Alexandria names new city administrator
A new administrator helped lead Monday night's Alexandria City Council meeting but he's not new to the city.
He's Marty Schultz, the interim city administrator since Jim Taddei announced his pending retirement in July. He's also been the assistant city administrator for the last five years and assistant city planner for four years before that.
The council unanimously voted to promote Schultz to the position, forgoing the option of an open recruitment process. Schultz takes the reins from Taddei, who served the city for 35 years.
Because the position is so key, the council didn't just automatically hand over the job. Mayor Sara Carlson said the council went through a thorough, deliberate process of anlayzing and defining the future roles and expectations for the administrator position, which has also been referred to as the city clerk/treasurer post. It hired a consultant, Springsted, Inc., to help with the transition and conducted two interviews with Schultz. "The process was something the council and I took very seriously," Carlson said, "and it took a great deal of time and energy."
Schultz thanked the council for giving him the opportunity to keep working for the city and for the deliberate hiring process it went through.
DON'T FENCE ME IN -- WITHOUT A PERMIT
In a zoning issue, the council took preliminary action to regulate partition or boundary fences in the city.
The new ordinance is set to take effect January 1, 2014 and would require residents to pay a fee, which hasn’t been determined yet, to install new fences.
Before building a fence, residents would be required to pay for a survey or provide a certificate of a survey that confirms the property line of where the fence will be installed.
The ordinance would limit residential fences to six feet or lower in back yards and four feet or lower in front yards. Owners could place maintenance-free fences at their property lines but if maintenance is required, they'd have to meet two-feet setbacks.
Snow fences would be allowed as long as they are not permanent.
Some types of fences would not be regulated under the new ordinance, such as garden, ornamental and security fences, and tennis court fences that are 10 feet or lower in height.
Owners with existing fences that would fall under the ordinance, including barbed-wire fences, would not be able to expand their fencing.
NEW LIFE FOR FUNERAL HOME
The building that once housed Anderson Funeral Home at 320 7th Avenue East in Alexandria may soon get a new lease on life – as affordable apartments.
The council agreed to issue a conditional use permit to Heidi Anderson (no relation to the Anderson family that operated the funeral home) that will allow her to use the property for group quarters for up to five unrelated persons.
Anderson purchased the property, renamed Choices Home Care, this past June. She is renting a portion of the site as a single-family unit and the permit gives her the flexibility to rent more units out.
She plans to add five separate sleeping rooms, along with a large commons area that would include a kitchen, movie theater and other amenities.
Anderson told the planning commission that she doesn’t plan to limit the units to any certain group of individuals. She said renters could be single workers, college students or others who are seeking affordable housing in a positive environment.
The permit was approved with three conditions: a building permit and fire sprinklers are required; there must be one paved on-street stall per resident; and any exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from public streets.
IN OTHER ACTION
In other action, the council:
--Rejected the sole bid submitted for the Safe Routes to School project that was preliminarily approved last November. The project, covered entirely through a federal grant, would provide sidewalks, crosswalks, street lights, 20 stop signs and other safety improvements in the vicinity of Lincoln Elementary School. The bid from Mark Lee Excavating of Alexandria came in at $586,113, more than double the city’s estimate of $256,936. City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven said he contacted several potential bidders to find out why they didn’t submit a bid and they told him they were simply too busy with other work. By rejecting the bid, the city won’t lose the grant money, Schoonhoven said. The funds can still be used next spring. The city plans to rebid the project in early 2014.
--Approved a request from the Alexandria Police Department to purchase two 2014 Ford sports utility vehicles. The purchase was previously authorized under the 2013 budget and funding was set aside in the equipment fund, according to Chief Rick Wyffels. The council accepted the low bid of $25,805 per vehicle from Nelson Ford in Fergus Falls, which holds the state contract on pricing for Ford police cars. Wyffels told the council that from his 30 years of experience in law enforcement, he believes the Ford utility vehicle is the best police vehicle for his department’s needs. He said they are fuel efficient, have all-wheel drive and allow room for an officer's gear and computer equipment. Council member Dave Benson, a former police officer, said that in his many years with the police department, he always wished for an all-wheel-drive vehicle. "It's a giant step forward for us," Wyffels agreed.
