Alexandria's lodging tax proceeds rise to record levelsA 3 percent lodging tax in Alexandria is generating big bucks for promoting the local tourism scene.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
A 3 percent lodging tax in Alexandria is generating big bucks for promoting the local tourism scene.
Through the first nine months of this year, the tax has raised more than $200,000 and is on track to eclipse last year’s record-breaking mark of $237,153 by 4 percent.
Sara Stadtherr, executive director of Alexandria Hotel and Hospitality (AHH) – the organization that collects and oversees the proceeds – went over the numbers with the Alexandria City Council at its meeting Monday night.
The lodging tax is added on to the bills paid by guests staying at 598 rooms at 15 local lodging establishments, which includes motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts and resorts.
AHH collected record-breaking totals in six of the first nine months this year, Stadtherr said.
“Not many markets are seeing the growth rates we are,” she told the council.
An AHH board, comprised of five members representing the 14 properties, two from the local tourism organizations and one city council member, decides how the money is spent. It targets demographics in two main areas – the Twin Cities and Fargo-Moorhead, Stadtherr said.
The estimated proceeds from the tax this year, $240,000 will go toward advertising ($88,000), funding requests from organizers of local events ($60,000), AHH staff and expenses ($59,750), branding and marketing expenses ($14,700), operating expenses ($10,020), sponsorships ($5,000), trade shows ($1,200), and other expenses ($800).
The AHH, Stadtherr said, works with local groups to keep the wheels of tourism rolling in the community. She listed a variety of local events the AHH supports, including the Vikingland Band Festival, the Viking Speedway, the swimming club, Carlos Creek Winery, Garden Center Lanes’ bowling tournament, Hockey Fest and more.
Other highlights of Stadtherr’s report:
--Because of growth and the need for storage, AHH relocated to 610 Fillmore Street, Suite 2 this year.
--AHH was honored as the Best Convention and Visitors Bureau among areas with a population of less than 25,000. The Minnesota Meetings and Events magazine presented the honor in March.
--AHH partners with Explore Minnesota Tourism, Minnesota Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (MACVB), Midwest Society of Association Executives, Minnesota Lodging Association, Minnesota Heartland Marketing Committee and the chambers of commerce in Alexandria, Fargo and Glenwood.
--Stadtherr sits on the board of the Central Lakes Trail, Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway, Alexandria Area Arts Association and the MACVB. She is also involved with the United Way Advisory Committee, Lakes Area Professional Women, Rotary and Active Living of Douglas County.
The council voted 5-0 to approve the report and thanked Stadtherr for developing a strong branding of Alexandria as a tourism destination where visitors can relax and have fun.
In other action Monday night, the council:
--Approved a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the state to provide professional and technical services to make safety improvements on Broadway (Highway 29) from 3rd to 8th Avenue as part of the “Complete Streets” project. The project will improve handicap accessibility, replace signal lights and relocate sidewalks and underground utilities. MnDOT agreed to reimburse the city all the money for the engineering work, $161,133. Council member Virgil Batesole was the only council member to vote against the agreement. He said he wasn’t given the opportunity to read the document.
---Approved an on-sale liquor license, which cost $4,500, for a new bar-restaurant that is opening in north Alexandria, Zorbaz. It is located on North Nokomis Street where The Wharf used to be before it was gutted by a fire in 2000.
--Renewed on-sale liquor licenses for the following establishments: Angelina’s, Bennigan’s, Bug-A-Boo Bay, D. Michael B’s, Depot Express, Dootlittle’s, Garden Center, Holiday Inn, Mi Mexico, Raapers and Tennessee Roadhouse. Several other alcohol licenses were also renewed, including club on-sale liquor to Eagles, Elks and VFW; wine licenses to Bella’s on Broadway, Grand Arbor, Great Hunan, Jerry’s Bar and Grill, Sixth Avenue Wine and Ale; set-up license to Jerry’s bar and Grill; on-sale retail to Cash Wise Liquor; on-sale beer to Bella’s on Broadway, China Buffet, Godfather’s Pizza (which is reopening with new owners), Grand Arbor, Great Hunan, Jerry’s Bar and Grill, Sixth Avenue Wine and Ale; off-sale beer licenses to Allstop, Elden’s Fresh Foods, Hampton Inn and Suites, three Holiday Station stores, Super America, Simonson Freeway Tesoro, Sunnies and Walmart. Pete’s County Market also applied for an off-sale beer license but it wasn’t approved because it lacked a signature.
