting Monday night, the city council passed a resolution that will give it the option of bonding up to $7.8 million for the projects.

City Administrator Marty Schultz told the council to think of the action as an “insurance policy” against any "unforeseen occurrence" in the funding.

The city expects to receive $1.8 million in state and federal aid for the 50th Avenue work and $3 million for the Broadway project. The city is also getting bonds for the watermain project in August but the first payment will be due in June so this new bonding option could cover that gap.

CHANGE IN SALARY STRUCTURE

City employees in Alexandria will soon be compensated under a new system that's based on merit instead of longevity.

The council recently paid a consulting firm, Springsted, to study the city’s pay scale and to see how it compares to other similar-sized cities.

The study recommended the city establish a compensation program that's based on individual employee performance as a key feature of its pay philosophy.

Compensation will be determined by a point structure with minimum, mid and maximum rates. A 20-grade system will replace the existing 12-grade system. Pay ranges from a grade 1 (0 to 112 points) minimum of $32,209 annually to grade 20 (846 to 911 points) maximum of $121,816.

The council unanimously approved the new pay philosophy, job descriptions and compensation structure.

The new system, set to take effect on May 18, 2014, will result in an overall increased cost of $130,000 to the city for the remainder of the year. Full-year costs are estimated at $210,000. This does not include employees represented by unions.

The council prepared for those additional costs and has money in its 2014 budget to make the wage adjustments, according to Schultz.

The new system, based on the Local Government Pay Equity Act, emphasizes nine concepts:

--Providing fair and equitable rates of pay to employees.

--Defining the city’s market area.

--Developing a system that establishes a market rate for each position and states the minimum and maximum rates.

--Establishing rates of pay that allow the city to compete for new employees within its market area.

--Establishing a market position that is fiscally responsible with public resources.

--Ensuring that pay rates for existing employees are based on individual performances that meet or exceed expectations and reflect changing economic conditions.

--Developing a pay system that allows employees to progress through pay ranges, as long as their performances consistently meet expectations.

--Developing pay administration policies and procedures that are consistent between departments.

--Ensure that the compensation program is understandable to employees, managers, the council and the public.

In other action, the council:

--Set a public hearing on a request from the Viking Plaza to receive tax abatement for redeveloping a former automotive center property, Champion Auto, adjacent to the mall. The old building will be replaced with a new 11,000-square-foot retail center. The building will be realigned with the frontage road and will include new sewer and storm sewer connections. The total project is estimated at $1.2 million. A public hearing to discuss the economic development tax abatement is set for May 12 at City Hall at 7:15 p.m.

--Awarded a bid of $595,689 from MP Nextlevel to replace aging electrical cable lines in several areas of the city including Alexandria Technical and Community College, Knute Nelson, Tabberts Addition, Lakeview Addition, Geneva Crest Addition, Scenic Heights and Government Point. The project will also extend a feeder line into the southeast side of town to serve new electrical demands from the Alexandria Area High School, Grand Arbor and other developments. It was the lowest of eight bids the city received.

--Called for bids on a substation project on Nevada Street. Alexandria Light and Power Utilities plan to add two 115-kilovolt breakers in the switchyard and replace 1977 feeder switchgear, gaining two more feeder cubicles.

--Issued a special event permit for a groundbreaking that will mark the beginning of the Broadway reconstruction project, which is designed to revitalize the historic downtown area. The May 12 groundbreaking will take place at the Downtown Liquor parking lot on May 12 from 9 to 10 a.m. It’s organized by the city and the Redesigning of Alexandria’s Downtown (ROAD) Committee.

--Was informed that because of bad weather, the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed until May 13. It will begin with registration at 4:30 p.m. followed by a walk at 5:15 p.m. The goal is to raise funds and awareness to address domestic violence.

--Issued a special event permit to Douglas County Lakes Area Council on Mental Health. It’s having its third annual Mental Health Month Walk on May 15 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. It will begin at Big Ole.

--Issued a special event permit to Brad and Sue Dumm to hold the fifth annual Ride of Silence on May 21 from 7 to 8 p.m. Participants will gather at Big Ole Central Park and then go on a silent bike ride to raise awareness of bicycle safety and to remember those who were killed or injured in bike accidents.

--Tabled a special event permit requested by Pam Meyer, owner of the Coffee Pot Café, to hold a first-ever Homeless to Housed fundraising event on September 20 from 2 to 7 p.m. The organizers asked the city to close 15th Avenue between Broadway and Fillmore Street for the event, which would include live entertainment, a bouncy house for the kids, dunk tank, a silent auction and meal. Council members asked organizers to check with nearby Super America to see if it didn't mind having one of its entrances blocked. It also wants organizers to get approval from the park board, street department and police. Proceeds would go to the Salvation Army, local United Way and West Central Minnesota Communities Action to help fill housing needs for the homeless.

--Approved a request to upgrade the Hilltop Lumber Deck behind the first base dugout at Knute Nelson Field. The park board reviewed the plan and recommended it. The deck had been used by the Alexandria Beetles baseball team and now the new owners, the Alexandria Blue Anchors, want to make the deck look like a ship. It will be about the same size. There is no cost to the city.

--Issued a conditional use permit to Jason Lybeck to allow open outdoor storage, service, sales and rental of boats, boat trailers and related accessories at 412 Geneva Road NE. Lybeck, the owner of The Faction Board Shop downtown, said he needs more storage for his paddle boat business. He plans to offer service and accessories at the site, including trailers and items for inboard boats. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and tentatively, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The site has been used for road construction offices and equipment storage.

--Approved a final plat for Unique Business Plaza on Northside Drive NE, east of County Road 42.

--Appointed Al Moen to the Storm Water Utility Committee. He is a civil engineer with many years of experience working with surface water drainage issues in the area.

--Authorized city staff to pursue using the old Runestone Electric Association parking stalls for public parking during the street construction season and to open two additional parking stalls in the City Hall lot to public parking.

--Ordered the preparation of plans for a project that would provide sanitary sewer to the Kenwood Drive area, replacing the septic systems of three landowners. The total cost may run as high as $155,000, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz. If bids are accepted, the homeowners would each pay $5,000 in assessments. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the project. "We're short of money right now," he said. "I can't see how to rationalize this [for three homeowners]." Council members Owen Miller and Roger Thalman acknowledged that the project was expensive but said it would help three properties in the middle of town that are located next to a lake (Agnes) and next to the city's well field. They said the project should have been done years ago. No one spoke during Monday’s public hearing on the project. One of the property owners wrote a letter, asking for a deferment of his assessment because he is a senior citizen with a limited income. City policy allows such a deferment until the property is sold or conveyed to someone else.

--Issued the following licenses -- charitable gambling to Calvary Lutheran Church for a quilt raffle; peddler’s permit to Street Dreamz Ice Cream (Shon Munn); heating license to Commerical Plumbing and Heating (Robert Skeie); fireworks/pyrotechnic permit to Awake the Lakes; fireworks permit to Pete’s County Market.

--Proclaimed April 25 as Arbor Day in Alexandria, as requested by Bill Thoennes of the park department.

--Proclaimed May as Building Safety Month, as requested by Lynn Timm of the building department.

--Approved a second and final reading of an ordinance establishing a personnel committee.

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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.  
(320) 763-1236
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