Weather Forecast


Alexandria plans new park department building

Douglas County just completed a building project, a new public works facility, to make way for a new jail.

Now it's the city's turn.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council called for bids to construct a new park department building, estimated to cost $1,518,980. The council also agreed to issue up to $1.7 million in capital improvement bonds to pay for the project.

Plans call for a building 150-feet long and 100-feet wide. An alternate bid would add another 50 feet of length to the building. It would be built onto the north side of the city's street garage on Agnes Boulevard and would also house the city's street department.

The city's existing park department building along 3rd Avenue West is being demolished so the site can house a new law enforcement center and/or county jail.

The new debt the city will incur as a result of selling the bonds stays well within the state's limits, according to information presented by the city's bonding consultant, Springsted Inc.

The city may carry a debt load of up to 3 percent of its taxable market value, or debt as high as $29.8 million. Right now, the city has only $600,000 of outstanding debt that's subject to the limit.

An advantage of using bond proceeds is that the funds are provided without tapping into cash reserves. The disadvantage is that the interest must be paid during the life of the bond.

Since the entire park department will be moving to the new facility, operating costs are expected to remain the same and may actually decrease because of more efficient heating, electrical and lighting systems.

The construction bids will be opened on June 30. The bonds will be opened on July 13. If everything is approved and on schedule, the project will be completed by mid-January.

The city's bonding consultant predicted the city will receive a low interest rate on the bonds. The bond market has "settled nicely" to the more favorable rates the market was experiencing before rates spiked last fall, a representative told the council.

Taking advantage of federal economic stimulus incentives, the bidding will allow alternative "Build America" bonds, which may also prove favorable for the city, according to Springsted.

The council also gave preliminary approval to issuing up to $2,030,000 in general obligation improvement bonds to pay for a waterline extension project it's doing this year in a newly annexed area of the city near County Road 42.

That bond will be paid back over 15 years, half through assessments on the benefiting property owners and the other half through tax increases.

Dangerous dogs

Another noteworthy item on Monday's agenda involved dangerous dogs.

At the advice on the city attorney's office and the city's legislative committee, the council took a first step to amend the city's ordinance concerning the implantation of microchips in dangerous dogs.

The existing ordinance requires all dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs to be implanted with a microchip for identification purposes.

If the dog owner doesn't have the chip implanted, the ordinance empowers the city to have it done.

The amendment is being changed to make sure that the dog's owner, not the city, covers the cost of the procedure.

Another proposed change would require owners of dangerous dogs to pay an annual fee of up to $500 to register the animal. Mayor Dan Ness wondered if the fee of $500 is reasonable considering the city' licensing fee is only $15.

"If you want to have a dangerous dog in the city - yes," answered council member Cindy Bigger.

The registration fee amount can be changed before the council takes final action on the proposed ordinance change.

Under state law, "dangerous dog" means any dog that has without provocation, inflicted substantial bodily harm on a human being on public or private property; killed a domestic animal while off the owner's property; or has been found to be potentially dangerous yet continues to aggressively bite, attack, or endanger the safety of humans or domestic animals.

A "potentially dangerous dog" is defined as a dog that when unprovoked, inflicts bites on a human or domestic animal on public or private property; chases or approaches a person, including a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property; or has a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, causing injury or otherwise threatening the safety of humans or domestic animals.

The council plans to talk more about the dangerous dogs ordinance at a later meeting. It plans to get more information from the city's animal control officer about the problem and look into how the townships and county handle dangerous dog complaints.

In other action...

In other action, the council:

--Called for bids for a major improvement project on Dakota Street - a busy section of road off Highway 29 South that leads to Target, the industrial park and Highway 27 West.

In the planning stages for about five years, the project will widen the road to 44 feet, reconfigure traffic lanes, reposition traffic lights, and add curb, gutter and storm sewer.

The project is expected to cost about $2 million. Federal aid would cover 80 percent of the cost and the state would kick in most of the remaining expense. The only cost to the city involves water, drainage and sewer work, according to Tim Schoonhoven, city engineer.

The road has taken a "heavy beating" over the years because of all the activity in that area, according to city leaders.

The area is expected to get even busier if Target follows through on its plans to build a Super Target behind its existing site and two more restaurants are built on nearby back lots.

For the moment, however, Target has placed its expansion plans on "indefinite hold," Schoonhoven told the council.

An informational meeting to discuss details of the Dakota Street project with business owners and the public will be scheduled soon.

Bids will be opened July 7.

--Called for bids for street overlay projects for 2009. Because of budget constraints caused by local government aid cuts, the city is proposing only about half of the overlays it normally does and all the projects will be funded through the state, according to Schoonhoven.

The 10 projects are expected to cost about $255,000. They include South Broadway (34th to 22nd Avenue); Shoreview Drive; Cedar Street (15th to 13th Avenue); Elm Street (8th to 6th Avenue); Elm Street (5th to 4th Avenue); Hawthorne Street (9th to 5th Avenue); 4th Avenue (Hawthorne to Irving Street); 8th Avenue (Fillmore Street to Broadway); 11th Avenue (Cedar to Douglas Street); and 2nd Avenue (Kenwood Drive to Broadway).

Bids will be opened on July 7.

--Called for bids to extend sanitary sewer to the Alexandria Airport and to replace the parking lot by the arrivals/departures building.

The project, which will be covered 95 percent through federal funds, is expected to cost about $200,000.

Bids will be opened on July 14.

--Adopted a new code of ethics policy for city public officials, employees, advisors and those who serve on city boards and committees.

The policy defines the standards of expected conduct, how to determine conflicts of interest and how to resolve them, according to City Attorney John Lervick, who drafted the policy.

The policy, which wasn't prompted by any specific problems, will be included in the city's handbook and given to all committee members.

--Agreed to amend the city's ordinance concerning the licensing of mechanical contractors and installers.

The change, recommended by the city's legislative committee, would allow the council to suspend or revoke any such licenses upon notice and hearing for any reasonable cause.

A second hearing will be held before the change could take effect.

--Issued on-sale liquor licenses to two establishments that were recently annexed to the city - Bug-A-Boo Bay and the Alexandria Golf Club's Mulligan's.

The businesses have been operating under a liquor license issued by the county, which expires on June 30. They each paid $2,250 for a city license for the final six months of the year.

None of the businesses reported any alcohol-related licensing violations. Both met the city's requirement of having at least 55 percent of their business derived from the sale of food.

--Approved a resolution from Charter Communications consenting to the company's financial restructuring under federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws. The city has no role in the bankruptcy proceedings. It is only acting as a franchise authority.

--Agreed to split the cost of replacing a hangar door at the airport with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The cost is estimated at $32,000 and the city will cover half of it. The money will come out of the airport improvement fund.

--Was informed that the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Summer Conference will take place July 29-31 in Brainerd. Council members were invited to attend.

--Issued the following licenses: heating contractor - Lake Country Mechanical, Inc. (new) and Midstate Mechanical (new); tobacco - KT Convenience Store, doing business as Nokomis Market (new); fireworks - Tools and More to sell inside 1111 Highway 29 North (renew) and Menard's to sell inside (renew); charitable gambling - Alexandria Lions Club to conduct bingo at the fair August 20-23; peddlers - Culver's Restaurant to sell food at Squeeky Clean Car Wash, Clark's, Anderson Auto, Bistro to Go, and Knute Nelson Field (during Alexandria Beetles games) on certain dates throughout the summer; peddlers - Big E's Premium Sweet Corn at the old Fleet Farm parking lot (renew).