--Approved a request from Bug-A-Boo Bay to refund a portion of their liquor license because they will be closing on a seasonal basis, from September 30, 2013 until April 30, 2014. The business will receive a refund for the final quarter of the year, which amounts to $1,125, based on a $4,500 annual on-sale liquor license fee.
--Approved plans for the Alexandria Fire Department’s annual Fire Prevention Open House on October 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. A portion of Fillmore Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenue, will be closed from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. to allow organizers to land a LifeLink helicopter in front of the fire station. In related action, the council proclaimed October 6-12, 2013 as Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme focuses on preventing kitchen fires. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, which killed more than 2,500 people in the U.S. in 2011.
--Approved the Douglas County Hospital’s request to have its first-ever 5K walk/run event that will raise money for its Relay for Life cancer-fighting team. The event, featuring an Oktoberfest theme, will take place near the Big Ole Viking statue on October 27 at 10 a.m. A one-mile run will be offered for participants younger than age 12.
--Decided to proceed with a paving and drainage plan on Boys Avenue. Since February, the project has bounced back and forth between the council and affected property owners about how the costs should be split up. The council ultimately decided to use the Thomas Drive improvement project as a model for the cost sharing, with the city picking up the stormwater expense and 20 percent of the remaining cost. leaving the property owners to pay the remaining 80 percent. This results in the city picking up $23,105 of the cost and owners paying $39,061 in assessments. The city’s share will come from its revolving improvement fund or the stormwater utility fund.
--Set a public hearing to discuss the proposed assessments for the phase four, part one orderly annexation waterline extension. It will take place Tuesday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
--Accepted a $36,800 quote from Central Specialties to pave the alley west of Broadway, between 6th and 7th Avenue, north of city hall. The project had been estimated to cost $33,450.
--Approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to construct a new hangar at the airport. MnDOT administers the federal funds that will pay for nearly 90 percent of the cost, which will not exceed $761,919.
--Approved a request from Schultz to revitalize the city's Fairgrounds Task Force. It is supposed to meet with the Douglas County Agricultural Association to review and discuss options for the use of the property, which is owned by the city. The task force has met only a couple times since it was formed in 2010. Schultz said he talked with RCC Manager Vinnie Hennen and DCAA Secretary Dale Bucholz about the need for a regular, ongoing dialogue about the future of the fairgrounds. The DCAA, Schultz said, is willing to appoint several board members to participate in the meetings. The council apppointed Owen Miller to the task force. He'll join Mayor Sara Carlson, City Planner Mike Weber and Schultz in representing the city in future discussions.
--Accepted a low bid of $108,037 to provide sanitary sewer on Kenwood Drive, which was included in the phase four, part one waterline extension bids. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the project. He said it didn't "smell right" to extend sanitary sewer at such a cost to benefit just a few property owners. Miller said that the line should have been extended years ago and added that it was important to protect the lakes from failed septic systems.
--Approved the final plat for Discovery Townhomes, located along the south side of Will-O-Bee Lane, west of the intersection with McKay Avenue. A final drainage plan must be submitted and approved by the city, along with a park dedication fee of $1,500.
--Tabled Brad Horning's request for an encroachment permit that would allow him to add to his garage at 1611 Cedar Street. Part of the garage was previously built into Dean Melton/Fillmore Park by two feet. Council member Todd Jensen said he was concerned about setting a precident that allows property owners to extend property onto city land. Batesole said that allowing the encroachment was the "neighborly" thing to do. Council member Roger Thalman said the city should have more time to look at other options, such as selling a small piece of the park land to Horning.
--Approved the following licenses: excavating – Don Henning Excavating; sign hanger – Signs Unlimited of Plymouth and Shad Tracy Signs; charitable gambling – Alexandria Red Line Hockey Booster Club to conduct bingo on October 29 and sell raffle tickets for a November 24 event; and taxi – Lakes Area Taxi, a new taxi service in the city operated by Thomas Barker.