Alexandria supports new way of funding local street projectsThe Alexandria city Council is supporting a plan that would allow cities to establish Municipal Street Improvement Districts.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria city Council is supporting a plan that would allow cities to establish Municipal Street Improvement Districts.
If approved by the Legislature, this would let cities pay for local street improvement projects through a general levy or special assessment, spreading the costs over a longer period of time.
The League of Minnesota Cities is lobbying the Legislature to enact the measure to give cities more flexibility in maintaining streets.
At Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Dan Ness said that a city engineer study several years ago showed Alexandria should be setting aside about $300,000 per year to maintain its streets but because of state cuts, the city has been spending only about $100,000.
A street improvement district would not be subject to state-imposed levy limits, the mayor noted.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Alexandria resident Virgil Batesole expressed concerns about the idea and the discussion turned heated.
Batesole, who ran for mayor last election and lost, said the street improvement district would be another way for the city to “play games” with its books by not indicating where funds are actually spent.
Batesole said the city’s bookkeeping, while legal, is getting too confusing for ordinary citizens to track. He said moving expenditures into other categories may make the city “look good” but is not an accurate depiction of its spending.
Mayor Ness responded by saying the city is simply obeying state mandates. The state requires all cities to follow the same accounting procedures so it has a way of comparing them, he said.
“There are no games being played here,” said Ness.
The council acted on several other issues at Monday’s meeting, which were reported in Wednesday’s Echo Press. In other action, the council:
•Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the landscaping work around the new “welcome to Alexandria” sign near Highway 29 South.
The state agreed to cover the $20,000 costs of the work. The city will be responsible for maintenance.
•Approved an agreement with Douglas County to help pay for the waterline work that will be done when County Road 42 is widened and resurfaced.
The city agreed to share in the cost years ago but the project was delayed by a lawsuit.
The estimated cost of the city’s share in the project, including the waterline work and engineering, is $498,300. Douglas County accepted the low bid from Central Specialties to do the project.
•Scheduled a public hearing to discuss the costs of extending city water to the phase-three annexation area in Alexandria Township.
The cost was estimated at $1.76 million, which would be assessed to property owners.
Landowners in the area are invited to attend the meeting on Monday, March 30 at 7 p.m. at city hall.
•Was informed that the League of Minnesota Cities will hold its annual conference on June 24-26 in St. Paul.
•Was informed that Runestone Electric Association will hold its annual meeting on Saturday, March 28 in the Jefferson High School auditorium. Registration is at 10:30 a.m., followed by lunch at 11:30 a.m. and the meeting at 1 p.m.
•Was informed that the council will meet as the board of equalization on Wednesday, April 22 at 10 a.m. at city hall.
•Approved a final plat for the Dakota Street right-of-way. The busy street is scheduled to be reconstructed this spring.
The process of acquiring easements along the street is moving along nicely, according to Tom Jacobson, assistant city attorney.
He said the city has negotiated letters of intent for 18 of the 22 parcels involved in the right of way.
•Issued the following licenses: Excavating contractor – Perc Plus (new), Breitbach Construction (new); massage – Sara Hanson, doing business as Certain Serenity Massage at 309 Final Drive; garbage hauler – Haabala Rolloffs (new); charitable gambling – American Legion to conduct bingo on March 26.
•Approved a proclamation for the Kiwanis Club, which is hosting an event featuring a former international president of the organization who is from Fergus Falls.