The Alexandria Fire Department will soon have a new firefighting weapon – a $1.24 million aerial fire truck that will replace a 1999 ladder truck that needs extensive repairs, according to Fire Chief Jeff Karrow.

The council agreed to purchase the truck through a cooperative purchasing program known as HGACBuy. HGAC is an acronym for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, based in Texas, that has been serving local governments for more than 40 years. Karrow said that buying the truck this way would save the city $59,152.

The council will study financing options for the truck in the coming weeks. One option is to issue bonds. The council will also consider whether to approve the fire department's request to purchase a rescue truck, estimated to cost $600,000 and include it in the bond sale. It wants to keep the debt service to less than $180,000 per year for 10 years.

The council also voted to include a contingency fund of $35,000 into the aerial truck purchase to cover any change orders. This brings the total cost of the aerial truck to just under $1.28 million.

The new truck, a Rosenbauer Commander/Cobra platform apparatus, was recommended by the fire department’s truck committee that studied five different aerial trucks.

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One advantage of the truck is its bucket. It's significantly larger to accommodate more personnel and a basket to carry victims during high-level rescues. Karrow noted that since 2016, the city has added 333 multi-level apartment units.

Some other advantages of the Rosenbauer, according to the committee:

  • It has four outriggers or jacks in the back that keep the truck level while other trucks only have three.

  • It has a thermal imaging camera in the bucket and the option of adding a remote control for monitors.

  • Rosenbauer will provide training for the Alexandria Fire Department on using the truck.

  • It will come with a 400-plus gallon water tank, 100 more than the current aerial truck, and a 30-gallon foam tank.

  • It comes with an extreme cold weather package.

  • It has tandem axles for stability, not a single axle.

  • The truck also has drop-down storage for 800-feet of hose. Without that storage, firefighters would have to crawl on top of the aerial.

  • Rosenbauer is a Minnesota company that will be able to provide a fast diagnosis of any repairs.

Karrow added that this was the most “due diligence” that the truck committee has performed before buying an apparatus.

The new truck is expected to be delivered this September or October.

A deer hunt in Alexandria?

Should a deer hunt be allowed in the city of Alexandria?

Residents are encouraged to share their views at a public input meeting in late March or early April. The council directed city staff to set a date for it.

Mayor Bobbie Osterberg and city council members have been studying the possibility since Dec. 14 and have gathered information from other cities that have had deer hunts and from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

City Administrator Marty Schultz noted that it's relatively common for cities to conduct deer hunts in Minnesota.

Council members have been receiving comments from residents that the deer population within the city appears to be on the rise, raising the risk of car crashes. A hunt would reduce the number of deer.

The meeting is the next step in the process.

Council tables applying for Twin Blvd. grant

The council tabled a request from City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven to support a grant application to the state that would realign the intersection of Twin Boulevard and 50th Avenue in south Alexandria – which consistently has one of the highest crash rates in the city.

Council member Bill Franzen made the motion to table after learning that even with the state grant of $292,000, the city would have to come up with $192,000 to help pay for the project, which is estimated to cost $796,000. State aid would cover $312,000.

The council approved the motion on a 4-1 vote. Roger Thalman voted against tabling it.

The grant would be issued through the state's Local Road Improvement Program. Last year, the city received about $800,000 through the program for the 44th Avenue extension project.

The deadline for applying for the grant is March 3, Schoonhoven said.

A recent Minnesota Department of Transportation on Highway 29 added an island on 50th Avenue that helped improve safety but crashes are still happening in the area because of how close the intersection of Twin Boulevard/50th Avenue is to Highway 29, according to Schoonhoven.

The proposed reconfiguration would move the intersection far enough east to provide a separate left-turning lane for east-to-north turning traffic. It would also provide more room for vehicles to get into correct lanes for the signal at Highway 29, he added.

The project would reconstruct and realign about 390 feet of the 44-foot wide street with sidewalks connecting this section of Twin Boulevard with the new sidewalks along Highway 29.

The reconstructed road will consist of two travel lanes with a center turn lane and bus parking on the east side.

The project would require buying about 12,700 square feet of commercial property from the Hardee’s Restaurant east of the existing right-of-way.

The crash rate at the intersection of Twin Boulevard and 50th Avenue is 0.71 per million users, which is more than double the crash rate of 0.3 per million for Greater Minnesota.

Council supports new rules for water quality

The council offered its “strong support” for new updates proposed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for water quality standards.

In a letter to an administrative judge who is considering the updates, the council noted that Alexandria, through its membership in the Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District, is one of more than 100 cities in the state that faces costly wastewater treatment costs based on the existing standards.

The letter, which was partly based on a sample letter provided by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, described the existing standards as outdated and not based on the best available science. “The standards are unnecessarily imposing costs and interfering with economic development in cities – especially in Greater Minnesota,” the letter states.

If the MPCA fails to update the standards, the Alexandria area would be required to spend millions of dollars to comply with the flawed permit limits, according to the letter.

“We simply cannot afford to spend limited infrastructure dollars or lose jobs to neighboring states because of flawed and outdated water quality standards,” the letter said.

The city supports changing the industrial and irrigation use standards from numeric standards to narrative standards.

The letter expressed concern about the MPCA’s proposal to adopt the state’s aquatic life narrative standards, saying it was outside the scope of the new rules and should be considered by a separate rulemaking process.

Cultural Inclusiveness Committee adds members

The city’s Cultural Inclusiveness Committee has been revitalized and now has six new members.

The committee was formed in 2004 but eventually disbanded, according to Schultz. It started meeting again in 2010 but was only active for a couple of years.

Renewed interest in the committee prompted the council to advertise the openings on the committee last November but by early January, the city received only one application. Since then, five more people have applied.

On Monday night, the council appointed six people to the committee – Barbara Clausen, Joani Nielson, Karen Meuwissen, Keith Turner, Kelli Minnerath and Preeti Yonjon.

The council also appointed council member Thalman to serve as the council's liaison to the committee.

According to city ordinance, the committee serves as an advisory body to the council in “matters intended to develop and implement inclusive policies, programs and practices to foster a community which is welcoming, vibrant and inclusive of diversity.”

The committee also advises the council on services and programs that may be of special concern to the city's growing and diverse populations.