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Big decisions ahead for Broadway reconstruction

Although the proposed start date for reconstructing Alexandria's Broadway is still two months away, the behind-the-scenes work continues and a lot of big decisions have yet to be made.

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven updated the Alexandria City Council about the project at its meeting Monday night. He said that city staff has met with transportation officials in Bloomington, Detroit Lakes and twice in St. Paul in preparation for the bid opening on March 28. A pre-bid session is set for March 19 when potential bidders will meet at City Hall to talk about details such as water connections to old buildings, project phasing and detours.

The council briefly talked about the possibility of setting up one-way detours on Fillmore and Hawthorne Street during the construction between 3rd and 8th Avenues but Schoonhoven said that would be a "very major change" to consider so close to the start of the project. Right now, the plan is to make County Roads 45 and 46 the truck detour routes while Fillmore and Hawthorne will serve as the local detour streets from 10th to 3rd Avenue. Road closed signs will go up and detour signs will indicate how to get to the Broadway businesses.

After bids are opened on March 28, the council will have to decide whether to award the bids for the $6.4 million project, which is being covered mostly by state funds since Broadway serves as a state highway. The council will also have decisions to make about the amenities or "look" of Broadway, such as whether to use colored concrete or pavers, landscaping options, how to handle snow removal and what type of irrigation system should be used to water the plants and trees. Most of the amenities, which will be on the city's dime, were included as optional bid items.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, downtown business owner Judy Collins said that the council should opt for colored concrete on the sidewalks instead of pavers, which she said aren't as durable. She said she's noticed pavers that are missing or in bad shape downtown, making it dangerous for people to walk.

Collins said that although she supports most of the project, she wants the city to spend less on "beautification" items, such as plants and trees. She said the city should put a stoplight at 4th Avenue and Broadway to slow down traffic, adding that she's seen a lot of close calls in that intersection.

Schoonhoven later explained that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) would have to do a study to see if stoplights would be warranted at 4th Avenue. The council told Schoonhoven to ask MnDOT to look into the possibility.

Later in the meeting, council member Todd Jensen said the council should be more informed about some of the Broadway options now instead of waiting for the bids to come in. He wanted to know, for example, the pros and cons of using pavers or concrete. Schoonhoven said he'd provide that information.

In other action, the council:

--Welcomed new city liquor store manager Andy Mellgren. Long-time manager Carol Lanigan resigned. Mellgren is in the process of moving his family here from Elk River.

--Issued a special event permit to Zion Lutheran Church’s Passion Drama, with the condition that the city will be listed as an additional insurer. About 2,500 people are expected to walk through outdoor scenes depicting the events leading up to and including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It will take place between the 300 and 600 blocks of Lake Street and the 300 block of Maple Street on April 13, from 1 to 6 p.m. and on April 15, from 4 to 9 p.m.

--Issued a special event permit to the non-profit group, Awake the Lakes, to hold a Ribfest on Saturday, June 28. The event has taken place on Memorial Day weekend in the past, but organizers are moving it to the same weekend as the Vikingland Band Festival with the hope of getting nicer weather. A tent will be set up with staff from Raaper’s Eatery and Ale serving alcohol. It will take place at Big Ole Central Park from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. To accommodate the crowd, 2nd Avenue will be closed to traffic from Kenwood to Broadway. About 2,000 people are expected to attend. Police officers will help with security.

--Awarded the contract for field maintenance, game prepreparation/clean-up and field scheduling services at Knute Nelson Memorial Park to the Alexandria Youth Baseball Association (AYBA) for 2014. AYBA has been the provider for the last four years. The contract is for $11,000, up from last year’s $10,500, but it now includes field scheduling. Revenues from field rental for the Alexandria Blue Anchors, Alexandria Classic Clippers, Alexandria Senators, VFA and the American Legion games will cover the cost of the contract.

--Proclaimed April 1 as National Service Recognition Day, which honors the positive impact and service of those who give back to their community. The proclamation noted that the nation’s mayors are increasingly turning to national service and volunteerism groups, such as AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, as a cost-effective strategy to meet city needs.

--Agreed to vacate a portion of a platted but unbuilt alley between 2nd and 3rd Avenue and Hawthorne and Irving Street. There are no buildings remaining on the block; the Lake Region Co-Op building was the last one removed. ORB Management requested the 16-foot wide alley to be vacated.

--Was informed that the city’s annual Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 16 at 10 a.m. A quorum of council members must be present.

--Approved the following licenses: peddler’s – Doug’s Kettle Korn; temporary liquor license – Fort Chippewa VFW Post 936 for an April 12 event at the Runestone Community Center, and Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum for events on June 20, July 25, August 8 and August 29; heating – Agape Mechanical, LLC; excavating – Central Specialties, Inc.

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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