The Alexandria City Council accepted a lower-than-expected bid of $261,528 from Riley Brothers Construction for the 2021 local streets improvement project on Monday, Feb. 22.

The streets included in the project are 14th Avenue (Hawthorne to Irving), Jefferson Street (SIxth Avenue to Eighth Avenue), Irving Street (Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue), Kenwood Street (Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue), Natures Trail (Birch Avenue to the west end of the street), Birch Avenue (Natures Trail to Geneva Road) City Park Road (Nokomis to the south end of the street), City Park parking lot, and Lakeview Avenue (Nokomis to Kenwood Street).

The low bid was below the city’s estimate of $308,146.

In the past, the council hasn't been able to do all the local street projects on its annual list if the bids come in too high.

This time, the council will have enough money to do a bonus project -- $11,000 worth of additional pavement for the access road in City Park. The pavement will be extended beyond the park restrooms to the bottom of the hill near the swimming area.

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In a related street action, the council accepted a bid of $202,420 from J&J Excavating in Alexandria for the South Le Homme Dieu Drive drainage improvement project.

The project consists of approximately 420 feet of 36-inch-diameter storm sewer to be constructed within a public drainage easement between South Le Homme Dieu Drive and Lake Le Homme Dieu.

The project will address an issue of stormwater flooding over South Le Homme Dieu Drive, even during minor storms. It will also help prevent flooded lots between a landlocked wetland and Red Oak Drive.

The project will be funded through stormwater utility funds.

Following are other items from Monday's meeting not included in other council stories.

Updates on 18th Ave., Broadway reconstruction

The council received updates on two big reconstruction projects -- the 18th Avenue project in 2022 and the Broadway reconstruction work.

City staff met with officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation last week, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.

One topic was the relocation of the traffic signal from 17th Avenue to 18th Avenue. A recently completed traffic analysis presented an alternate for delaying the timing of the signal relocation. The study showed conclusively that a traffic signal (or other means of traffic control) will ultimately be needed at the intersection of 18th Avenue and Broadway.

The city can't have traffic signals at both the 17th Avenue and the 18th Avenue because of spacing requirements, Schoonhoven said. However, the study also showed that the newly constructed 18th Avenue could potentially function with just east/west stop control until such time as 18th Avenue is extended east of Nokomis Street to County Road 46 (currently scheduled for 2025) or until the third freeway interchange is installed near Lake Burgen (currently scheduled for 2027-28).

The city also learned that MnDOT is planning on reconstructing Broadway/Highway 29 between Eighth Avenue and 18th Avenue in approximately 2028. Schoonhoven said this will be a major project that will involve a complete reconstruction of the street including the traffic signals.

The project will include a corridor study that will consider all aspects of the reconstruction, including examining the location of the existing traffic signals and the consideration of other traffic control alternatives. The study will likely be completed in 2022.

Because of the pending corridor study, the city and MnDOT felt it would be best to delay the relocation of the 17th Avenue signal until the study is complete. The effect of this decision is that the existing 17thAvenue signal would remain as-is for at least a few years. The timing of the relocation of this traffic signal will be specifically addressed in the corridor study.

Emergency declaration extended through March

For the 11th time since the pandemic began, the city extended its declaration of a local emergency because of COVID-19.

The city first ratified the mayor’s declaration on March 18 last year and extended it monthly for 11 months. This latest action extends it through March 31 – unless Gov. Tim Walz lets his executive order declaring the emergency expire before that date.

The declaration allows the city to approve emergency ordinances that take effect immediately and provides greater flexibility, such as holding meetings through Zoom video conferencing. It’s separate from Walz’s executive orders for restrictions on restaurants and other businesses.

Zoning items

The council acted on several items from the planning commission:

  • Approved a variance for Christopher Brockway to allow the construction of a single-family home less than 30 feet from the top of a bluff and less than 30 feet from the street right-of-way of Rosewood Lane. Council member Roger Thalman cast the lone "no" vote on the request. He said he didn't like going against the planning commission's recommendations but he was concerned about other variance requests in the bluffs. "I'm not a fan for variances," he said.

  • Denied a zoning district amendment for Steffel Pest Control to rezone property along Nokomis Street from single and two-family residential to general business. It’s located near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Todd Steffel wanted to expand and put his pest control business there. The commission determined the request wasn’t consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, and isn’t consistent with the character of the surrounding area.

  • Denied a variance application from Tory Fath to allow the construction of a single-family house and garage less than 30 feet from the street right away at 3807 North Nokomis. Fath planned to move the existing house out of the city and build a new single-family home/attached garage of 3,900-square-feet that would more than double the size of the current home. The commission determined that Fath didn’t face a hardship that would allow him to build the home. The variance, the commission said, would alter the essential character of the local area because the proposed home/garage would be nearly 60% larger than than the average size of homes/garages in the area.