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Alexandria mayor issues statement about former police chief's arrest

"The city has changed its policies and procedures for all city purchasing and credit card usage," says Mayor Bobbie Osterberg.

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ALEXANDRIA — Mayor Bobbie Osterberg read a statement at the beginning of the council's April 11 meeting regarding the criminal charges that have been filed against former Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels.

"As has been widely reported in the media, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents arrested Alexandria Police Chief Richard Wyffels following a year-long investigation for alleged financial crimes," Osterberg said. "Wyffels was employed by the city from 1987 to 2020, holding the position of chief of police from November 2006 until his retirement in September 2020.

"Approximately four weeks after Wyffels' retirement, information emerged about several expenditures and purchases that could not be accounted for," Osterberg continued. "The city of Alexandria immediately contacted the BCA to request an independent investigation. All current city staff fully cooperated with the BCA investigation. At the BCA's request, financial records associated with these expenditures and purchases dated from 2015 through 2020 were provided to the BCA.

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Bobbie Osterberg

"Since the information emerged, the city has inventoried the police department's assets," Osterberg added. "Along with this inventory, the city has changed its policies and procedures for all city purchasing and credit card usage. The city holds its employees to a high standard of ethical and honest service to the people of this community and will take appropriate measures whenever those standards are not met.

"Because this is an ongoing criminal matter, the city has no additional information to provide at this time," Osterberg said. "Inquiries about this case should be directed to the city's public information officer, Sara Stadtherr."

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Another sidewalk extension is in the works

Good news for pedestrians: Another long section of sidewalk will likely be installed in south Alexandria this year.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council agreed to advertise for bids on a project that will extend the 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Highway 29 South from 34th Avenue to 44th Avenue.

The project is the second of three consecutive projects that will extend the sidewalk along Highway 29 from 15th Avenue all the way to 44th Avenue over three years.

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Crews work on a sidewalk extension along Highway 29 South in Alexandria last fall. Another project this year will extend the sidewalk.
Echo Press file photo

The project will provide a much-needed pedestrian link between Alomere Health, the Midway Mall shopping center and the Viking Plaza mall, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz.

This newest section will extend the sidewalk that was constructed last year and will connect the south end to the existing sidewalks along the Walmart frontage road and the sidewalks along 44th Avenue.

The total cost of the project is just under $500,000 but the expense won’t fall on local taxpayers. Most of the project, $410,000, will be paid through a Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Local Partnership Program grant. The rest of the cost, $89,000, will be paid through municipal state aid funds.

Bids will be opened on May 10. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year’s construction season.

The city’s long-term goal is to provide pedestrian access for the entire length of Highway 29 from Interstate 94 to Third Avenue.

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Property in city valued at $1.75 billion

The estimated market value of all land and property in the city limits topped $1.75 billion – yes, that’s with a “b” – in 2021, an increase of 5.7% from 2020’s total of $1.66 billion.

City Assessor Reed Heidelberger went over the numbers in his annual report to the council.

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Reed Heidelberger /
licia marie photography

The market value includes new construction that took place during 2020. In that time, 54 single family homes were built in the city and 326 remodeling permits were issued. Those projects added $16.4 million to the value.

Another $24.1 million was added through new commercial and industrial construction.

Other highlights from Heidelberger's report:

As in past years, residential and agricultural property accounted for the largest portion of value – $1.1 billion or 63.1% of the total. That’s followed by commercial property at $366.7 million; apartments at $193.3 million; industrial at just under $60 million; public utilities and attached machinery at $20.5 million; mobile home parks at $4.9 million; and personal property at $2.4 million.

The estimated market value of property in Douglas County totaled $6.81 billion in 2021, a 6% increase from 2020’s $6.42 billion.

The market value of tax exempt property in Alexandria – property owned by schools, the county, churches, the city, charitable organizations and others – totaled $1.6 billion. Compared with nine other similar-sized cities, Alexandria’s tax exemptions, as a percentage of the total market value, were second lowest. The lowest was Monticello.

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IT support specialist to be hired

The council authorized the hiring of an information technology support specialist.

This year’s budget includes funding for the new full-time position, beginning July 1. The salary is estimated to be between $58,555 and $76,853.

The funding for this year will come from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. Next year, ARPA funds are expected to cover 60% of the position, and the amount will drop to 30% in 2024. Beginning in 2023, the position will be funded completely through the general fund.

Munsch will be batting clean-up at Knute

Jacob Munsch,a high school baseball coach and summer program coach, will be spending a lot of time at Knute Nelson Ballpark.

For the second straight year, the council agreed to enter into a contract with Munsch to perform the field preparations for all the games played there for $10,800 – the same amount as last year.

The job includes dragging, chalking of lines, mowing the field two or three times a week, and picking up all the litter after the games. This includes day, night and weekend games and tournaments, according to Bill Thoennes, parks director.

About 100 games will be played at the park during the summer. The contract runs from May 1 to Sept. 30.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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