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Alexandria hears good news about state aid money

"A solid year but more work needs to be done."

That's how Elizabeth Wefel, a lobbyist with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, summed up the last session of the Minnesota Legislature from the perspective of smaller cities such as Alexandria.

In a presentation to the Alexandria City Council Monday, she said a highlight of the legislative session was increasing local government aid (LGA) funding by $80 million, which will be split 50-50 between metro and rural areas.

Alexandria will receive $1.46 million in LGA in 2014, 36 percent more than it would have received under the old law ($1.07 million) and 21 percent more than it received in 2013 ($1.2 million).

Statewide, the increase brings LGA funding in 2014 to $507 million, still short of the high-water mark of $565 million set in 2002. But Wefel said it's a welcome change from the cuts that have taken place over the last several years.

Other session highlights were a sales tax exemption for business purchases, an internship tax credit to help economic development in Greater Minnesota cities, and making sure rural areas received their fair share of Legacy Act funds for parks and trails.

Looking ahead to the next session, Wefel said the coalition's strategy will shift from defending LGA from cuts to rebuilding the program.

In other action not reported in Wednesday's newspaper, the council:

• Gave preliminary approval to form a personnel committee. It would consist of four members, including the mayor, one council member, the personnel director and the city administrator or his/her designee.

• Referred a request to reconstruct the alley between Broadway and Hawthorne Street, from 9th to 10th Avenue, to the highway and utilities committees that will make a recommendation whether to proceed with the project. A representative of Hawthorne Estates sent a letter to the city noting that the alley has a lot of traffic and is beyond repair with many potholes.

• Amended an ordinance that recently annexed property along Tolena Road in Carlos Township to the city. After reviewing it, the state required changes in the property tax reimbursement provisions. The city initially planned to reimburse the township for the tax loss over five years, starting at 90 percent of the local share and ending at 10 percent in the fifth year. The state ordered the reimbursements be done in equal installments of 50 percent over that time. The end result is the same, noted City Planner Mike Weber.

• Decided to proceed with an improvement project on Boys Avenue, which has been stuck in neutral since February, noted Weber. The work includes a 725-foot section of road on Government Point. Back in March, the project was estimated to cost $72,896 and after deducting the city's standard 20 percent share in the cost, the assessment to the nine benefiting property owners would average about $6,500. The property owners said that was too much. Bids for similar projects since dropped and the city adjusted the cost to $62,166, along with lowering the number of benefiting property owners to eight, making the city's share $12,433 and reducing the assessments to $49,733 or $6,216 per owner. The property owners said the most they would pay would be $41,733, which would leave $20,433 as the city's share, about one-third of the cost instead of its usual 20 percent. The council noted that this was a unique situation with a road serving as a long entryway into a cul-de-sac, where the small number of property owners all live. It authorized the engineer to begin the design phase of the project and directed staff to prepare a resolution to order the project with the understanding that the council will be receptive to paying an additional $9,000 more than its 20 percent. The money would come out of the city's revolving improvement program.

• Approved the following licenses: massage - Jennifer Melby, located at Naturally Sp'oiled Massage and Wellness; taxi - American Roadrunner Taxi Service; charitable gambling - Alexandria Lions Club to conduct bingo at the Douglas County Fair on August 15-18, and Operation Happy Note for a drawing at the Runestone Community Center on July 20.

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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