Stoplights, Mexican restaurant, prayer and more pop up at council meetingTwo new stoplights, a Mexican restaurant's liquor request, the joint law enforcement center, prayer and more were some of the topics that popped up at Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
More stoplights in Alexandria?
It’s a possibility.
At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council authorized the city engineer to find out how much it would cost to hire a traffic engineering firm to study if stoplights are warranted at two spots on South Broadway – 30th Avenue (near the Midway Mall Cinema 9) and 34th Avenue (near the Minnesota Eye Institute).
The city’s highway committee recommended the action.
City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven said the city has been monitoring the traffic flow along South Broadway for years. Although he said the need for a stoplight isn’t imminent, he said it makes sense to at least see how much it would cost to conduct a study.
The study would consider the amount of traffic that’s on the street, the turns that are being made, the number of accidents that have occurred there and whether stoplights would help.
Council member Elroy Frank noted that if the city decides to order a study, it should be conducted during the summer to get a truer picture of the traffic counts.
The street was recently resurfaced and will be restriped next week to include a center turning lane.
The council acted on two other traffic-related items:
--It agreed to replace yield signs with stop signs at four locations in the newly annexed “phase three” annexation area in north Alexandria.
The intersections include Browns Point Lane and Browns Point Road; Wicken Lane and Browns Point Road; Darling Drive and Browns Point Road; and Ross Garden and Darling Drive.
--The council is also considering restricting on-street parking on Elm Street, from 9th to 11th Avenue, and on Maple Street, from 7th to 8th Avenue during the winter months. It authorized city staff to contact residents in that area for their input before deciding what to do.
Those streets are very narrow and on-street parking makes snow removal difficult, according to Bryan Bjorgaard, public works coordinator. There are other locations within the city that have seasonal parking restrictions.
The city also received a request to install stop signs at various locations within the Lakeview Park Addition. The police chief will look into any accident history in the area before the council takes any action.
A request to change a driveway on 10th Avenue east of Lake Street didn’t require council action at this time. City staff will contact the owners and help them with the permit process if they decide to proceed.
New Mexican restaurant
Another noteworthy item that came out of Monday’s meeting could be good news for those who like Mexican food.
The council considered issuing an on-sale liquor license and a Sunday liquor license to “Mi Mexico.”
It’s located at 401 North Nokomis, the same location as Bonito Mazatlan, which closed this past June.
The new owner is Juan Valencia, who owns Mexican restaurants in Benson and Savage.
No one spoke at the public hearings for the liquor requests. After looking at the application, however, the council voted to table taking action on the requests.
Council members said there were too many “blank spots” in the applications, such as providing complete names and addresses of three references, and an unanswered question that asked if all real estate and other taxes had been paid.
The council said it would consider the requests again once the applications were complete.
Alexandria is growing
City Administrator Jim Taddei filled the council in on the latest population estimates he received from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
He said the new numbers from April 2008 put the city’s population at 12,415 – an 8.1 percent increase from the previous year’s 11,481.
The latest figures do not include the latest “phase three” annexation area, according to City Planner Mike Weber who spoke with the newspaper after the meeting. That area is expected to bring roughly 800 more people into the city.
Prayer before meetings?
During the “old and other business” portion of the meeting, council member Owen Miller suggested that the city council open its meetings with a prayer.
He said that the U.S. Congress, the Minnesota House and Senate all open their sessions with prayer and the city should consider it as well.
Mayor Dan Ness said the council would take the suggestion under advisement.
In other action, the council:
--Scheduled a work session with the mayor, council and Douglas County Board to discuss future plans for a joint Law Enforcement Center.
The meeting will take place on Monday, August 31 at 7 p.m. at the Douglas County Public Works Center.
--Approved three separate requests to annex property in Lake Mary Township adjacent to Cross Country Lane as requested by the landowner, Larry Zavadil. He’s moving on to the second phase of a major development near the north shore of Lake Andrew.
Under state law, the city is not allowed to annex more than 200 acres at once, so the requests had to be approved separately.
The first chunk of land includes four parcels totaling 120.25 acres. Under the agreement with Lake Mary Township, the township will retain the property taxes on the land, $1,109, for 2009 and then receive half that amount from the city for the following five years.
Another chunk includes four parcels of unplatted land containing 135.72 acres. The township will retain the $1,858 property tax this year and then receive half that amount from the city for the following five years.
The other piece includes seven parcels of land containing 183.07 acres. The township will retain the $4,182 property tax this year and then receive half that amount from the city for the next five years.
Council member Frank asked whether the city and township have reached an agreement about the roads in the development.
City Attorney John Lervick said that he’s talked with the township attorney and that progress is being made. The city, he said, will likely share in the maintenance of the roads based on how much footage is in the city. An agreement would have to be approved by the Municipal Planning Agency, he said.
--Set a public hearing to discuss the assessments of the Fillmore parking lot improvement project.
The hearing will take place during the council’s next meeting on August 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The cost of the project was about $530,000, according to Taddei. Although he did not yet have the exact figures determined, he said that slightly less than half that amount would be covered through assessments on businesses in the downtown district.
Notices will be mailed later this week with the complete numbers, outlining the costs and individual assessments.
The council considered passing a resolution that would have declared the costs and ordered the preparation of the proposed assessments.
It ended up triggering a series of votes because the resolution contained a couple of blanks – the exact cost of the project itself and the costs that were to be assessed to the property owners. Taddei said those exact figures had not been determined yet.
The first vote on the resolution ended up in a 2-2 tie (council member Dave Benson was absent). Two members of the council said they felt uncomfortable voting for a resolution that did not contain complete numbers.
Mayor Dan Ness, who doesn’t have the authority to vote under the city’s charter unless there is a tie, then broke the tie by approving the resolution.
However, after more discussion and advice from Lervick, the council voted to rescind its approval of the resolution. It decided to hold off voting on the resolution until after the public hearing.
--Rezoned a small section of land along Oak Street from single-family residential to single and two-family residential.
The property is located in the Holes Garden Park Addition.
The rezoning will allow Habitat for Humanity to build four homes in the area.
--Was informed that the city’s estimated contribution to the Firefighter Relief Association, a retirement fund, will amount to $112,880 in 2010, according to Taddei.
That amounts to an annual benefit of $6,190 for each firefighter, the same amount as this year.
--Approved a Stormwater Management Plan.
It will be used to meet surface water requirements of regulatory agencies in order to protect the lakes and water resources within the city.
The plan was recommended by the city’s stormwater utility committee following a public hearing earlier this month.
--Issued the following licenses: excavating – M.L. Schendzielos and Son, Inc. (new); peddler’s – State Bank and Trust, allowing it to distribute flyers; charitable gambling – Alexandria Figure Skating Club to sell raffles for an April 17, 2010 event.