In an effort to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the Alexandria City Council agreed to offer an early retirement incentive program for city employees.

The program allows workers to retire on or before Oct. 31 while maintaining medical coverage for up to five years or until they turn 65.

To be eligible, employees:

  • Must be eligible for a retirement annuity from a public retirement plan.

  • Must be a regular full-time city employee with at least 10 consecutive years of service prior to their expected retirement date.

  • Must be participating in a city-sponsored group health insurance plan on the date they choose to retire.

City employees have until Aug. 14 to decide whether to apply for early retirement. The city has six employees between the age of 60 and 65 who could qualify and another 12 workers between 55 and 60.

The council offered its first early retirement incentive program in 2013 to deal with deep cuts in local government aid.

Council member Todd Jensen voted against offering the program. Unlike the council’s decision in 2013, Jensen said the council was moving too quickly and not considering the program’s full impact on city departments.

Following are other items from the Tuesday, May 26 meeting not included in other council stories.

Beaches closed

Alexandria’s public beaches will be closed for a while.

City Administrator Marty Schultz noted that since the governor’s “Stay Safe” order allows group gatherings of no more than 10, it does not seem practical to open the beaches until the restrictions are eased or new standards are determined for public beaches.

Planning for COVID-19

A COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for the city was approved by the council.

Even though cities may not be required to create a plan, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities issued a template that cities can adopt for their own operations.

The plan follows guidelines from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, as well as OSHA standards related to COVID-19.

It addresses prompt identification and isolation of sick workers and workers exposed to sickness; reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; additional information and communication and training.

The plan does not apply to police and fire emergency responders.

Donations for pandemic, fire

Two donations will help the city recover from a Feb. 25 downtown fire and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council accepted a $1,500 donation from Mike Kjelland, on behalf of the Matthew Kjelland Memorial Foundation, that will be used to help the police and park departments with personal protection equipment costs, new signage and other COVID-19-related needs.

Also, Hidden Treasures Collectible and Comics, one of the businesses lost in the downtown fire, donated $100 to the fire department for supporting public safety in the community.

Darling Ave., Maple St. update

The council agreed to call for bids for the Darling Avenue and Maple Street improvement project.

The project, which is set to take place in late summer or early fall, is needed to provide a positive discharge for stormwater on nearby development projects – an apartment project and an unnamed commercial building, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.

A neighborhood meeting to discuss the drainage design took place May 14 and residents appeared to be satisfied that their questions were addressed, Schoonhoven said.

The bid opening is scheduled for June 17.

The total estimated cost of the project is about $600,000, which includes sanitary sewer, streets, sidewalks and storm sewer.

Property splits and parking lots

In zoning-related action, the council:

  • Approved conditional use permits and exceptions to platting for the Alexandria Technical and Community College. The college is dividing an unplatted 3.67 acre parcel on the south side of 17th Avenue, east of Hawthorne Street. This will allow it to convey the westerly portion of the Foundation Hall parking lot to Alomere Health. It’s also dividing an unplatted 28.21 acre parcel east of Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management to convey the southerly portion of the site to PDSWM. Also, Enterprise JHS LLC is dividing an unplatted 43.54 acre parcel east of the college campus – the former Jefferson High School parking lot – to convey 19.95 acres to the college.

  • Approved two parking lot projects at the college in connection with the land conveyances listed above. The projects include an expansion of the north parking lot that will realign 332 stalls and install planting islands and 25 trees, and improve the south parking lot with trees and 146 new stalls.

  • Allow the college to store sporting equipment outside such as fishing boats and snowmobiles on the northeast edge of the parking lot expansion on the northwest edge of the campus.

  • Tabled a request to partially vacate a platted alley between Broadway and Fillmore Street, north of Eighth Avenue. This would remove 143 feet of the alley for the Bremer Bank drive-through site. The council tabled it because an alternate survey will take place next month that may provide more details.

Park department seeks new mower

The park department was authorized to get quotes for a new zero-turn mower.

The existing 2011 mower has had 2,100 hours of use and is scheduled to be updated.

The cost is estimated at $20,000.

Faith Rose 5K

The council issued a special event permit to the organizers of the Faith Rose 5K on Saturday, Oct. 3.

The event, which offers awareness and support for those who have lost babies through miscarriages, stillbirths and infant death, will begin and end at City Park, using the Central Lakes Trail.

The permit was approved with the condition that public health guidelines at the time of the event will allow for gatherings of 50 or more people.

Revised agreement for 18th Ave. traffic signal

The council approved a revised engineering agreement for a project on 18th Avenue that will relocate a traffic signal and extend a sidewalk.

The original agreement was approved last fall but the city was recently informed that the Minnesota Department of Transportation wanted more information about the geometric layout, such as design speed, proposed alignments, lane widths and traffic volumes.

The new agreement will increase the engineering costs by $11,238 and now totals $102,856.

Licenses issued

The council issued three licenses – fireworks (indoors sales) to Walmart, a charitable gambling license for American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education of Minnesota to sell raffle tickets at a July 18 event, and a transient merchant license to Kristy Wussow of Alexandria to sell cannabidiol (CBD) products.

The council tabled a request for a transient merchant license submitted by Wurst Machers of Morris.