Weather Forecast


Alexandria cracks down on portable storage units

If you plan to use portable storage or shipping containers in Alexandria, listen up.

The rules have changed.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council approved a second and final reading of a new ordinance that regulates the use of the wheel-less containers.

The containers are defined as those that are designed to “store or ship personal property and which is typically rented to owners or occupants of residences and intended to be delivered, temporarily used, and removed by truck.” The ordinance doesn't address garbage or construction dumpsters. 

The goal of the new rules is to prevent someone from putting this kind of container on their property or right of way for long periods of time. The ordinance notes that the containers should not be used as accessory buildings, or as structures that impede vehicle access or traffic flow, or create public safety hazards.

The ordinance was recommended by the city’s planning commission after months of study.

Council member Virgil Batesole said he was contacted by Vikingland Builders Association members who had concerns about the ordinance. He made a motion to refer the matter back to the planning commission to allow the VBA to voice their objections. The motion died when no one seconded it. City Planner Mike Weber noted that the public hearing on the issue was already held but the VBA could stilll have a chance to express their opinion by proposing amendments to the planning commission.

Some key provisions in the ordinance:

--If you plan to use a container on private property, you must get a permit from the city. If it will be located on public property, you must get a right-of-way permit. Permits are for 14 days. A second permit for another 14 days can be used within a year. The Alexandria zoning administrator may grant extensions.

--Only one container is allowed per property in residential areas, and only one container in a right of way.

--Containers are limited to 20 feet in length, eight feet in width and eight feet in height.

--No advertising signs may be attached to the container.

--All containers must be maintained in a condition free from rust, peeling paint and other signs of deterioration.

In other action, the council:

--Certified the recent election of officers for the Alexandria Fire Department. Jeff Karrow was re-elected as fire chief and Mark Bergerson was elected secretary for the next two years. Because of term limits, this will be Karrow's last term as chief.

--Authorized city staff to apply for funding under the Minnesota housing Finance Agency’s Minnesota City Participation Program (MCPP), which helps first-time homebuyers. In 2013, the city, in coordination with local banks, helped homeowners buy existing homes by accessing more than $1.44 million in MCPP funds. The annual cost to the city to obtain access to the program is $40. In the past 17 years, the city has worked with the MHFA to provide $5.7 million in home loans, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

--Approved labor contracts with two police department unions representing patrol officers and sergeants. They will receive 2 percent pay increases in 2014. The amounts for 2015 will be negotiated at a later date, along with insurance rates.

--Issued a conditional use permit for the Butterfly Hill Nature Preschool at the United Methodist Church site at 2210 6th Avenue East. Programming will take place outside in the southeast corner of the lot. The nursery will be screened with hedges and garden boxes.

--Approved a replat of the Viking Plaza Addition. An undisclosed buyer is purchasing the old Plaza Tire and Auto property and plans to demolish the building, put in a new building and expand the parking lot. The replat will realign a portion of the public common access area, east of Highway 29, south of 30th Avenue and north of 34th Avenue.

--Approved an on-sale beer license for the Viking Speedway, along with its 2014 race schedule. The stock car racing season opener is set for May 3. A new addition is the Winter Spectacular Snowmobile Race set for January 30 (practice), January 31 and February 1. The only other change occurs the final weekend of April. This year, a rain date was scheduled for the Icebreaker event. Next year, there is only a one-day test-and-tune scheduled for the weekend, April 26. No changes were made to the conditions for selling beer.

--Approved two amendments to the educational facility notes that the city issued and sold in 2005 for St. Mary’s school project. The original principal amount was $4 million. The amendment will allow St. Mary’s to obtain a lower interest rate. The city will not be subject to any liability or costs.

--Approved a public access channel operator agreement for 2014. The agreement was renewed with Kevin Howie, who has operated and maintained the channel since mid-2010. The council has budgeted $20,000 for the public access channel in 2014; up to $12,000 may be used for programming services. The city is looking into purchasing new equipment, such as a camera that would improve the quality of the televised council meetings.

--Approved a resolution to obtain of $3 million in advance funds from the Municipal State Aid Street Construction Account. The money will be used for the following projects: 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Avenues, from Broadway to Fillmore Street; new signal lights at County Road 46 and Pioneer Road; County Road 70; 50th Avenue, from Highway 29 to South Broadway; Broadway, from 3rd to 8th Avenues; and a pedestrian crossing on 3rd Avenue East.

--Agreed to re-stripe Nokomis Street to create a center left turn lane between The Senator Apartments (south of 12th Avenue) and South Broadway. The estimated cost is $17,500, which would be funded through the city’s local overlay project fund. Nokomis, which accommodates between 8,000 and 10,000 vehicle a day, is one of the city's busiest streets, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven. He said that adding a turn lane was a cheap way to add capacity to the street.

--Tabled the highway committee's recommendation to install a "traffic calming circle" at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Douglas Street. This would create a round piece of curved street, 20 feet in diameter, which would slow down traffic. It would include shrubs and plants. The cost is estimated at $9,800 and will require maintenance by the park department. Council member Todd Jensen made the motion to table the issue, saying that a speed limit survey should be conducted first.

--Authorized staff to advertise for a municipal liquor store manager position. Long-time manager Carol Lanigan retired this past fall. The salary range for the position will be posted at $55,488 to $75,072. One of the priorities for the new manager will be to study the need to upgrade the equipment at the two city-owned liquor stores, such as using bar-code technology to track inventory.

--Approved a request from interim Public Works Director Bill Thoennes to purchase a 2014 Bobcat Toolcat for snow removal from Alexandria Power Equipment. It submitted the low quote of $40,786, which includes $11,000 for the trade-in of the city’s 1999 Kubota tractor with a front-end loader and mower deck. The new, more efficient unit includes a 68-inch angle broom, a 68-inch general purpose bucket and a 13.5-cubic-foot sand/salter spreader. It will be used to remove snow on sidewalks and other locations and will be used year-round by the park department.

--Agreed to transfer funds to reconcile the records of the city for 2013. City Administrator Marty Schultz requested the action, which is done an annual basis. The council also approved a resolution committing special revenue funds for their intended purpose.

--Hired the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to inspect rental units in the city for 2014. The HRA will receive up to $18,000 to inspect at least 25 percent of the rental units in the city. Inspections range from $10.98 per unit for re-inspections to $43.86 per unit for initial inspections of single-family units. The fees cover the inspector’s salary, benefits, supplies and training.

--Corrected the identification number of Lake Winona, which was incorrectly listed in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s protected waters inventory.

--Decided not to waive the monetary limits on the city’s tort liability coverage. Individuals will be able to recover no more than $500,000 through the city’s policy with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

--Agreed to once again participate in the Greater Minnesota Partnership, which is an economic development initiative of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. The dues are $1,000.

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.  
(320) 763-1236