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Geneva Road awaits upgrade that bicyclists will like

It's been about eight years in the making but it appears that a one-mile stretch of Geneva Road is headed for a major upgrade.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council called for bids on the project, estimated to cost $900,000.

Almost all of the project's cost will be covered through state and federal grants, according to Tim Schoonhoven, city engineer.

The city plans to completely rebuild Geneva Road from McKay Avenue to Birch Avenue. The road will be widened six feet to accommodate a bicycle lane.

The new bike lane will link to other bike lanes in the area, including the one on Birch Avenue, allowing more children to safely bicycle to Discovery Middle School, according to Schoonhoven.

Bids will be opened on August 4. Work is expected to begin and end this fall.

The fact that the city will pay nearly nothing for the upgrade brought smiles from the council.

"Can we get all of our roads done with state and federal grants?" council member Cindy Bigger kiddingly asked.

"We won't live that long," Schoonhoven quipped.

Another major improvement project that's in the works is replacing the metal roof on the Alexandria Airport's arrival/departure building.

The council also called for bids on that project, which will also be covered by state and federal grants.

To receive the funding, the council added a clause to the bid that requires 2 percent of the project's costs to be used for hiring Disadvantaged Business Enterprises - companies owned by minorities or women.

In other action, the council:

•Established a new fee for those who cause natural or liquid-petroleum gas leaks that require a response from the Alexandria Fire Department.

The fee was set at $400.

•Approved a walk, "Taking Steps Against Domestic Violence," that will take place Tuesday, October 19.

Organized by Someplace Safe, Wings Family Services and United Communities Advocating Non-Violence (UCAN), the third annual event is designed to boost awareness of domestic violence in Douglas County.

Participants will gather at 5 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse and walk on city sidewalks to Calvary Lutheran Church at 605 Douglas Street. After a light supper, participants will listen to a speaker.

The walk will take about 30 minutes and organizers are hoping for about 300 participants, according to Al Godfrey with UCAN and Susan Keehn, an advocate with Someplace Safe. Many of the walkers will be carrying balloons and signs and pushing strollers.

The event has grown substantially, from about 150 the first year to 250 to 275 last year, Keehn said.

•Was informed that the Alexandria Police Department has scheduled "Community Night Out" for Tuesday, August 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Park.

Alexandria is joining forces with thousands of communities nationwide in a celebration against crimes and drugs, noted Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels in a letter to city officials.

The goal is to show the community what the city of Alexandria has to offer its citizens.

"We will combine our efforts and represent the many different agencies within the city to show a unified effort to bring the community together," Wyffels wrote.

•Referred a request from council member Dave Benson to the highway committee.

Benson said he's received a few phone calls from residents who are frustrated by the short amount of time the "walk" signal stays on when they try to cross Broadway.

Council members said that a decision to lengthen the walk signal ultimately rests with the Minnesota Department of Transportation but they added it was worth looking into.

"I think we have to have a change," Benson said.

Mayor Dan Ness agreed, saying that when he's tried walking across Broadway, he barely gets halfway across before the "don't walk" signal starts flashing.

•Approved the annual "Heat on the Street" basketball tournament put on by Lakes Community Church.

It will take place on Wednesday, July 21 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the American Legion Park.

The council approved the event on the condition that organizers get approval from the city's park director.

•Appointed election judges for the Tuesday, August 10 primary election.

About 70 judges on a preliminary list were appointed; more may be designated later as the election nears.

Polling places include: Ward 1, precinct 1 - city hall; Ward 1, precinct 2 - Shalom Lutheran Church; Ward 2, precinct 1 - Calvary Lutheran Church; Ward 2, precinct 2 - Bethesda Lutheran Church; Ward 3, precinct 1 - city hall; Ward 3, precinct 2 - city hall; Ward 4 - Calvary Lutheran Church; Ward 5 - Congregational Church, educational building, west door.

•Listened to concerns from council member Elroy Frank about the American Legion Park. He said that the American flag at the park doesn't have a light shining on it at night.

Frank was also concerned about late night noise and other "havoc" at the park, which he said sometimes lasts until 3 a.m.

•Agreed to allow Karin Tank, assistant city planner, to travel out of state to attend an Active Living conference on walking and bicycling opportunities.

The conference will take place in Tennessee September 13-16. All of the costs are being covered through a grant at no expense to the city.

•Was informed that the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities will hold its summer conference in Winona on August 18-20.

•Issued two charitable gambling licenses - one to the Alexandria Sertoma Club to sell raffles for a February 12, 2011 event on Lake Agnes, and another to the Ladies of the Lakes Ducks Unlimited to sell raffles at a September 10 event.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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