An energy savings project the Alexandria City Council launched in 2016 is still paying off.

The contractor, Apex Efficiency Solutions, guaranteed a savings of $229,676 in energy and repair/maintenance costs in the first year and the measured savings amounted to $230,867.

A report for the second year of the project presented Monday shows that the actual savings of $232,764, exceeded the guaranteed savings by $23,332.

The council decided to pursue the $5.6 million project in 2016 in an effort to make city buildings more energy efficient. It included $1.4 million in general improvements, such as replacing street lights and traffic lights with LED lighting, and sealing walls, doors, ceilings and windows, and about $4.2 million in refrigeration and capital upgrades mainly at the Runestone Community Center.

According to Apex, the $5.6 million cost will be recouped in about 14 years through energy savings.

The council had the option of paying $8,570 for another year of measuring and verifying the savings but, at the recommendation of city staff, decided not to pay the cost because the savings are stable and increasing.

Housing fund gets final approval

The council gave final approval to a new fund that will make it easier for residents and developers to build and repair homes and rental units in the city.

The Alexandria Housing Trust Fund will provide loans and grants to homeowners and for-profit and non-profit developers. The fund is not available for projects assisted by tax increment financing.

The priorities of the fund, in order of importance, include single-family new home construction; single-family repairs; rental repairs; and multi-family construction.

The Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority will review and approve applications for the fund and will provide an annual report to the council.

In a related action, the council approved the initial seed money for the fund - $100,000 will be transferred from the city's Revolving Loan Fund and $150,000 will be transferred from tax increment financing districts.

The Alexandria HRA also plans to add $35,000 from its levy to the fund in 2020.

It's also possible that the Legislature may approve a bill in 2020 that would provide matching funds for the program.

Zoning change

The council gave final approval of an ordinance that clarifies the requirement for frontage on a public street when properties are split.

The council gave the change preliminary approval at its Dec. 17, 2018 meeting.

The city's regulations for splitting unplatted property did not require frontage on a public street, only access to a public street. The amendment now requires the frontage.

Travel requests

The council approved an out-of-state travel request from public works to have two or three employees attend a Case Corporation maintenance and safety training in Tomahawk, Wisconsin next month.

They'll try out a new line of Case equipment and complete in-depth safety training.

The city was informed that Case corporation would be footing the entire cost of the trip, but City Attorney Tom Jacobson raised concerns that such an arrangement may violate the state's gift law. Although he hasn't researched the issue thoroughly yet, he said there could be problems with accepting donations for free training from a company that could be submitting equipment bids to the city one day.

The council approved a motion to cover the cost of the training through the city's training budget unless Jacobson determines that Case's offer doesn't violate state law.

The council also approved another request for travel, this one for Alexandria Police Officer Ryan Cook to attend training in Dallas, Texas next month through the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

Cook is the resource officer at Alexandria Area High School. Some of the sessions at the training include building statewide alliances to reduce alcohol availability, decoding the disconnect between enforcement and prevention, best practices for involving youth in alcohol use prevention, social media and youth mental health, and vaping.

The local Healthy Voices Healthy Choices Coalition Board has a grant to fund all travel and meal expenses for Cook's trip.

New food truck

A food truck business, The Back 40 Family Farm, received a food truck/vendor license from the council.

The farm, owned by Al and Helen Arends of Willmar, specializes in naturally raised crops and operates a mobile wood-fired brick oven that cooks pizzas. It will set up near the Copper Trail Brewery and other locations citywide.

The council also issued a gambling permit to the Alexandria Lions Club to conduct bingo at the Douglas County Fair Aug. 14-17.