Alexandria City Council joins new economic development effortWhen it comes to economic development, cities in rural Minnesota are not getting their fair share compared to metro areas, according to a new partnership.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
When it comes to economic development, cities in rural Minnesota are not getting their fair share compared to metro areas, according to a new partnership.
It's trying to give cities like Alexandria a bigger slice of the pie this legislative session.
The Alexandria City Council agreed Monday night to pay a $500 membership fee to join the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Economic Development Partnership Program. The amount matches the $250 the Alexandria Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission each provided.
"We need every avenue we can to encourage more [economic] activity in our rural areas," said council member Owen Miller.
The partnership involves cities, chambers of commerce, economic development authorities and independent businesses. They support three main pieces of legislation:
--A program that would give businesses in Greater Minnesota tax credits or grants to hire college interns. It would require an $11 million biennial appropriation to provide $4,000 per intern.
--A new employee job training program tax credit to help Greater Minnesota businesses find employees with skill sets for 21st century jobs. It would require a $20 million initial appropriation from the Legislature.
--Expansion of the Greater Minnesota Angel Investment Credit. It would redistribute the program’s $12 million allocation by increasing the tax credit from 25 to 50 percent for investors who support qualifying businesses in Greater Minnesota.
The partnership also supports two legislative issues that have not been introduced yet -- offering state matching grants for business infrastructure, such as building new industrial parks, and restructuring the Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ) program so it would better benefit cities, businesses and taxpayers, said coalition representative Mike Miller, who talked to the council Monday.
Miller said the economic development stakes are high this session. Governor Mark Dayton has proposed $60 million in new economic development spending and the bulk of it could end up in the metro area unless Greater Minnesota cities work together to get their share, he said.
In other action at Monday's meeting, the council:
--Learned that construction projects in Alexandria in 2012 were valued at more than $51.64 million. That’s according to Bruce Jaspersen, head of the building department, who presented his annual report to the Alexandria City Council Monday night. The total isn’t quite as high as 2011’s $53.03 million but is up from the 2010 amount of $50.77 million. (See Friday’s Echo Press for more details from the report.)
--Approved a proclamation declaring February 7-14 as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.
--Approved a new right-of-way map for Government Point Road and Van Avenue. The city is designing a new waterline there and discovered that some roads and maintenance areas were located outside of the platted right of way. The new map resolves that problem, according to Assistant City Administrator Marty Schultz.
--Ordered a report to see if a project to make improvements on Boys Avenue would be cost effective. The road, one of the few gravel streets in the city, is part of the phase 4 orderly annexation area with Alexandria Township. Some residents on the road, representing 40.9 percent of the street frontage, have petitioned the city to pave the road and improve the drainage. Property owners would be assessed some of the costs if the project moves forward.
--Approved a second and final reading of a new franchise 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.
--Agreed to allow MBA-Alexandria LLC to sublease 6.05 acres of land the city owns near the airport to Douglas Machine Incorporated. The current ground lease has been reassigned several times over the years. It is the site of the old Eagle building on Highway 27 West adjacent to the airport that was last used by ITW Heartland.
--Was informed that the city’s board of appeal and equalization meeting will take place Wednesday, April 17 at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
--Decided not to waive the monetary limits on municipal tort liability coverage for the city’s insurance package with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. If the city had decided to waive the limits, it would have had to pay a higher premium, said City Administrator Jim Taddei.
--Hired Arnquist Carpets Plus Colortile of Alexandria to replace the broken tile in the City Hall hallway leading to the break room and garage, and to replace a few tiles near the handicapped entrance in the back of the building. It submitted a quote of $1,200, the same amount quoted by D & M Tile of Alexandria. A coin toss determined the winner.
--Authorized Airport Manager Todd Roth to seek proposals for airport-architectural-planning services for the next five years. This is required by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
--Agreed to form a committee to meet with representatives from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and Alexandria School Distirct 206 on an informal, ongoing basis to discuss issues of mutual interest, such as overlapping services. The council appointed Miller and Todd Jensen to its committee. The county and school district are expected to form similar committees. No more than two members from each entity may meet or it would constitute a public meeting, which must be open to the public and subject to open meeting laws. The committee could not take any action at the informal meetings. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the committee. He wanted to be part of it but Mayor Sara Carlson told him that only two members could be on the committee.
--Scheduled a work session for February 25 at 5 p.m. at City Hall to discuss Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District (ALASD) issues with the representatives on its ALASD committee. It also set a work session for March 11 before the council meeting to discuss the city's financial proceedures.
--Approved a mortgage subordination agreement with U.S Bank that will allow Jeff and Tracie Crouse to refinance their $6,000 CHAP loan for their home in The Trails development.
--Approved the following licenses: temporary liquor – Fort Chippewa VFW Post 936 to sell alcohol for a Viking Sportsmen banquet at the Runestone Community Center on April 13; heating – Gustafson Mechanical and Greeley Plumbing and Heating; sign hanger – JH Signs and Designs; and fireworks – Menards and Mills Fleet Farm.