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City may rescind golf cart ordinance: Bethany still can't legally use its wagon

The thorny issue of golf carts came before the Alexandria City Council once again Monday night.

Grady Third, director of support services for the Bethany Community, requested the council to lift the moratorium on special use vehicles.

Right now, the nursing home can't use the golf-cart-pulled wagon that takes residents on neighborhood tours because of changes the council is considering in its 2005 special use ordinance. (A moratorium is in place until the changes are made.)

In his letter to the council, Third urged the council act quickly so the nursing home could take advantage of the mild fall weather to take residents out in the wagon. He described the wagon rides as a valuable service for Bethany's 272 residents.

Third presented the council with a petition containing 176 signatures from residents supporting Bethany's request.

On a 3-2 vote, the council sidestepped the issue for now by approving a first reading to rescind the special use ordinance. A second vote at a future council meeting is required to remove the ordinance.

If the ordinance is rescinded, the city wouldn't have a way to issue permits for special use vehicles, including the golf cart Bethany uses, according to City Administrator Jim Taddei.

The council members who voted against the motion - Cindy Bigger and Elroy Frank - wanted to bring the matter back to a work session to see if some sort of compromise could be worked out.

"This is an issue that we've spent a lot of time on through meetings, calls, letters...I wish there was a way to work it out," said Bigger, adding that the council could perhaps make a special allowance for Bethany's golf cart.

"We need to come to a consensus," agreed Frank. "Sitting out here in limbo is not an action."

The council members who favored rescinding the ordinance - Sara Carlson, Dave Benson and Owen Miller - said the council can't effectively pass an ordinance or enforce one until the state Legislature addresses the issue of special vehicles more clearly.

In other action, the council:

•Directed the city's law enforcement committee to review the city's options following the Douglas County Board's 3-2 decision to not proceed with building a new joint county-city law enforcement center (LEC).

City Administrator Jim Taddei summarized the county's reasons for not proceeding with the project - dollars are not available in 2010; the county believes its bonding position will be better in 2012; and the county wasn't willing to do a bond with interest only payment plan in 2010 and 2011.

Council members expressed frustration with the county's decision. Frank said the September 22 vote was a "sad day" for the county. He said the city had been working with the county for years on the premise that it supported building a new joint facility.

"We, the city, were blindsided by this in the worst way," Frank said.

Carlson said the city's law enforcement committee will move on to the next phase of the project by exploring cost and design options for the council to consider.

•Agreed to begin city council meetings with a short prayer. It will take place after the Pledge of Allegiance.

Miller made the motion. He said he visited with representatives of the local ministerial association who will provide guidelines for the prayers and make sure all faiths are represented.

The council jokingly considered setting time limits for the prayer. "It should be an opening prayer - not a sermon," quipped Mayor Dan Ness.

•Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria to develop a park near the museum and 2nd Avenue that will contain flowers, walking paths and other amenities.

The museum is footing the bill to pay for the improvements, noted Assistant City Attorney Tom Jacobson. The city's only commitment is to maintain the park.

The final plans will be subject to approval from the park board and the city, Jacobson added.

"It will be a beautiful area," said Carlson, a member of the park board. "It's a perfect location for it."

•Was informed that the new Alexandria Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, October 5 at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

•Approved the final assessments for the 10th Avenue East improvement project, the new road off County Road 46 that serves Woodland Elementary School.

The total cost was $311,960, well below the original estimate of $427,249.

The city's share, which included building an oversized sanitary sewer lift station, amounted to $59,832.

The rest of the cost, $252,128, will be covered by School District 206 and includes storm sewer, sanitary sewer, water, street, curb and gutter.

The district can decide to pay the entire assessment by November 15 or spread the assessment over a 10-year period at an interest rate of 7 percent.

•Approved the final assessments for the Fillmore Street parking lot reconstruction project.

The cost of the project was $542,443. Property owners in the downtown business district were assessed $243,970. The city and its utility, Alexandria Light and Power, picked up the balance of the cost, roughly 55 percent.

Property owners have the option of paying the assessment by November 13 or spreading the cost over a 10-year-period at an interest rate of 7 percent.

•Approved a subdivision application from Gary and Cindy Zacher to plat the 50th Avenue South Park Addition, along the east side of South Broadway (east of Menards).

The purpose of the plat is to create conveyable parcels, which may be used for commercial use and for park, trail and open space.

•Approved amendments to city code concerning accessory buildings, general business districts, light industrial districts and shoreland.

This will allow the city to include Lake Andrew as a protected water - a step the city wanted to take because of large-scale development that is happening near the lake. Other lakes on the list include Darling, Henry, Geneva, L'Homme Dieu, Victoria, Winona and Carlos.

Another amendment clarifies when open and outdoor storage is allowed.

•Approved a final plat for Sun Opta's Seventh Addition to the Airport Industrial Park, located between Iowa Street and Minnesota Street (south of the Industrial Park water tower).

The replat will join three parcels that are contained in two different plats.

•Denied a request from Elden's Food Fair to construct an addition that would extend into the Maple Street right-of-way by four feet.

The request would have required the city to vacate a portion of the right-of-way and convey the land to Elden's.

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven noted that the Maple Street right-of-way is needed for current and future use of the street. He added that the city has been consistent about preserving public right-of-way in the past.

•Took no action on a request to put a stop sign at 7th Avenue and Quincy Street.

The city's highway committee reviewed the accident history there and found no recorded accidents at the location.

•Approved changes in the rental rates the city receives from Terteling Trust to lease the Eagle aircraft building at the Alexandria Airport.

The new yearly rental rates, payable in June, are as follows: 2009-2010 - $12,190, 2010-2011 - $12,450, 2011-2012 - $12,710, 2012-2013 - $12,970, 2013-2014 - $13,250.

The adjustments reflect increases in the consumer price index, said Taddei.

•Approved a final reading of a new ordinance concerning wind energy conversion systems (WECS), also known as wind turbines.

The ordinance sets standards for the location, size, use, design construction, operation, maintenance, appearance and removal of all WECS within the city.

•Approved the following charitable gambling licenses - Alexandria Red Line Hockey Booster Club, which is selling raffle tickets for a December 8 event at the Runestone Community Center, and the Alexandria Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters, which is selling raffle tickets for a March 20, 2010 event at the Eagles Club.

•Approved an excavating license for Dynamic Landscaping and Hydroseeding.

•Proclaimed October 4-10, 2009 as Fire Prevention Week in Alexandria.