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Broadway reconstruction gets green light from council

After five years of planning, debate and several twists and turns, the Broadway reconstruction plan is a go.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council voted 3-2 to accept bids for the project totaling about $5.7 million.

Sellin Brothers of Hawley was the low bidder, coming in about $685,000 under the estimate.

Besides giving the downtown area a whole new look with pedestrian friendly touches such as benches, countdown traffic lights and shorter crosswalks, the project will also replace aging water and sewer lines buried deep beneath the city.

Because Broadway serves as a state highway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and state aid is covering the bulk of the cost. Alexandria Light and Power is providing about $1.1 million, Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District is picking up $702,000 and the city's portion amounts to about $1 million.

The council approved several amenity items that were in the bids as optional or add-on items, including lighted bollards ($77,500), benches ($19,000), waste receptacles ($17,000), bicycle racks ($5,400), and irrigation lines to flower boxes on light poles ($16,835). The council also decided to go with pavers for the sidewalks, a cost of $89,088, instead of colored concrete, which would have been $68,672. The pavers will be funded entirely through MnDOT.

Council members Todd Jensen and Virgil Batesole voted against the bid. Jensen said he agreed with the need to replace the infrastructure but said it was a mistake to narrow a portion of an already dangerous street. He also said too much money was being spent on amenities instead of providing functionality and easier access to businesses.

Batesole repeated many of Jensen's concerns and also opposed the seven-foot bicycle walking path on the west side of Broadway. He also didn't like how the council was voting for the bids before it had agreed on a way to come up with its share of the funds. The council is considering three options -- using reserves, taking money from its capital improvement fund or dipping into the city's revolving loan fund.

Council member Dave Benson said he had concerns about some aspects of the project but didn't want to kill the whole project because of it. He noted that the project is getting significant support from the state and if the city had to do it on its own, businesses would have to pick up some of the cost. No properties are being assessed. Council member Roger Thalman said that if the council voted against the project, the city would have to pick up the full tab.

In addressing Jensen's comments about narrowing the street, City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven noted that MnDOT is following a new "complete streets" trend, designing roads that are not just for vehicles, but for everyone who uses the streets, including pedestrians. He believes that Broadway will be safer because of the project. He said it will contain 11-feet-wide driving lanes, the same width that drivers have been using on 3rd Avenue since 2005.

During the public comment part of the meeting, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce President Bruce McKirdy urged the council to approve the bids. He said there is only one opportunity to do the project the way it's planned now, the city would never be able to do it for less money, and updating the infrastructure is a necessity.

At the request of ALP, the council eliminated a $233,000 item in the bids for new light poles. ALP said it will be able to buy and install the lights for a cheaper amount.

The council directed staff to see if the holders for flags, baskets and banners on the light poles can be re-used. 

Work on the Broadway reconstruction is expected to begin on May 12.

In other action, the council:

--Approved City Assessor Reed Heidelberger’s annual report. Fourteen new single family homes were built in 2012 and 291 residential remodeling permits were issued, which added more than $5.2 million to the value of all property in the city in 2013. There was also $16.29 million worth of new commercial and industrial construction and 428 building permits issued by the city, which represents a 10 percent increase from the previous year. The 2013 market value of all property in the city is estimated at $1.23 billion, a 1.2 percent increase from 2012’s value. Not included in the totals are tax-exempt properties which accounted for just under $300 million in 2013, up 3 percent from 2012’s $289 million. The market value of all property in Douglas County is estimated at $4.96 billion in 2013.

--Approved an application allowing indoor fireworks and pyrotechnics at the Runestone Community Center for a Hairball concert on April 26.

--Issued an on-sale beer and wine license to the Alexandria Blue Anchors for its baseball season this summer at Knute Nelson Field.

--Approved a special event application for the 13th annual Chain of Lakes Triathlon that will take place at Discovery Middle School on May 3. About 250 competitors are expected to enter. The course is the same as in past years.

--Approved a special event permit for a Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Alexandria from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning at Voyager Elementary School. About 230 people are expected to attend.

--Called for bids for the waterline project in the phase four, part two orderly annexation agreement with Alexandria Township. The project is estimated to cost $2.29 million. It will not include the Geneva Road area east of Birch Avenue, which will be completed next year as part of the federally funded Geneva Road bike lane and reconstruction project.

--Called for bids for local street overlay projects this summer. The bids will be opened May 6. If approved, the work will be covered by state-aid maintenance funds.

--Scheduled a public hearing to talk about a sanitary sewer project on Kenwood Drive. It will cost about $155,000. The city plans to bid the project with the waterline extension project. The hearing is set for April 28 at City Hall at 7:15 p.m.

--Called for bids for a paving and drainage project on Boys Avenue. The bids will be opened on May 6. The city called for bids on this project last fall but they came in 30 percent over the estimate and were rejected. The project will be bid along with the waterline extension project. A public hearing will take place about the proposed assessments.

--Approved an amendment to the ordinance that established a personnel committee. Language was added to say it will make recommendations to the council and city administrator. It includes four members – the mayor, a city council member, personnel director and city administrator.

--Approved an ordinance to rezone certain areas along the west side of County Road 46/McKay Avenue from single residential to residential business. It includes the Rosewood Hills development.

--Established an ad hoc committee that will study the city’s annexation agreements with LaGrand and Alexandria townships. It will look into possible amendments, and may also recommend to terminate or cancel the agreements. Members include council members Roger Thalman and Dave Benson, along with city staff members. The committee will be terminated at the end of the year.

--Established an ad hoc committee on airport ground leases. The following members were appointed: Benson, City Planner Mike Weber, Airport Manager Todd Roth, a member of the Airport Commission, and one at-large member, Ken Ryan. It will review existing agreements and recommend how to address expiring leases, lease changes and other lease issues. The committee will be terminated at the end of the year.

--Appointed Mike Klimek to serve on the Building Board of Appeals.

--Was informed that the city hall summer hours, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will begin on May 1 and end August 31.

--Was informed that the residential component of a plan to redevelop the Old Broadway restaurant building has been eliminated from consideration.

--Amended the city’s lease agreement with the Listening Ear Crisis Center for a safe exchange/parent visitation program known as PLUS Kids at 818 Elm Street. Listening Ear no longer exists and West Central Minnesota Communities Action has assumed responsibility for the safe exchange program. The new lease clarifies this.

--Approved the following licenses: heating – Kruize Plumbing and Heating; set-up liquor license – Grand Arbor; sign hanger – Affordable Sign Service; and charitable gambling – bingo at the Alexandria Senior Center on May 22.

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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