--Approved 15 excavating contractor licenses, four garbage haulers licenses, 35 heating contractor licenses, two massage business licenses, eight massage therapist licenses, a motorized vehicle racing license to the Runestone Go-Kart Association, on-street loading zone licenses to Juettner Motors and Runestone Electric, an on-street parking license to Runestone Electric, pawnbrokers licenses to Alexandria Pawn Shop and Viking Pawn, six sign hanger licenses, tax cab licenses to Rainbow Rider and Taxi Guy, and 24 tobacco licenses.
--Approved a preliminary plat for the Deer Ridge Townhomes, a 24-unit township development targeted for low to moderate income family. It will be located on a five-acre site owned by the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) east of the new high school and north of another new housing project in the area, StoneManor. The planning commission recommended, and the council agreed, to change the plat from four lots to three and for the plan to include a cul-de-sac not longer than 500 feet. The initial application called for a public road to exit across the adjoining Grand Arbor property but that plan was scrapped when Knute Nelson, which owns Grand Arbor, said the road would not fit in with its long-range plans for the property. Batesole was the only council member to vote against the plat. He said it was wrong to approve a plan that doesn’t show the cul-de-sac yet. City Planner Mike Weber explained that this is just the preliminary plat and that the final plat will show the road.
--Approved an agreement with the Alexandria HRA to conduct inspections of rental units in the city next year. The cost will not exceed $15,000, the same amount as this year.
--Approved a Safe Routes to School agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to and from Lincoln Elementary School. It calls for a preliminary engineering study, costing up to $20,474, of sidewalks, street lighting, crosswalks, stop signs and safety improvements by the school and along 13th Avenue. Federal funds will cover all of the cost. The council appointed MnDOT to act as agent for the city to accept the federal aid funds.
--Approved decorum procedures for city council meetings. The standards were developed by the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Mayors Association. Council member Sara Carlson, who will soon be the new mayor, requested the council to approve them as good practices on how to conduct meetings. Batesole said he never saw the document. Council member Dave Benson said it’s been included in the packet of information council members receive for months. Council member Elroy Frank noted that League officials provided the procedures when they met with the council after Batesole was ejected from a meeting a year and a half ago. Batesole was the only council member to vote against the procedures.
--Approved a concurring resolution with Douglas County that involves revoking, locating, establishing, designating and numbering county state aid highways as part of jurisdictional transfers that were agreed upon months ago. In related action, the council established Geneva Road as a municipal state aid route between the intersection with Birch Avenue and County Road 73.
--Approved an engineering agreement for the Whispering Oaks stormwater outlet project off the west side of McKay Avenue between Highway 29 and South L’Homme Dieu Drive. It will consist of a 12-inch diameter pipe and will include an inlet control structure, storm sewer manholes, curb and gutter replacement, erosion control and turf restoration. The area has been prone to flooding. The city will pay Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) and Associates $22,228 for the engineering work based on a total project cost of about $150,000.
--Approved a resolution authorizing WSN to prepare a report that will look at the cost and feasibility of providing sanitary sewer to three properties on Kenwood Drive. The landowners petitioned the city to make the improvements.
--Issued a charitable gambling permit to the local American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education (ABATE), Freedom First Riders for its annual bike show/raffle at the Runestone Community Center on April 13. Other gambling permits were given to Someplace Safe to sell raffles at a May 1 event, and to the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce to sell raffles on February 1 at Broadway Ballroom.
--Authorized council member Owen Miller, the city's representative on the Douglas County Lakes Area Planning Agency, to vote in favor of disbanding the agency at its meeting next month. Mayor Dan Ness noted that the agency served a useful purpose during the annexation process but had run its course.