The city of Alexandria now owns the monuments, benches, landscaping and other materials that were installed at the new Veterans Memorial Park.

Ownership was transferred from the nonprofit organization that built the park, the Veterans Memorial Committee, to the city. This includes materials with an estimated value of nearly $1.5 million. The city received a signed bill of sale and will formally memorialize the transfer on July 26.

City staff will be responsible for maintaining the park, restrooms and gazebo area. The cost will be absorbed into the city’s operating budget.

“It has been truly amazing to watch the Veterans Memorial Park Committee, local businesses and the community as a whole band together to raise the funds for construction of the memorial,” City Administrator Marty Schultz said in his notes to the council.

Committee member Russ Oorlog told the council his “heart was good” about how the project came together and he commended the council and Parks and Facilities Director Bill Thoennes for their strong support. “We never got a no,” he said.

The committee initially set a goal of raising $700,000 for the park and ended up with $1.7 million.

The city will work with the Douglas County Veterans Service Office and other veterans organizations regarding any future changes to the memorial. The council’s main role will be to approve engraving on the monuments once or twice a year that will be guided and paid for by a nonprofit veterans organization.

City gets clean audit

An annual audit of the city of Alexandria’s financial statements came back clean, meaning there were no major problems.

There was one instance of noncompliance: Five invoices out of a sample of 25 disbursements weren’t paid within the state required 35-day time period, according to the accounting firm, Abdo, Eick and Meyers, LLP. At the firm’s recommendation, the city has since changed its process to make sure the payments are made on time.

Highlights from the 2019 audit reviewed at Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting:

  • The city’s 2020 budget of $9.92 million is up 4.7 percent from 2019’s $9.47 million.

  • The city closed out 2019 with a fund balance of $4.67 million. Unassigned fund balances grew from 45.4 percent of the total budget to 45.7 percent, which is in line with the city’s policy of having a fund balance of 35 to 50 percent of its budget.

  • The city’s biggest source of revenue was from taxes, just over $4.5 million, followed by intergovernmental aid, including Local Government Aid, of about $1.7 million; payment in lieu of taxes from ALP Utilities, just under $1 million; and charges for services, just under $1 million. Other revenue accounted for about $1.4 million.

  • The biggest expense in the city’s budget was for public safety, which includes the police department, about $4.1 million, followed by general government at $2.3 millon, culture and recreation at $1.4 million, public works at $1.3 million, and “other” at about $400,000.

  • The city’s per capita property tax levy has remained fairly stable over the last four years – $464 in 2016, $473 in 2017 (a 1.9 percent increase), $492 in 2018 (a 4 percent increase) and $501 in 2019 (a 1.8 percent increase).

Tennis players not being served?

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, two avid tennis players, Amy Sunderland and Deanne Novotny, expressed concerns about the city’s decision to replace the tennis courts at City Park with pickleball courts.

Sunderland said City Hall has been a favorite spot for playing tennis for many years and eliminating the tennis courts would mean the only remaining public courts would be owned by the school district.

Sunderland added that the courts at the schools are in need of repair and are often used by classes, teams or competitions. She suggested the city should allow tennis players and pickleball players to share the courts at City Park.

Novotny also said the courts should be shared. She said the tennis courts at City Park were nice and cozy, and unlike the school courts, offered shade.

Mayor Sara Carlson noted that the city had already awarded bids for the pickleball project.

Council member Roger Thalman said the city “slipped up” by not addressing the fact that the City Park tennis courts were the last remaining city-owned tennis courts. “We could have done a better job,” he said.

Street bonds to be issued

The city will use up to $2.3 million in street reconstruction bonds to pay for its 2020 street and utility projects.

The council agreed to issue the bonds, which are expected to have a true interest cost of 1.45 percent. The council is scheduled to approve the sale of the bonds at its July 27 meeting.

The total annual debt service on the bonds is estimated to be between $183,043 and $187,611 for 15 years. This is less than the $202,000 to $208,000 estimated previously using a debt issuance of $2.5 million.

Street project bid awarded

A low bid of $629,734 from Central Specialties to make major improvements on Darling Avenue and Maple Street this year was accepted.

The bid came in under the city’s estimate of $636,378.

The project will be funded from four sources – $287,954 from street reconstruction bonds, $180,741 from stormwater utility funds, $126,041 from ALP Utilities for the water part of the work, and $88,396 from Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District.