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New fire rig will battle grass fires, help in rescues

A new vehicle for the Alexandria Fire Department will help in grass fires, searches, even rescues.

At its meeting Monday night, the council authorized Fire Chief Jeff Karrow to get quotes for a new utility task vehicle, known as a side-by-side, that would seat four to six people.

It would be equipped with tracks, a 75 to 100-gallon tank and pump, and a backboard for rescues. The estimated cost of the vehicle is $25,000, which would come out of the fire equipment fund, which has a fund balance of $391,427.

It would replace a former fire marshal’s vehicle, a Chevrolet Crew Cab that’s seldomly used. The Chevrolet will be sold.

Karrow told the council that the fire department has had a record year in fighting grass fires, including nine calls in one day. On all but two of the calls, neighboring departments were called in to use their UTVs because a grass rig was stuck.

The new vehicle will also be used for calls on the Central Lakes Trail and would be useful during ground searches – such as the Jasmine Block cause – or for access during lake fires or rescues, Karrow said.

The UTV could also assist other agencies, serve as a personnel carrier and act as an event fire/rescue rig, Karrow said.

Community garden could sprout up

An effort is underway to establish a community garden in Alexandria.

The council authorized city staff to work with members of the Blandin Leadership group with the goal of having at least one community garden in place by 2019.

Several members of the Blandin group support the concept, including council member Todd Jensen, Alexandria Township Board member Joel Dahlheimer, Nathan Reinbold with Pope-Douglas Solid Waste Management and Jackie Peters from the Alexandria Area YMCA. They initiated discussions with the city to establish a community garden. One site under consideration is on the former Wally Karl farm, which is now part of the YMCA’s property.

The garden would be modeled after the successful garden in Long Prairie, said City Planner Mike Weber.

Ripple Fest

Organizers of the Ripple Festival received a special event permit. The June 30 event at City Park will provide a time and space for women to connect, renew and explore experiences of wellness in mind, body and spirit, according to organizers.

About 500 women are expected to attend.

Ten percent of the festival’s proceeds will go to a scholarship that supports education and community-based projects for women and girls.

More than 30 local vendors will provide a sampling of their products and practices and informational sessions will be offered by pastors, healers, coaches, trainers and guides. Nutritious food and beverages will be sold throughout the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

New scoreboard, paving at RCC

A new hockey scoreboard will soon be installed at the Runestone Community Center.

Vinnie Hennen, manager of the RCC, obtained three quotes and the council accepted the low quote of $37,200 from Arena Warehouse.

The cost will be picked up from advertising revenue and the RCC’s equipment fund, which has a balance of $22,000. Businesses have agreed to pay $17,500 to place ads on the sign for five years, Hennen said.

The old scoreboard will be sold. Hennen provided a bit of trivia about the old scoreboard, which has had to undergo frequent repairs. It has 2,320 lightbulbs, which cost $1.25 each.  

The purchase of a used zamboni that was scheduled to be done this year has been pushed back to 2019.

In another action related to the RCC, the council approved a change-order to do more paving removal and replacement work on the north side of the center.

New areas to be paved include the northeast side of the west rink, the northwest side of the main arena and the junction with County Road 82.

The pavement in those areas is in poor condition and it makes sense to replace it at the same time the city is doing other paving near the center, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz.

Council member Virgil Batesole was in favor of the additional paving but expressed concern about the council spending so much money on recreation. “It has to stop,” he said.

Bello Cucina plan on hold

A plan to transform the site of the closed Bello Cucina restaurant at 319 Broadway into a new 61,000-square-foot, multi-purpose facility has stalled.

The owners requested the Alexandria Planning Commission to table its application for a planned unit development.

The council agreed to extend the 60-day review period, which would expire on June 23, by another 60 days. This will give the applicants sufficient time to revise the plans, as needed, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

The plan calls to demolish the existing “Old Broadway” and replace it with a new four-story structure that would include a new Bello Cucina on the ground floor and three floors of market-rate apartments targeted for higher-income households.

The developers are seeking tax increment financing to help build it.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $9.1 million.

The Bella Cucina at 319 Broadway closed on Dec. 1, 2017.

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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