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Audit shows Alexandria's liquor stores had a vintage year

It was a vintage year for Alexandria's two city-owned liquor stores.

Combined, Downtown Liquor and Plaza Liquor turned a net profit of just under $500,000, according to LarsonAllen's 2009 liquor store audit approved by the Alexandria City Council Monday night.

That's about $100,000 more than the stores made in 2008.

Out of the profits, $400,000 was transferred into the city's general fund - $25,000 more than the city had budgeted to receive.

The transfer, which matches the 2008 amount, ultimately helps reduce taxes, according to City Administrator Jim Taddei.

Mayor Dan Ness noted that without the transfer, the city would have had to increase its levy 9 percent.

As in past years, Plaza Liquor recorded the most sales - $3.15 million compared to Downtown Liquor's total of $2.29 million.

Beer accounted for 50.2 percent of the sales, followed by liquor at 31.7 percent and wine at 14.3 percent.

The cost of those products, along with miscellaneous items, amounted to $4.23 million, up about 7 percent from the previous year's $3.95 million.

Operating expenses at the stores jumped 12.7 percent to $710,873. Payroll was the biggest expense, accounting for $455,902 in salary and wages, payroll taxes, employee retirement and health and life insurance. That's up about 15 percent from 2008.

Plaza Liquor ended the year with a net operating income or profit of $294,991, up about 17 percent from last year's $252,908.

Downtown Liquor, meanwhile, had an even bigger surge, taking in a profit of $201,577 - 40 percent more than the previous year's $143,079.

After approving the audit, the council thanked Carol Lanigan, liquor store manager, for keeping both stores running efficiently.

In other action, the council:

--Scheduled a public hearing to issue up to $5,105,000 in capital improvement bonds to pay for a new police station.

The hearing will take place on Monday, April 26 at 7:15 p.m. at City Hall.

The only other option the city has to pay for the project is to use reserves, which would negatively affect cash flow. Taddei said.

In a related discussion concerning the police station, the city has received more firm numbers from ORB Management about how much it will cost to prepare the site for the new facility along 3rd Avenue West.

The work was initially estimated to cost about $500,000 and included the demolition of the old park department building, soil corrections, removing utilities, filling in the soil and constructing a retaining wall.

The city received good news that will cut the cost by about $100,000: Public Works Coordinator Bryan Bjorgaard and his department will provide the fill for the site, taking it from the southwest stormwater project.

Council member Sara Carlson commended Bjorgaard for coming up with the idea and for agreeing to take on the extra hauling work.

"Our city departments work so well together," Carlson said. "We can be very proud."

Bids for the site preparation work, which Taddei described as the "first step" to constructing the police station, will be opened on May 4.

The city at one time was planning to build a joint law enforcement building with the county that would house both the police department and the sheriff's office near the new county jail.

A majority of the county commissioners, however, decided not to move forward with the project because of cost concerns.

The city council decided to pursue a police station on its own, citing three main reasons - its existing facility is inadequate, the bidding climate is excellent based on recent construction estimates that were 10 to 15 percent below estimate, and the bonding rates are at historically low levels.

--Gave preliminary approval to a proposed new stormwater management ordinance.

The ordinance is designed to reduce flood damage, control run-off and erosion, protect lakes from development, improve water quality and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.

Right now, the city only has a limited section within its ordinances that address drainage. The new stormwater ordinance - which has been in the works for a year and a half - is 15 pages long and creates a whole new chapter in the city code.

Those who violate the new code would face misdemeanor penalties.

The council tabled taking action on the ordinance at its February 22 meeting to gather more information. During a public hearing at that time, two residents said the timing was wrong to impose additional rules and expense on potential developers in light of the struggling economy.

The council had a work session on March 29 with stormwater committee members and staff to go over the ordinance. The ordinance approved Monday is unchanged from the version that was considered February 22.

--Was informed that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has bumped up the timetable to reconstruct Geneva Road between McKay and Birch Avenue.

The project, which will be paid through a combination of state and federal funds, was set for 2011 but will now take place this year.

The project includes building a wider road to accommodate bike lanes.

Tim Schoonhoven, city engineer, said the rescheduling may help the city because the bidding climate is favorable right now.

The city's highway committee supported MnDOT's request.

In a related action, the council approved a resolution to reduce the speed limit on that stretch of Geneva Road from 45 miles per hour to 40 mph. The city's highway committee recommended the slower speed to accommodate bicyclists.

--Called for bids on a street improvement project for Elm Street, between 11th and 12th Avenue.

The project includes paving the street, installing water mains and putting in sidewalks.

The bids will be considered at the council's May 24 meeting.

--Called for bids for overlay projects on local and municipal-aid streets in 2010.

