Two new police officers to be hired in Alexandria
Two new police officers will soon be patrolling the streets of Alexandria.
At its meeting Monday night, the city council approved Police Chief Rick Wyffel’s request to hire the officers.
One of the officers will replace Burt Crary, who is resigning January 23 after nearly 20 years of service to take a position with the Minnesota State Patrol. The other officer is an addition included in the police department’s 2014 budget.
Wyffels said there is an urgent need to get the new officers hired. He has one officer out on family medical leave right now.
“It is important we get started on this immediately,” the chief told the council.
The competition to hire new officers is fierce right now, Wyffels said. He said that an estimated 1,300 to 1,600 police officers plan to retire this year to take advantage of Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) changes that take effect this summer.
“The earlier we start this process will hopefully get us ahead of the extreme demand for police candidates,” Wyffels said.
The council also reorganized for the New Year.
It approved a resolution updating city employee position classifications and compensation. Employees will receive a 2 percent raise in 2014.
The city is in the process of studying employee compensation rates and comparing them to similar-sized cities. Depending on the results of the study, the council may change the 2 percent amount or institute merit pay adjustments, said City Administrator Marty Schultz. There is flexibility in the budget to make changes, he added.
Monthly pay ranges, which depend on experience and position, range from $1,981 for parking monitor/secretary worker to $5,174 for police chief and $5,772 for the city administrator.
The council updated the the city's personnel policy manual and designated the following paid holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Columbus Day was excluded as a holiday and the day after Thanksgiving was added. The goal is to provide better customer service by having city hall open during Columbus Day when contractors are still busy.
The Echo Press was again designated as the city’s official newspaper for publishing legal documents such as tax delinquency lists and public notices.
The council also named 21 financial institutions as city depositories in 2014.
The council’s regular meeting schedule in 2014 will remain the same, the second and fourth Mondays of each month, starting at 7 p.m., with one exception. The second meeting in May will take place on May 27 because of Memorial Day.
The council designated elected and appointed officials who will be covered under Minnesota workers compensation. They include the mayor, council members, Airport Commission, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission Joint Board, Arts Advisory Committee, Board of Health, Cable TV Commission, Culture Inclusiveness Committee, Economic Development Board, Joint Airport Zoning Board, Joint Planning Board, Park Board, Planning Commission, Police Civil Service Commission, Runestone Community Center Commission, Storm Water Utility Committee, Tree Board, Airport Zoning Board of Adjustment, County Water Board, Building Board of Appeals and Utility Board.
It authorized four individuals access to the city’s safety deposit boxes to make deposits or transfers. They include Schultz, Mayor Sara Carlson, Finance Director Jane Blade and Chris Olson, finance manager for Alexandria Light and Power. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the motion. He believes the city charter doesn't allow the council to delegate its financial authority to others.
In another beginning year resolution, the council certified $135 in clean-up charges to be assessed on a piece of property owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association.
In other action, the council:
--Approved an engineering agreement with Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates for a street reclamation project in the Victoria Heights neighborhood. The streets in that area are in very poor shape and need to be repaved, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven. The total cost of the project, if the city decides to later move ahead with it, is estimated at $560,200. The latest engineering agreement is for $39,523. The project includes full depth milling of the existing pavement, new bituminous pavement and curb, gutter and driveway repair on the following streets: Viking Street (from Vinland Street to Runestone Drive), Nissen Street (from Rosewood Lane to Runestone Drive), Scandia Street (from Rosewood Lane to Runestone Drive), Vineland Street (from Scandia Street to Viking Street), High Street (from Viking Street to the north end) and Runestone Drive (from Victoria Drive to 6th Avenue).
--Made changes to the bid packages that are being put together for downtown amenities that will be part of the Broadway reconstruction project from 3rd to 8th Avenue this summer. The amenities include trees, plants, signal poles, bollards, waste receptacles, benches and other streetscape improvements. Watch for a follow-up story and photos in the Echo Press.
--Approved Mayor Carlson's request to move the "public comment" portion of council meetings toward the beginning of the meeting, right after the consent agenda, instead of having it toward the end of the meeting. This will give the public an opportunity to talk about an issue before the council votes on it, Carlson said. In order to keep the meeting on schedule for public hearings, comments will be limited to three minutes per person.
--Gave preliminary approval to a new 10-year franchise agreement with CenterPoint Energy. As before, it allows the city to collect a fee based on 5 percent of CenterPoint’s gross revenues. New language was added to make the fee agreement consistent with the cable TV franchise agreement, which charges the same percentage of gross revenues.
--Authorized Mayor Carlson, Schultz and Blade to sign financial documents for the city's liquor store accounts with BlackRidge Bank.
--Began making appointments and re-appointments for city boards, committees and commissions. (A full list will be published when it is completed.) Long-time members who decided to step down from committees this year were thanked by the council for their many years of public service. They include Corliss Stark (Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission), Karen Senesac (Planning Commission) and David Squire (Stormwater Management Committee). One city committee, the Armory Task Force, was dissolved since there are no longer any plans to build an armory in the city.
--Was informed that the Lakes Area Humane Society was increasing its dog/puppy kennel fee from $12 per day to $13.
--Was informed that 31 new homes were built in Alexandria in 2013. In addition, nine new homes were built in LaGrand Township and 17 were built in Alexandria Township, which are part of the city’s building contract area.