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Moving mountains of snow

Imagine a football field buried under 142 feet of snow.

That's how much snow Alexandria city crews hauled away from December 10 to February 19 last winter.

They hauled 2,805 loads or 44,880 cubic yards of snow, according to Bryan Bjorgaard, the city's public works director.

While snowflakes were swirling around outside, Bjorgaard delivered his "state of the public works address" to the Alexandria City Council Monday night.

His report not only touched on the city's snow removal efforts but on other duties as well - patching up streets, making signs, fixing culverts, mowing parks, removing nuisance weeds, installing outdoor skating rinks, maintaining the airport and more.

And all the work is done by 12 street department employees (the same number of staff the city had back in 1974) and eight park workers.

The city's public works department is broken into streets, storm sewer, parks and airport. Here are some of the highlights Bjorgaard covered in his report:


Workers patched, by hand, 238.47 tons of asphalt in various areas of the city in the past year. It also reclaimed and repaved 799.13 tons of full-depth asphalt repairs.

As in the past, the department recycles old asphalt for other repairs in the city to help save money and be "green minded," Bjorgaard said. He noted that street materials from the Dakota Street project, for example, were stockpiled and much of it has been re-used.

When a snowstorm happens, the city strives to plow all the streets within 12 hours after it ends.

The city is able to act quickly in a snow emergency thanks to a joint effort with the park department. Four park crew members help with the hauling and plowing.

The street department is also working to meet new federal sign reflectivity deadlines.

By January 2012, the city must assess all of its signs and develop a plan on how to make sure they'll meet requirements for how reflective they are.

Also by January 2012, all lettering on ground-mounted street signs should be at least 6-inches high in capital letters or a mixture of 6-inch upper case letters and 4.5-inch lower-case letters.

By January 2015, the city must replace all regulatory, warning and ground-mounted guide signs (except street names) that have been identified as failing to meet the new requirements.

By January 2018, cities must replace street name signs and overhead guide signs that don't meet the requirements.

The street department has been working on the new sign requirements for the last year and are in the process of inventorying all the signs to determine which ones need to be replaced, Bjorgaard said. He added that the department can now make its own signs, saving 30 to 50 percent in annual sign costs.

Some of the larger street name signs have already been installed on Highway 27 East and County Road 42.

Bjorgaard is also on a statewide sign reflectivity task force with the League of Minnesota Cities to work on policies and procedures.


Storm sewer repair has been an ongoing project this past summer, Bjorgaard said. Workers repaired 16 catch basins and six drain pipes, and cleaned 12 culvert ends and ponds, totaling 262 crew hours.

The department is also working on a final map of the city's storm sewer system and conducting a pond inventory.

The street department also took care of 109 right-of-way permits and 1,549 "Gopher One" underground digging requests.


The park department consists of nine full-time employees who maintain the city's 23 parks and other city-owned property that equal about 200 acres.

Workers mow and trim around trees and equipment, prune shrubs, and collect trash and clean restrooms three days a week and on weekends.

More than 1,000 engine hours were placed on the city's mowers in the past year.

Workers also remove, trim and replace trees in boulevards, alleyways and parks.

Dutch elm disease is still showing up in the area, Bjorgaard noted. They must also keep an eye out for the emerald ash borer, which could be devastating if the beetle is found in and around Alexandria, Bjorgaard said, adding that about 80 percent of Douglas County trees are ash.

Park workers planted and maintained about 10,000 annual flowers in several areas of the city - Noonan Park, Legion Park, City Park, Runestone Park and in other small areas and flowerpots throughout the park system.

The park department also handles nuisance weed violations. This past year, it cleaned up and mowed 11 yards that were neglected by owners. The property owners were billed for the work.

Park workers install and maintain two outdoor hockey rinks at the free skating area at Noonan Park and operate the Noonan Park warming house. The work is done on a daily basis in the winter, including on weekends and holidays.

Crews also clean off and maintain the storm water holding pond at the Fred Foslien Park in the Victoria Heights area.

Workers also use the winter months to repair and repaint summer equipment, work on wood projects for other city departments and help the street department with snow removal as needed.


The airport is running well this year and all the hangers are rented; there's even a waiting list, Bjorgaard said.

The arrival/departure building has been improved with new siding, windows and a new roof, which should make the building more energy efficient. The overhead door of the H1 hanger has also been replaced.

The biggest benefit at the airport this year, Bjorgaard said, is the addition of Life Link helicopter service.

Bjorgaard summed up his report by noting that he only hit on some of the things the public work department does throughout the year. "There are so many more but we don't have all night," he said.

He added that all the city departments work well together.

"It doesn't matter if it's the police department, fire department, city hall, Runestone Community Center, streets, parks or airport," Bjorgaard told the council. "Whatever the project may be, rest assured that we are working as a team to get the job completed the most cost effective and safest way possible."

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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