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Burned-down building won't stop Alexandria restaurant from selling food

Raapers granted food truck license to operate at former site in downtown.

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Demolition work continues at the site of a Feb. 25 fire in downtown Alexandria. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Raapers, a popular eatery and bar in downtown Alexandria that was destroyed in a Feb. 25 fire, will be back – with a mobile food truck at the site of the fire.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council approved a “temporary emergency ordinance” to allow Rappers to place the food truck there.

Existing ordinances allow restaurants to operate food trucks only as an accessory of their building. The city’s action lifts that requirement.

City Attorney Tom Jacobson said the new ordinance not only helps Raapers but provides a way for any restaurant in the future to temporarily serve from a food truck if their building is unable to open because of a storm or fire.

The amended provisions are effective immediately and expire on Nov. 1 but may be renewed if needed.

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The council also approved Raapers request for a food truck license.

The council also issued three transient merchant licenses – Briana Randt’s Wild Bloom flower truck; Craig Berg’s Cooler Treats that will sell pre-packaged ice cream treats; and Todd Nohl’s Wurst Machers that will sell smoked meats and meals for customers to take home and reheat. Randt and Berg are from Alexandria. Nohl is from Morris.

City Administrator Marty Schultz noted that for transient merchant licenses, the city is licensing the owner while food truck licenses are for the vehicle or trailer. Also, transient licenses don’t allow merchants to serve food that will be eaten on site, such as a sandwich.

Housing help for the homeless?

The council approved a resolution of support for Central Lakes II, a proposed 33-unit apartment complex for low-income and homeless people.

D.W. Jones Inc., acting on behalf of the city and the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority is seeking state housing tax credits to build the complex on Runestone Avenue and asked for the city’s support. The city has no financial obligation in the project.

The city already agreed to allow tax increment financing for the $6.9 million project last year.

The site is on vacant land west of Lake Geneva owned by the HRA, west of Birch Avenue and south of Lake Park Avenue. It will include a mix of one, two and three bedroom units.

Thirty-three of the project's 34 units will be reserved for households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income. This amounts to $38,700 or less for a family of three.

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Four units will be set aside for homeless people. The developers are working with West Central Communities Action on providing that kind of housing.

Rents will not increase for tenants even if their incomes rise over time. The goal, according to the developers, is for low-income families to improve their financial footing so they can eventually purchase a home.

The only unit that's not for low-income people will be for a caretaker.

Street project updates

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven updated the council on street projects:

  • 44th Avenue. About 95% of curb and gutter is in. Excavating work for the sidewalk base and trail has started and a major pond excavation will take place in the next few days. Air testing has been completed on the sanitary sewer.

  • Runestone Avenue, Housing Redevelopment Authority project. Concrete curb, gutter and flatwork is complete. Trail subgrade preparation is underway. Paving will happen once both the trail and street are ready. Asphalt removal and subgrade work for the Viking Apartments is complete.

  • Nevada Street, Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District project. The paving on Nevada Street is complete. Only minor items remain.

  • 2020 street and utility projects. A preconstruction conference was held May 21. Temporary water service is being installed. The contractor plans to start with the construction on the Cedar Street/17th Avenue portion this week. The Darling Avenue/Maple Street project is scheduled to be bid on June 17.

Liquidated damages for late street work

The council decided to waive $21,000 in liquidated damages against Ferguson Asphalt Paving for local street projects last summer that were completed 21 days later than the completion date stated in the bid.

Under the terms of the bid agreement, the city was allowed to collect $1,000 for each day the project was past the completion date.

After negotiating with the Fergusons, City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven said an agreement was reached to remove three days, or $3,000, of the liquidated damages – two to account for additional time spent on full depth street repair on Lake Street and one day for adding extra bituminous mix to areas that were milled through on 11th and 13th avenues.

Schoonhoven said the council had the authority to make changes in the contract if it felt there were other issues to take into account.

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Tim Ferguson told the council that the project was delayed by rainy weather that not only stopped work for the day it rained but for a day or two after that when it was too wet to work. He also said the project was delayed until after school was out.

Ferguson said there was also a personality conflict between his company and the project manager that caused frustration and “back-and-forth” delays.

After asking several questions and at one point considering dropping the damages down to $6,000, the council ultimately voted to waive all the damages.

Change in early retirement incentives

At its last meeting, the council approved an early retirement incentive program for city employees to deal with the expected economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

On Monday, the council made a change to the program, shortening the application deadline for department heads from Aug. 14 to June 30 because those positions may require a longer workforce planning and replacement process.

The application date for non-department heads remains Aug. 14.

The city has six employees between the age of 60 and 65 who could qualify and another 12 workers between 55 and 60.

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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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