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City takes lead on joint law enforcement center

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The city of Alexandria is taking the lead on a project to build a joint law enforcement center near the new county jail.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Alexandria City Council approved changes to its "memorandum of understanding" with Douglas County regarding the preliminary expenses of the project.

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The city is designated as the lead agency and the city and county agreed to split the costs for the project's civil engineering, architectural and construction management services.

The Douglas County Board has also approved the amended agreement.

Here are the specific costs that will be split 50-50 between the city and county on the joint police/sheriff law enforcement center:

•Ringdahl Achitects' fee of $6,400 for the preliminary design phase and 5.6 percent of the construction contract that will be awarded later. The cost of building the law enforcement center as a stand-alone facility near the new jail, the prime location that's being explored, has not been determined.

•Widseth, Smith, Nolting and Associates' fee of $14,802 for civil engineering services for the design and construction of the site drainage plan.

•ORB Management Corporation for construction management services charged at $135 per hour for pre-construction services and 4 percent of the actual construction costs if the project proceeds as planned.

The companies involved will send their bills to the city and the county will reimburse the city for half of the bills.

Another big item on Tuesday's agenda was a $350,000 infrastructure project that will clear the way for the third phase of "The Trails," an affordable housing development in northwest Alexandria.

The Alexandria HRA wants to use money in the city's tax increment financing (TIF) program to make the project economically feasible. The plan received unanimous approval from the Alexandria Economic Development Authority (EDA), which is comprised of the five council members and the mayor.

"There's probably never been a greater need for affordable housing than right now," noted Alexandria Mayor Dan Ness.

The project would extend street, water, storm water, and sewer lines to accommodate another 20 lots in the development, which is located off County Road 22. The 20 lots are owned by Lumber One, which lacks the financing to construct the infrastructure.

The HRA is proposing to acquire the parcels from Lumber One for a nominal amount, build the infrastructure and then sell the parcels back to Lumber One or another builder to construct the homes.

The EDA would give the HRA $75,000 from the city's TIF program, and then provide $25,000 annually for 11 years beginning in 2010. The HRA would borrow money from a local bank to pay for the infrastructure and repay the loan with the EDA payments, proceeds from the sale of the parcels and any other revenues it has.

City water and sewer would be extended from Benjamin Drive, along Abbygail Drive, to Jasmine Drive, and along Jasmine Drive to three lots along the corridor.

Tax increment revenues are used to finance the construction of public improvements, such as streets, sidewalks, sewer and water and similar improvements necessary for development. Once these improvements are financed, tax increment revenues revert back to local property taxes.

If the TIF financing plan is approved, the continued development of The Trails would begin this summer and be completed by this fall, according to Jason Murray, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, who outlined the project to the city council Tuesday night.

This would allow building of single-family homes to continue this year. Jeff Hess, director of the Alexandria HRA, told the council he wants The Trails project to end on a successful note.

The 20 lots would be available for homeowners who meet income guidelines established by the Community Housing Assistance Program (CHAP).

The new TIF plan would not affect the existing TIF district within The Trails, Murray stressed.

City Administrator Jim Taddei noted that instead of using TIF money, the city could sell bonds to pay for the infrastructure improvements but that would incur additional interest costs.

In other action, the council:

•Approved a conditional use and subdivision application for a 15-unit apartment complex for residents with physical disabilities.

The complex would be located on a 2.5 acre tract of land within a 47-acre development, "Broadway Acres." It's located south of 34th Avenue and east of South Broadway. The applicants are DiStyle Design, Sally Harberts, and William and Mari Leuthner.

To live in the development, residents must have a disability that has been medically proven. There are also income thresholds and residents must have a clean criminal record.

The property will be managed by Accessible Space, Inc. and will have an on-site caretaker.

The subdivision application was approved on the condition that the developer will present a revised preliminary plat showing in more detail how the other 44 acres within the development will be used.

The conditional use permit was approved with several stipulations - wetland and building permits are required; any exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from city streets; a final drainage plan must be approved by the city engineer; and the developer must pay a $23,253 connection charge to the Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District.

•Formally applied for a $3,080,000 loan through the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority to expand Alexandria Light and Power's water treatment plant.

The city accepted bids for that amount at its meeting earlier this month, awarding the project to Di-Mar Construction of Excelsior.

•Approved an after-the-fact conditional use permit to Glacial Lakes Dock to display docks, lifts and other waterfront equipment outside west of Viking Plaza at the former Champion Auto or Tires Plus store. Council member Cindy Bigger voted against the permit.

Casey Boutain is already displaying docks and lifts on the site and also has an enclosed trailer there that he sometimes uses as an office.

The permit was approved with several conditions. Boutain can't display more than six units and can't exceed the 90-by-60-foot site.

•Agreed to replat previously platted property, "First Addition to Carlson Addition" owned by Sally Ann Carlson along the west side of Lake Geneva. Council member Sara Carlson recused herself from discussing the request or voting on it.

The plat was changed from one lot to five lots so they could be conveyed or divided among family members.

•Agreed to hire Widseth, Smith, Nolting and Associates to do the engineering work for the Burgen Sunrise phase three residential development near 50th Avenue. Ben Zacher is the developer for the project, which will create 41 lots.

The work will include preparing plans for storm water, sanitary sewer, 24-foot-wide streets, fire hydrants, pavement repair and turf restoration.

The engineering work for the $566,885 project is estimated at $78,192.

•Called for a public hearing to discuss making watermain improvements in a newly annexed area on Ridgewood Drive from 193 feet west of the centerline of Autumn Drive then west 584 feet.

The project is expected to cost $28,510 and would be assessed at least partially on abutting property owners.

The public hearing is set for June 22 at City Hall at 7:15 p.m.

•Was given a rough draft for a proposed new "code of ethics" from City Attorney John Lervick. The policy explains how to handle conflicts of interests for public officials, city employees, volunteers and appointed city advisors.

Lervick said the goal is to get all city-related positions on the same page for spotting potential conflicts. He told the council members to read the five-page document and offer suggestions. He said he'll bring it up for further discussion in the near future.

•Issued the following licenses: fireworks - TNT Fireworks to sell outside on a vacant lot next to Burger King North, TNT Fireworks to sell on the Wal-Mart parking lot; temporary liquor - Alexandria Elks Lodge to sell liquor on July 11; dance - Alexandria Elks Lodge for a street dance on July 11. The Elks also plan to close off 15th Avenue for the July 11 fundraiser, which will start at about 3 p.m. and end by 11 p.m.

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