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Douglas County fairgoers will now be able to hear sirens

The next time sirens sound in Alexandria, more people should be able to hear them.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council authorized Emergency Management Director Dennis Stark to purchase a new outdoor alert siren that will be located at Highway 29 South and 50th Avenue.

The siren will replace an existing one at that location to provide better coverage for that area of the city as it continues to develop, Stark said.

The existing siren will be moved to the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where there is no siren.

Because the new siren requires only single-phase power, the city will save money by not having to run underground power lines to it, Stark said.

The cost of the siren is estimated at $14,129.

The siren should have been purchased last year but was pushed back to 2013, Stark noted. The purchase is in the city's long-range public safety plans.

In other action, the council:

--Voted to proceed with making improvements to two downtown parking lots on the east side of the city. The Hawthorne Street lot is estimated to cost $239,403. Property owners will be assessed $170,435 (71 percent of the total) and the city will pick up the rest, $69,968. The 7th Avenue lot is estimated to cost $170,464. Property owners will be assessed $96,217 (56 percent) and the city will cover the remaining $74,247. The assessments to the local businesses were based on five distance factors within the parking lot district, including the size of their building, number of residential rental units on the parcel, code-required parking, private parking provided by the business and proximity of the property to the parking lot. No one spoke at the public hearing before the council voted. In related action, the council established a downtown parking assessment district and accepted the low bid for both projects, which was submitted by Mark Lee Excavating in the amount of $347,345. The bids are 20 percent lower than the bids the council rejected last summer when they exceeded the estimate. Council member Roger Thalman noted that's a good example of why the city should refuse bids if they come in too high.

--Approved applications from three downtown businesses to fix up their building exteriors and sites under the city's new revolving loan fund, which offers a low interest rate of 1 percent. Marc Godfrey will receive $6,000 to make private parking lot improvements at the back of his office, Godfrey Chiropractic, at 119 6th Avenue East. The loan will be paid back in three years. Kevin Klepper will receive $5,000 to improve the parking lot at Edward Jones at 117 6th Avenue East. The loan will be paid back in five years. Tom Haase will receive $5,000 to improve entry doors, install thermo-pane windows, paint the exterior and install awnings and air conditioning at his property at 118 3rd Avenue East, which houses Blue Collar Bob's and two other businesses. The loan will be paid back in four years.

--Approved a resolution that confirms the existence of a city charter commission, which is required under Minnesota statutes. The commission, which reviews the rules that guide all city activities and any changes that are made to the charter, has been inactive for decades. The commission will have seven members who must be qualified voters of the city. The city will ask for applicants and the council will nominate seven people for a judicial judge to consider. The statutes allow up to 15 members and the council discussed whether they should allow more members to serve. The last records of the commission showed that it had 15 members. City Attorney Tom Jacobson said that having seven members is a more manageable number to deal with. The council approved the resolution on a 4-1 to vote. Virgil Batesole opposed it. He wanted 15 members and said he was concerned that the council could more easily "stack the deck" or influence the commission's decisions with only seven. "I think the more we have, the better," he said.

--Gave final approval to a request to annex two parcels of land along Tolena Road. Trustees representing the estates of Haroldeen Heskin and John Meyer and Laura Meyer-Dick want to obtain city water. The township waived its right to object to the annexation.

--Approved a shoreland variance application from Robert and Linda Iverson. This will allow them to install a new roof at 1104 Pine View Road, on the east side of Lake Henry. Without the new pitched rood, the structure could collapse.

--Approved a conditional use permit and subdivision application for Discovery Townhomes, located on the south side of Will-O-Bee lane, west of the intersection of McKay Avenue and County Road 46 (near Discovery Middle School's baseball fields). A final drainage plan is required. This will clear the way for the construction of six owner-occupied townhomes in an area zoned as single-family residential. The target market for the units is for those aged 55 and older, according to developers, Randy Fischer and Sean Gay. The average price for each two-bedroom unit will be around $150,000. The total cost of the project is estimated at $900,000.

--Agreed to send a letter to the U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and the Speaker of the House, urging Congress to preserve the tax-exempt financing for local government entities, such as city councils. Tax-exempt bonds have lower interest rates, allowing local governments to finance critical infrastructure and maintain essential safety and services to their citizens, the letter states.

--Approved a second and final action of an ordinance that establishes a personnel committee. In related action, the council appointed Thalman to serve on the committee, which also includes the mayor, the personnel director and city administrator or his/her designee.

--Agreed to hire Springsted Inc. to complete the phase one work of the search for a new city administrator to replace Jim Taddei, who is retiring this September. The cost is $3,400 and includes defining the position, roles and responsibilities; identifying future priorities, opportunities and challenges; updating the job description; and presenting and discussing the options for selecting a city administrator. Batesole was the only one who voted against it. He said the charter specifically states that the city should have a city clerk and a treasurer, not an administrator. At a work session before the meeting, the council reviewed changes in the charter, effective since 1992, that spell out the duties of the city administrator.

--Approved an airport maintenance agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for 2014-2015. It's a standard agreement that allows the city to be reimbursed up to $58,505 for services and improvements at the airport.

--Was informed by council member Todd Jensen that he met with Viking Speedway officials after the races lasted beyond the curfew time on the Fourth of July weekend. He said speedway officials assured the city that it wouldn't happen again.

--Approved the following licenses: peddlers -- Madli Remmelkoor, doing business as Southwestern Advantage, to sell educational books on the condition that the city receives the appropriate surety bond; heating contractor -- Fireside Hearth and Home of Waite Park; excavating -- Little Rocks Transfer, LLC, of Olivia; on-sale beer -- MLD Investments, doing business as Godfather's Pizza; charitable gambling -- Chain of Lakes Ducks Unlimited to sell raffle tickets at Broadway Ballroom on Septmber 13, Viking Sportsmen to sell raffle tickets on January 16, 2014 at the VFW, and Alexandria Area Arts Association to sell raffles for a August 12 drawing at the AAAA Theater.

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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