For the last five years, Alexandria Police Officer Jason Rosha has been the special agent in charge of the West Central Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, which includes the counties of Douglas, Pope, Grant, Otter Tail, Becker and Wadena, as well as all the police agencies in the region.

Now it will be someone else’s turn to lead the effort and another agency will serve as the host agency, Police Chief Rick Wyffels told the Alexandria City Council at its meeting Monday night. The agency that heads the task force changes from time to time. Before the Alexandria Police Department led it, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office did.

The task force board will make a decision on the next special agent in charge sometime later this month.

“It’s important to reiterate that Jason Rosha has done an outstanding job during his tenure and will be recognized for his hard work,” Wyffels noted in a memo to the council. “It really is a responsible job and is like running a police agency of its own with the dynamics of multiple jurisdictions.”

Wyffels added that Rosha has done a remarkable job filled with hard, at times dangerous work and long hours. He told the council that there could not be a more ethical, hard-working officer than Rosha.

Mayor Sara Carlson said she couldn’t be prouder of Rosha’s accomplishments, calling his work exemplary. “The citizenry doesn’t know how fortunate they are to have an officer like you protecting them,” she told Rosha.

Rosha will continue his police career work as a patrol officer with the Alexandria Police Department, bringing with him a diverse portfolio of knowledge and experiences, Wyffels said. “This will allow him to work directly with some of our new officers to continue to fight drugs in our city,” he said.

After receiving a plaque for his task force work, Rosha thanked his wife, Lyndsey, and his family for their support, and his fellow officers, including Keith Melrose, who led the task force before him and served as a mentor.

Street project update

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven presented an update on city street projects that are winding down for the year:

  • The upper level of a road, known as a wear course, has been added to Eighth Avenue near Bremer Bank and the new Veterans Memorial Park. The street is now open.

  • The underpass project near Woodland Elementary School “looks terrific,” Schoonhoven said. There are now lighted bollards and the lights in the tunnel and street lights will be operational soon, he said.

  • All the underground work is in for the Deerwood Drive project.

  • The local street overlay projects have been completed, including the ones near Lincoln Elementary School.

  • The street projects by the Green Pastures development are almost complete.

  • Nevada Street looks like a “war zone,” Schoonhoven said. It still needs a lot of work, he added.

High schoolers talk about shopping local

The next generation will play a vital role in the Alexandria area’s economic vitality and whether it will rise above the impact of online businesses, which takes millions of dollars away from rural communities every year.

Choices residents make can make a difference. It can be as simple as filling up with gas at a local station before heading out of town or checking local stores first to see if they offer a better deal on an item than Amazon.

That was the message that was, fittingly, presented by Alexandria Area High School senior Abby Blank to the council Monday night.

She and two other AAHS marketing students, Graham Peterson and Matthew Carlsen, are part of the “Pride of the Lakes” campaign – a collaboration of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria Downtown Merchants Association, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, Explore Alexandria Tourism, the city of Alexandria, more than 50 pledging businesses and 180 pledging individuals.

Those involved came together in 2019 to talk about online competition and how to address it. A marketing campaign was created that places community pride at its foundation and builds upon that with education and awareness of the impact of keeping dollars local.

The idea was shared with students at AAHS and a partnership was formed. The students developed a campaign that includes radio, print, movie theater and social media marketing.

The students are also speaking to service organizations and clubs around town and are creating presentations to conduct in the schools in the fall.

To learn more about the campaign, go to www.PrideoftheLakes.com and take the free pledge to keep dollars locally.

The students made a video that said out of every $100 that residents spend here, $68 of it stays local.

Police grant agreement

Imagine a day where there are no car crash fatalities caused by speeding, drunk driving or not wearing seat belts.

That’s the ultimate goal of the “Toward Zero Deaths” program previously known as “Safe and Sober.”

At the request of the Alexandria Police Department, the council approved a resolution to support the program for 2019-2020 by seeking a grant of $16,300 through the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.

The money will pay for more education and enforcement of drunk driving, speeding and other unsafe driving behavior. The grant covers enforcement, equipment and administrative costs.

The police department is partnering with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in the effort.

The city will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant, as it has in the past.

Another stop sign near Starbucks

Drivers haven’t been stopping for the stop sign at the Walmart Frontage Road as they are traveling west near Starbucks.

The council is hoping another stop sign may do the trick. As recommended by the city’s highway committee, the second sign will be installed between the westbound through lane and the westbound left turn lane.

Drivers haven’t been stopping because it’s a wide intersection due to the northbound free right turn lane and the stop sign is located too far to the right, explained Schonhooven.

He added that 44th Avenue will be extended to the east to South Broadway next year. “We expect this connection to significantly change how traffic uses this intersection and will continue to monitor this intersection,” he said.

The committee also reviewed several other items that didn’t require council action:

  • A speed study on Voyager Drive, which has a posted speed limit of 40 mph, showed that most drivers are traveling at 41 mph, which indicates the speed limit is set correctly. The road will be restriped next year, narrowing the traffic lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet to help reduce the speed.

  • Several configurations were considered regarding the proposed design of Scenic Heights Road between East Golf Course Road and Deerwood Drive. The recommended design is a 24-foot rural section with an 8-foot bituminous path of the south side – similar to the design of the recently completed Agnes Boulevard project.

  • The committee continues to explore options for improving the safety of the Third Avenue and Kenwood Street pedestrian refuge island. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will provide a pedestrian counting camera at the location starting on Sept. 16 to get more information.