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Council awards bid for Woodland underpass

The Alexandria City Council awarded bids for two big road and sewer projects Monday night — a pedestrian underpass near Woodland Elementary School and underground work to connect service lines to a restroom in the new Veterans Memorial Park that's being built on Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

The low bid for the two combined projects was submitted by Ferguson Brothers of Alexandria and came in at $849,111, which was below the estimate of $883,591. With engineering, the total cost of the project will be $976,491.

The cost for the underpass work, $641,315, will be split between the county, city and school district.

The city's share of funding for the project will come from tax-increment financing involved with the larger of two apartment buildings going up between Rosewood Lane and McKay Avenue. Sidewalks from that development would connect to the underpass.

The underpass will allow children to safely cross County Road 46 to and from school, similar to the tunnel leading to Lake L'Homme Dieu beach.

The goal is to have the underpass completed by the start of the new school year this fall.

While the underpass is being built, a detour will be set up on County Road 46 to divert traffic to County Road 16 and North Rosewood Lane. City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven said the detour isn't a good one but will only be in place for two weeks.

The total cost of the Veterans Memorial Park restroom/utility connection, plus engineering, is $335,175.

The city's portion of the park project is $306,715, which will be covered through state aid construction funds, stormwater utility funds and the capital improvement fund.

In a related action, the council approved a cooperative agreement between the city and the Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District for the Eighth Avenue utility projects. ALASD agreed to contribute $28,461 to the project.

Special events

Activities in Alexandria are heating up. The council approved three special event permits:

• May is Mental Health Walk will take place Friday, May 17 from noon to 2 p.m. It will start and end at the Vikingland Community Support Program office. About 180 are expected to attend.

• Big Ole SUP-Athon, an event for stand-up paddleboarding, will take place on the chain of lakes and Long Prairie River on Friday and Saturday, July 12-13. About 100 participants are expected.

• Vikingland Band Festival is set for June 30 on Broadway from Third to 17th Avenue from 1:30 to 5 p.m. About 10,000 are expected to attend.

A permit for a fourth event, Party in the Street, was tabled. The council wanted to clarify some questions, such as who decides what businesses are allowed to serve food at the event, but no one from the Downtown Merchants Association, which sponsors the event, was at the meeting.

The event is scheduled to be held Friday, July 19 in downtown Alexandria from 4 to 11 p.m.

In the past, the merchants association provided a "family fun zone" of activities and demonstrations. Raapers is once again seeking a temporary off-premise community festival liquor license to provide a beer garden.

Other planned activities include a bean bag tournament, music, vintage cars and tractors.

Zamboni purchase

The council agreed to purchase a 2013 Zamboni machine for $61,500 from the Arena Warehouse of Alexandria. It will replace the 2002 model for resurfacing ice at the Runestone Community Center.

The new machine has about 1,700 hours of use while the old one has 7,500 hours, which translates into about 300,000 miles, according to RCC Manager Vinnie Hennen.

Although the old machine is still in decent shape, the state has reduced the maximum amount of emissions from 30 parts per million of carbon dioxide to 20 ppm, and reduced nitrogen dioxide emissions from 0.5 to 0.3.

The city will sell the 2002 unit and put the money back into the equipment fund.

The purchase has been in the city's capital improvement budget for several years.

Affordable apartments

At its last meeting, the council established a tax increment financing district for the Central Lakes Apartments II — a $6.9 million project with 33 units for low-income and homeless people.

The site is on vacant land west of Lake Geneva owned by the HRA at 98 Runestone Place, west of Birch Avenue and south of Lake Park Avenue.

Monday night, the council agreed to support the request of the developer, D.W. Jones, to also apply for housing tax credits through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

The project is a partnership between D.W. Jones and the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The resolution of support cites the need for affordable housing in the city. It points to a study that concluded a 1.8 vacancy rate for tax credit housing in Alexandria. The project is expected to help fill the demand for 60 to 70 affordable housing units from now until 2023.

Monthly rents are expected to be $630 for one bedroom, between $700 and $715 for two bedrooms and between $730 and $750 for three bedrooms.

Highway recommendations

The council approved two recommendations from its highway committee:

• Directional signs will be placed in the city's right-of-way in the school zone near Alexandria Area High School. Back in February, the council agreed to install stop signs at the intersection of 50th Ave. and Pioneer Road. The additional signs will be added as part of that work.

• A traffic calming island will be installed at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Lake Street for the third straight summer in an attempt to slow down drivers. The temporary island, which includes a circle filled with mulch and potted plants, forces drivers to slowly pass around it as they proceed through the intersection. The island idea is very popular with residents in the neighborhood, said Schoonhoven.

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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