Alexandria powers up for $1 million electrical distribution projectThe Alexandria City Council has flipped the switch on a $1 million project to improve the city’s electrical system.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria City Council has flipped the switch on a $1 million project to improve the city’s electrical system.
At its meeting Monday night, the council called for bids on the electrical distribution line project, as requested by Alexandria Light and Power (ALP). Once a bid is approved, work will begin as soon as the ground thaws and be completed this summer.
The project contains four main areas, according to Scott Deitz, ALP operations manager:
--The main portion of construction will take an existing overhead line that runs along 50th Avenue and place it underground. The line begins behind the Tosoro gas station on the west side of Highway 29 and goes all the way to the railroad tracks.
--Cable will be replaced behind Perkins, McDonald’s and Tennessee Roadhouse.
--An overhead line that runs from Culver’s to Carpet One along the east side of Highway 29 will be converted underground.
--Overhead lines will be converted underground and new service loops installed for Alex Power Equipment, Lakeland Manufacturing and West Central Metal Fab in the Hustad industrial park area.
All areas of work were planned for in ALP's 2013 budget, Deitz noted.
In other action, the council:
--Proclaimed February 11-17 as Random Acts of Kindness Week in Alexandria. It marks the 17th straight year the Alexandria Kiwanis Club has organized the special week. The proclamation noted that daily news is too often dominated by tragic stories of crime, violence and disaster while the daily acts of kindness often go unrecognized. Residents were encouraged to become more aware of the importance of being kind to others and join the Random Acts of Kindness effort that is being observed in more than 600 cities and towns across the nation. "It kind of brightens the winter," noted Tim Schoonhoven, Kiwanis member.
--Approved Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffel’s request to hire a new police officer, bolstering the force from 20 officers to 21. The item was in the 2013 budget. Although the request was approved on a unanimous vote, the council had some questions about which guidelines should be followed for determining how many officers are needed in a city the size of Alexandria. The council requested the police department to provide a baseline on population and other demographics for determining hiring needs in the future.
--Was reminded that personal communication devices, such as iPads, used by city employees and appointed and elected officials are subject to the Data Practices Act, making text messages and e-mails public information. City Attorney Tom Jacobson said that an opinion of the Minnesota Commissioner of Administration addressed the issue in a case involving the Duluth International Airport.
--Approved a one-day off-site gambling premise permit for American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education (ABATE) to sell raffle tickets for an April 20 event at the Holiday Inn.
--Issued a conditional use permit to Advance Sales of Minnesota that allows for the outdoor storage and display of automobiles and small sports and lawn-related equipment at 1201 34th Avenue West (formerly Highway 27 West). Four conditions were attached: A separate sign permit is required, exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from public streets; 20 parking spaces must be provided; and all items must be displayed on hard surfaces.
--Issued a conditional use permit to IRD Ceramics that will allow light industrial machining and assembling at 44 Glenn Road NW (the old Alexandria Plumbing and Heating building). The company makes glass and ceramic products for laser machines and the airline industry. A separate sign permit is required and exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from public streets.
--Approved, on a 3-2 vote, a final plat for the Deer Ridge Townhomes, a housing project south of StoneManor and east of Grand Arbor that’s being developed by the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and DW Jones, Inc. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against it, saying that he wanted to see the the property title and the developer's agreement. City Planner Mike Weber said it was a typical title and agreement for this type of project. Batesole also said he will oppose any HRA project until it provides more financial data about its operations. Todd Jensen also voted against the plat. He had concerns whether a cul-de-sac would have adequate turnaround space for firetrucks -- Weber said it would -- and where an access road would be built for phase two of the project.
--Proceeded with a plan to provide sanitary sewer to three property owners on Kenwood Drive, between Lakeview and Henry Avenue. Right now, the property owners have their own septic systems. After holding a public hearing, the council ordered the improvements and plans for the project, which is estimated to cost $110,626. Instead of paying a more costly assessment based on property footage, the owners will only have to pay a $5,000 connection charge and the city will cover the remaining cost. The project should have been done years ago, according to city staff, but it was pushed back because of cost concerns. In a related action, the council approved a $14,970 agreement with Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates to provide the engineering work for the project.
--Amended an assisted living facility revenue note for the Knute Nelson project that was approved in 2006 for $4.3 million. The city served as the issuer or conduit for the note at no cost to the city. Knute Nelson and Bremer Bank are refinancing the note at a lower interest rate, 2.99 percent instead of 5.09 percent, and requested the city to amend the note, which has a balance of $3,485,765.
--Approved the first step in the process of renewing the city’s franchise cable TV agreement with Charter Communications. It’s a non-exclusive, 10-year agreement that would allow the city to charge a fee of up to $1.50 per month to support a public, educational and governmental (PEG) public access channel. If the council decides to impose the fee, Charter would add it to subscribers' bills. The city would continue to collect 5 percent of Charter’s gross revenues in the city, which is the maximum amount allowed by law. This amounts to about $90,000 a year. The public access channel broadcasting equipment may be moved from the Discovery Middle School to the new Alexandria Area High School. Another highlight of the agreement encourages Charter to keep abreast of the local needs for cable channels such as including a Fargo, North Dakota TV station like WDAY-TV in its cable service.
--Tabled a request from council member Owen Miller for the city to match a $500 contribution from Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Economic Development Commission to join a new economic development initiative organized by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. The council wanted additional information and more time to make a decision.
--Tabled a request to change the sub-lease agreement the city holds for the ground where the old Eagle building is located on Highway 27 West adjacent to the airport. The current ground lease has been re-assigned several times. The council plans to discuss a proposed sub-lease agreement between MBA-Alexandria and Douglas Machine. Jacobson requested more time to examine the lease.
--Agreed to hold a work session with Jane Blade, the city's financial director, to find out how the council can better review and analyze the city's financial records on a monthly basis to make sure all accounts are operating as budgeted.
--Agreed to hire Braun Intertec to perfom soil tests for the 50th Avenue reconstruction project this summer at a cost of $4,226.
--Was reminded that a joint meeting between the council and ALP is scheduled for February 4 at Bistro on Broadway at 5 p.m.
--Appointed several more people to city committees and boards, a process that began earlier this month. (The newspaper will print a full list of the appointees when the process is complete.)
--Agreed to subordinate a loan for Thomas and Heidi Eggert, allowing them to refinance their mortgage on their property in The Trails with Wells Fargo.