A rare meeting between city, county
Douglas County commissioners and the Alexandria City Council met Wednesday, April 25, at the Douglas County Courthouse for an informal talk - a discussion both parties agreed was overdue.
The existing flood board, extension of 5th Avenue in Alexandria and countywide economic development were the topics of interest.
A joint powers floodwater control board was created in 1981 to address flooding and water quality in two areas of concern to both the city and county. Representatives from the city of Alexandria, Alexandria Township, LaGrand Township, Douglas County, and the Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District (ALASD) are board members.
"Over time, the area's been annexed - obviously" said Douglas County Public Works Director Dave Robley. "Alexandria Township isn't even involved in the watershed area anymore."
The west watershed region encompasses the main channel of lakes Winona, Agnes and Henry and Scenic Heights. The east watershed is from the area around Menard's and Fleet Farm north to Scenic Heights where the watersheds flow together into Lake L'Homme Dieu.
Alexandria City Administrator Jim Taddei provided the original percentages of allocation for each entity on the flood board: City of Alexandria, 44 percent; Alexandria Township, 25 percent; LaGrand Township, 16 percent; Douglas County, 10 percent; and the sewer district (ALASD), 5 percent. Percentages were based on land and drainage area.
The flood board will be meeting to discuss how to address the change in Alexandria Township's status.
"It should be one of two things," said council member Sara Carlson. "Either disbanded or restructured."
If the flood board is disbanded and the city storm water utility assumes responsibility, road crossings and culverts could still be maintained by the road authority, Robley said. Administrative costs would also be reduced if the board disbands.
If the board is restructured, payments would be redistributed so the remaining members would absorb the 25 percent that was Alexandria Township's responsibility.
5TH AVENUE EXTENSION
The city of Alexandria and county reached an agreement to extend 5th Avenue West when the county received its permit for the new public works building.
Extending 5th Avenue would provide a more fluid connection to the public works building and resolve a sharp cornering issue on Fairgrounds Road and Willow Drive.
Plans for the public works building included an eventual connection with 5th Avenue, which would make it easier for trucks to enter and make the fueling station for county vehicles more accessible.
The city had looked at using the public works building as a potential polling place but thought it would be difficult for voters to find.
The right of way for 5th Avenue is already in place. All acreage the county owns, where public works was built, is on platted land, Robley said. There is a triangular piece of property that the county would have to acquire to complete the extension.
Once funding is available, construction for the joint project will be planned.
A landowner on County Road 90 requested to purchase a small piece of county-owned land, which was obtained as part of the public works project, to put in a garden. Since an area that size would not meet the minimum plat size requirement, the county and city declined the request.
COUNTYWIDE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The county was approached by Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) and asked to extend the funding mechanism for Lakes Area Economic Development Authority (LAEDA).
In 2003, LAEDA was put in place to bring together communities and townships under a formal structure with designated economic development authority powers.
LAEDA partners the cities of Alexandria and Garfield and the townships of Alexandria and LaGrand in addressing economic development issues. AAEDC receives annual appropriations from Douglas County and the townships of Brandon, Carlos, Hudson and Lake Mary.
"It would have to go to the Legislature to extend LAEDA," said Commissioner Jerry Johnson.
Johnson said counties are permitted to have their own economic development governing body without going to the Legislature. Economic development public hearings will be held throughout Douglas County for cities and townships to discuss how they would like to move forward.
If LAEDA is not extended, an economic development advisory board would be structured.
"The way [LAEDA] is set up would just go away and everyone pays based on their valuation," said Johnson.
The county expressed concerns whether the AAEDC will put enough emphasis on projects outside Alexandria.
"One thing I think you're going to hear at public hearings is, 'Yeah, everything's going to go into Alexandria,'" said Commissioner Paul C. Anderson. "Which I disagree with."
Commissioners and council members agreed that the competition is not within the county; it is Alexandria, as a centralized hub, competing with Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls areas.
If businesses across the county are given the opportunity to expand, that means new housing and families moving in countywide.
"They're not going to stay in the inner-bounds of the lakes," said council member Owen Miller. "It's definitely a benefit to the county."
Mayor Dan Ness said there are more than 900 people commuting into Douglas County daily.
"We have more people working in Alexandria than we have population," said Taddei. "They're coming from somewhere."
The city council and county commissioners will be meeting quarterly. The next meeting is on July 18 at 3:30 p.m. at the Alexandria City Hall.