During the public comment period at the start of Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting, a Brooklyn Center woman accused Ward 5 council member Todd Jensen of violating the council’s code of conduct.
Allisen Merrill, speaking on a Zoom video conferencing call, said Jensen posted comments on his Facebook pages that promotes himself as a council member and candidate for mayor that used a tone that was “unbefitting” for someone who is representing the community.
Merrill said Jensen “deletes comments of people who do not agree with his political views” and on another Facebook page, Alexandria Chit Chat, told a resident to “crawl back under their rock.”
Merrill said Jensen has had past interactions with Alexandria residents where she said he exhibited angry and disrespectful behavior such as yelling, belittling and using profanity that made members of the community feel as though they were unsafe and needed to file a police report. She said that in one instance, the city’s police chief filed a report against Jensen that stated his behavior was unpredictable. Such a report was filed in 2010.
Merrill ended her comments by urging the council to uphold its code of conduct and censure Jensen for his behavior.
Mayor Sara Carlson told Merrill that the council would take her comments under advisement. Council member Roger Thalman said he wasn’t sure if that was appropriate.
Later in the meeting, City Attorney Tom Jacobson reviewed the code of conduct with the council. He said that if a council member or the mayor wants to pursue the matter, the council would first try to resolve the issue privately and proceed from there.
After the meeting, the newspaper asked Jensen if he would like to comment on the allegations and he declined.
Minnesota court records show that Jensen has not been convicted of any crimes in Douglas County.
New hangars approved for airport
A new 10-unit T-hangar will be built soon at the Alexandria Airport.
The council accepted a bid of $1,053,432 from Srock Construction of Alexandria to build the hangar on the south complex of the airport, where two other T-hangars were recently built.
The project also includes a bathroom/shower facility.
The city will receive a zero-interest loan from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to cover 80% of the cost. The city will pay monthly increments using the revenue from the 10 new T-hangars and several of the existing T-hangars.
The remaining 20% of the cost will come from the Airport Development Fund.
The project will fill a shortage of personal hangars at the airport that has been the case for several years, according to Airport Manager Kreg Anderson. He added the project has been in the airport’s capital improvement plan for some time but “the ideal conditions, timeline and funding never arose” to do it.
Council supports bonding bill, cites RCC project
The council approved a resolution urging the state Legislature to enact a bonding bill in a September special session.
The bill includes $5.6 million for a long-awaited expansion of the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria. It would add a third floor on the southwest side of the facility that could be used for ice and dry-floor events.
The total cost of the project is about $9 million. Private funds, raised by groups that use the facility, would cover about half of the remaining amount and the city would provide between $2 million and $2.5 million, most likely through tax abatement bonds.
The council’s resolution, which will be sent to local legislators and leaders in the House and Senate, said the RCC expansion would increase the economic vitality of the Alexandria lakes area region. It encourages the Legislature to work in a bipartisan way to pass the bonding bill.
There has been talks of the governor calling another special session this month to pass a bonding bill, said City Administrator Marty Schultz.
“You never know what’s going to happen with a bonding bill, but certainly, we’re closer than we have been in the past,” he said.
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities asked cities to consider adopting a resolution supporting the bonding bill and more than two dozen cities have done so, according to Schultz.
Other local and regional projects in the bonding bill include:
$5 million for an expansion of the Pope-Douglas Solid Waste Management property. This would include a new organics composting facility in Douglas County, a new environmental learning center in Alexandria, and replacing outdated public facilities and infrastructure.
$4 millon for Todd County to expand its solid waste facility transfer system and renovate its household hazardous waste facility.
Statewide, the bonding bill proposes $135 billion in plans to update wastewater infrastructure, rebuild roads and bridges and fund improvements to university classrooms and labs.
Street project updates
CIty Engineer Tim Schoonhoven updated the council on street projects:
44th Avenue is open to traffic. Only minor punch list items remain.
Runestone Avenue (Housing and Redevelopment Authority project. The paving of the trail is complete all the way from Runestone Avenue to the Central Lakes Trail. As planned, the remaining paving will wait to allow further construction on the apartment building. The project completion date is late September.
2020 street and utility projects. 17th Avenue and Cedar work is complete except for the placement of the final lift of bituminous. On Irving Street, the contractor is completing the last two remaining sewer services and then will work on subgrade preparation and curb and gutter. On 8th Avenue, about half of the underground utilities have been installed. The remaining underground utilities are scheduled for the week of Sept. 14 after which, work will start on subgrade preparation. An underground fuel tank was discovered on 8th Avenue west of Nokomis. The city is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on the process for dealing with the tank removal. On Woodland Park Drive, a gas line is being relocated. Work is scheduled to start soon. The completion date is early October.
Scenic Heights/Deerwood Drive. The first lift of bituminous has been placed on Scenic Heights between Deerwood Drive and McKay Avenue. The contractor is working on placing the first lift of pavement on Deerwood Drive and the remaining portion of Scenic Heights. The completion date is late September.
Darling Avenue/Maple Street. All underground utilities are in. Most of the subgrade preparation is complete. The contractor is working on placing curb and gutter. The completion date is mid October.
Third Avenue and Kenwood Street demonstration project. Implementing Phase 3 of the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon demonstration project started Sept. 9. This involves the extension of the pedestrian island east to block all traffic turning movements except westbound to southbound turning traffic. This phase will run approximately two weeks.
Stop signs on 44th; a policy change for sidewalks?
The council agreed to install two stop signs on the newly constructed portion of 44th Avenue.
The stop signs will replace temporary signs that are placed at the north end of Sanibel Drive at 44th Avenue, and at the east end of 44th Avenue at South Broadway.
The action was recommended by the city’s highway committee.
One other recommendation from the committee was approved. The council agreed to look at the possibility of amending city code and policy documents to require public sidewalks and/or bicycle facilities on both sides of newly platted public streets, replatted streets and new or redevelopment projects along existing streets.
However, the council may determine that conditions do not allow such sidewalks.
The council referred the policy change to its planning commission and legislative committees.