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Overlays save city millions, says engineer

There's good and bad news about the shape of Alexandria's streets.

The good: Nearly 43 miles of streets — or 57 percent of the 75 miles of streets maintained by the city — are considered in new or nearly new condition.

The bad: nearly 4 miles of streets are gravel and another 13.7 miles of streets are in poor to bad condition and require expensive reconstruction or reclaim work.

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven presented the information at the Alexandria City Council meeting Monday as part of the city's ongoing five-year overlay plan.

Schoonhoven stressed the importance of overlaying roads that are in good or fair condition so that they stay in good shape instead of letting them deteriorate to the point where they have to be completely reconstructed.

Streets are rated between 1 (new) and 6 (gravel). Roads rated 4 and 5 are in such poor shape that it no longer pays to patch them.

He estimated the cost of overlaying the 14.53 miles of city roads that are rated 2s or a 3s at $200,857 per mile for a total cost of about $3 million. But if the city didn't have an overlay program, those roads, within five to 10 years, would become 4s or 5s and the costs would skyrocket to $1.71 million per mile, which amounts to a whopping $25 million.

Schoonhoven said the city council has done a good job prioritizing road improvements and continually doing overlays.

Schoonhoven noted that all the street data is entered into a global imaging satellite database, along with other information, such as street name, length, width and year last surfaced.

The database also calculates the cost per segment of street, which is available for city staff to use in planning future street projects.

Project updates

In his written items to the council, City Planner Mike Weber provided the council with updates on three ongoing projects:

• The first month of placing new signs along Broadway sidewalks that help pedestrians find businesses and other downtown points of interest is nearly complete. The signs will be relocated again this week and those on the east side of Broadway will be aligned so they are parallel to the street. The project will continue through October.

• The colonel whom the city has been working with about the possibility of building a Army National Guard Readiness Center has retired. His successor has indicated that the Guard is still interested on putting the facility in Alexandria and he is studying the previously identified sites.

• A plan to place public restrooms downtown has it a wall. Weber has been talking with a downtown building owner and a prime retail tenant about the possibility of putting public restrooms in their buildings but there's been little progress made on resolving potential liability issues. After hearing that, the council later approved council member Todd Jensen's motion to "pull the plug" on the restroom project and have Weber pursue other options.

New payroll system

For the second time, the council tabled city staff's recommendation to approve a master agreement with BSA Software of Bath, Michigan to provide professional services for a new financial software system known as Enterprise Resource Planning.

The software would be used for the city's payroll, budgeting, general ledger items, workflow and more.

The cost of the system is $150,945. The money would come out of the city's information technology budget and its capital improvement fund.

The council tabled the agreement until the city has a credit card machine available at City Hall that could be used by the public to pay for city services such as building permits.

Jensen said he was "tired of excuses" by staff for not yet having the credit card option available even though the city has been looking at the new financial system for more than a year. He said an estimate of when the credit card machine would be ready — 90 days — was not reasonable.

The council had planned to go live with the new system next June.

The council previously tabled the issue at its Aug. 28 meeting after council member Bobbie Osterberg said she wasn't comfortable with the agreement. She said it didn't include penalties against BSA if it didn't meet timetables. She said that with the amount of dollars at stake — more than 1 percent of the city's total budget — the software transition must be done correctly, on time and under budget.

HRA tax levy

The council approved the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority's request to set its 2018 tax levy at $235,022, which is less than the maximum amount, $240,022, allowed by the state. The authority's 2017 levy was $234,941.

Wages and benefits to HRA personnel account for about 70 percent of the budget.

The authority has two main arms of services in Alexandria — the Viking Towers and Woodhill Townhomes, which are public housing units that are supported by federal funding and are targeted for those with very low to low incomes.

The tax levy also supports community development programs, including new home construction, repairing owner and rental-occupied housing, city rental inspections, low-income housing tax credits and other programs that maintains or increases the amount of clean, safe, and decent workforce housing in Alexandria.

Memorial 5K Run/Walk

The council issued a special permit for the Matt Kjelland Memorial 5K Run/Walk that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Park. About 200 people are expected to attend the event that will help fund a scholarship in Kjelland's name and be donated to increase Lyme's Disease awareness and suicide awareness and prevention.

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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