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CITY COUNCIL UPDATE: Big upgrade awaits 50th Avenue

A major upgrade is in the works for 50th Avenue in south Alexandria.

City leaders say it will make the road safer, match it up with an existing wider section of the road, and provide better access to the new high school that will open in 2014.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council agreed to proceed with the project, estimated to cost $3.1 million, after holding a public hearing that drew concerns from landowners who will be assessed some of the costs.

The plan is to completely reconstruct and widen a 3,040-foot section of 50th Avenue between South Broadway and the railroad tracks (County Road 106) in 2013. It would become a 66-foot-wide, 10-ton street with four through lanes and a center turn lane. It would also include sanitary sewer, water, curb and gutter.

To finance the project, the city will use a $1.77 million federal grant and tax-exempt bonds that will be paid back through assessments on the benefiting property owners based on the square feet of their property that fronts the road. This includes the city ($157,766), Terry Akenson ($863,054), Mark Lee Properties ($247,966), and Gary and Cindy Zacher ($99,852).

Akenson said he had one main question: "How do I pay for it...$860,000 is a lot of money." He added that he realizes he doesn't have to come up with his assessment all at once and can spread the amount as the property develops under the city's interest rate of 7 percent, but he thought the rate is too high.

"I want to see [the project] go - 50th Avenue is dangerous...obviously something must be done," Akenson said, adding that perhaps a compromise could be reached.

Council member Sara Carlson said that the city has held off upgrading 50th Avenue for several years because there are so few landowners along the road to share in the cost. "But something has to be done," she said. "The road is really, really bad."

Carlson added that at least the city was able to get the federal grant to offset the cost.

The property owners will also be reimbursed, through federal funds, for seven feet of additional right of way that will be needed along both sides of 50th Avenue. The estimated amounts are: Akenson - $244,720, Zacher - $25,586, Lee - $74,377 and the city - $144,757.

The reconstructed part of 50th Avenue will match up with the existing 50th Avenue at the railroad tracks. In a related action, Douglas County is widening Pioneer Road, which leads to the new school, and will be adding turn lanes. Once that is done, it will turn the road over to the city as part of a jurisdictional transfer agreement.

The council voted 5-0 to authorize the city's engineering firm, Widseth Smith and Nolting (WSN), to prepare the plans and specifications for the 50th Avenue project.

In a related action, the council agreed to pay WSN $478,290 for engineering services on the reconstruction project as well as milling and overlay on another part of 50th Avenue - a 2,550-foot section between Highway 29 and South Broadway. That project is expected to cost a total of $221,657, which will be paid entirely through federal aid and municipal state aid funds.

Other items the council acted on Monday included the resignation of Public Works Coordinator Bryan Bjorgaard; new policies for street sweeping, sidewalk inspections and maintenance; an amendment to the JOBZ agreement with TWF Industries; the Lakes Area Humane Society 5K/10K Run on September 15; an American Heart Association Heart Walk; a request to vacate a portion of Lake Street; quotes for a new lawn mower for the park department; bids to replace restrooms at Dean Melton/Fillmore Park; Fillmore Street reconstruction project; and proclaiming May 17 as National Curves Day.

See Friday's Echo Press for more council news.

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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