The state-aid projects include 3rd Avenue between County Road 22 (the stoplights at the fairgrounds) and Fillmore Street; 30th Avenue between Aga Drive and Highway 27/29; and 34th Avenue between Highway 27/29 to South Broadway.

Local street overlays are planned on 6th Avenue from Cedar to Douglas Street; 5th Avenue from Irving to Kenwood Street; 11th Avenue from Hawthorne to Nokomis Street; Hawthorne Street from 5th to 12th Avenue; Jefferson Street from 5th to 6th Avenue; and Kenwood Street from 8th to 11th Avenue.

The total estimate cost of the overlays is $577,045. The bid date is set for May 13.

--Agreed to set up a detour to restrict traffic on Jefferson Street between 15th and 18th Avenue during the Vikingland Band Festival on Sunday, June 27 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce requested the detour to help alleviate congestion and allow marching band buses to maneuver easier and more safely.

--Issued a parade permit to the Alexandria Beetles, which plans to celebrate its 10th anniversary on June 6.

The parade will take place between 1 and 2:15 p.m. on Broadway from 10th Avenue to 3rd Avenue.

--Accepted a bid of $610 from Gary Zacher to deconstruct and remove the old park department Morton building along 3rd Avenue West. The city will get the money.

--Was informed that the Downtown Merchants Association, the Kiwanis Club and the Golden Kiwanis are wiling to donate about $1,550 for amenities in the downtown area.

DMA President Mike Schreiner said some of the ideas are to add benches and decorative flowerpots into the bump-out area of the city parking lot on Fillmore Street or to add six more benches downtown.

He said the DMA explored the possibility of buying a clock tower for the parking lot but found it would cost at least $6,000.

Mayor Dan Ness said the DMA might want to consider adding bike racks downtown.

The council thanked the DMA and the Kiwanis for considering such a donation and said the city would work with them on any recommendation the group decides.

--Proclaimed the weekend of June 26-27, 2010 at Vikingland Band Festival Weekend.

The resolution noted that the event has been enriching the lives of band students, band personnel, parents/family members and spectators since 1985 and has earned the reputation of "the premier" marching band festival in Minnesota, if not in the Upper Midwest.

The festival is sponsored by the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson High School and businesses in Alexandria and Douglas County.

--Proclaimed April 30, 2010 as Arbor Day in Alexandria. The resolution urges all citizens to plant trees and to support efforts to protect trees and woodlands.

--Proclaimed April 24, 2010 as Autism Awareness Day.

The resolution noted that an Autism Awareness Fun Walk will take place at Discovery Middle School that day.

An estimated one in 110 children in the U.S., and one in 81 children in Minnesota, are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, according to the resolution. Forty-six children with autism have been identified in Alexandria School District 206.

The resolution calls on citizens, businesses, schools and community groups to increase their understanding of autism spectrum disorders.

--Was informed that the city's grant application to replace all the windows in the Alexandria Airport's arrival/departure building was approved by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security.

The $26,200 grant will cover about 74 percent of the total estimated cost of $35,532.

The funds come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly known as economic stimulus funds.

--Approved a new credit card policy for city employees that will be included in the city's personnel policy manual.

Credit card use is limited to the mayor, city council members, department heads and other employees authorized by the department heads.

All claims presented for payment must be in writing and supported by invoices or receipts.

The credit card charges must be paid off monthly to avoid any city debt. All purchases must be within the credit limit.

No personal use of a city credit card is permitted.

Violations of the policy could lead to disciplinary proceedings, including termination of employment.

The state auditor's office recommends that cities should have such a policy, noted City Administrator Jim Taddei.

--Was reminded that the board of equalization will meet on April 28 at 10 a.m. in the council chambers.

--Appointed Anita Kovar of Alexandria to the Economic Development Board. She will fill a term that expires on December 31, 2011.

--Was reminded that the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference is set for June 23-25 in St. Cloud.

--Was informed that the city's annual free Metal Pick Up Day is set for Tuesday, April 27. (See story in Wednesday's Echo Press.)

--Approved the following licenses: excavating - Mark Boesl; charitable gambling - Elks Lodge to sell pull tabs at Bug-A-Boo Bay, American Legion Post to sell raffles for a May 31 event at the VFW, Minnesota Elk Breeders Association to sell raffles for a February 8, 2011 event at the Holiday Inn, West Central Food and Beverage Association to sell raffles at a September 26 event at Broadway Ballroom, and the Parent Advisory Council to conduct bingo at Woodland Elementary School on April 20; temporary liquor - Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum to sell liquor on August 6; and Sunday liquor - Mulligan's at the Alexandria Golf Course.

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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