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Advertising benches in Alexandria may be impounded

The owner of Sit Down Advertising has until Tuesday, Nov. 15 to sign an agreement with the city that calls for benches to be removed or relocated.

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ALEXANDRIA — The clock is ticking on a proposed new agreement for 46 advertising benches around town. Steve Crane, the owner of Sit Down Advertising, has until Tuesday, Nov. 15 to sign an agreement with the City of Alexandria.

If he doesn’t meet the deadline, the city will begin removing and impounding the benches that don't meet the agreement. A motion to extend the deadline to Nov. 28 was voted down. Andrew Wiener and Scott Allen wanted to give Crane more time. Bill Franzen, Roger Thalman and Dave Benson said Crane had enough time to comply but failed to do so.

Crane has been putting up the benches since 1998 but the city contends that he has not complied with the terms of an agreement regarding the benches. Some of the requirements include getting prior approval from the city for materials, construction, design and location of the benches; approval of the property owners adjacent to each bench location; removing benches from any location the city requests; owners of advertising benches must provide liability and property damage insurance naming the city as an additional insured; and the process of how the city can terminate the agreement.

At its Sept. 26 meeting, the Alexandria City Council voted to terminate the agreement with Crane and gave him until Nov. 15 to remove the benches. The council also directed staff to work with Crane to create a new agreement by Nov. 15.

Since then, city staff has reviewed each bench location, measured them with compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and identified which benches would have to be removed or relocated under a new agreement, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

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City staff presented the agreement to Crane in early October but hasn’t signed the agreement and no benches have been removed. No written permission from any of the owners of property adjacent with the benches has been submitted, Weber said.

Wiener said he talked to Crane, who lives in his ward, and Crane told him that he has spoke with the property owners and tried to contact the city but was unable to connect.

Wiener said that impounding the benches that weren't in compliance, roughly half of them, seemed like an awful big penalty.

Following are other items from the Nov. 14 meeting not included in other council coverage.

Hangar loan amended

The council approved an amendment to its hangar financing agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The council adopted the agreement two years ago. It included a loan of $673,746 at an interest rate of zero percent over a 20-year-period.

After the project was completed, the city submitted paperwork to MnDOT to unlock the loan money and found out that the total cost of the project was $705,061 — $31,315 more than the original agreement.

The amount increased because of several change orders — improved performance hangar doors ($23,000 more), simplified electrical equipment ($19,000 less), additional asphalt ($24,000 more) and a storm water basin ($17,000 more).

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MnDOT agreed to allow the overage to be included in the interest-free loan.

The amendment will increase the monthly loan payment from $2,808 to $2,938. The money will come out of the airport development fund.

Council seeks proposals for compensation study

The council is calling for requests for proposals to study classifications and compensation for city employees, along with an organizational analysis.

The cost of the study will be determined through a review of the proposals and will be presented to the council, along with a recommendation for the consultant.

Funding for the study is expected to be covered through the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

In related action, the council agreed to update the city’s classification and compensation plan. It calls for a 3% general wage increase to the 2023 compensation grid.

Special law allows beer, wine at Blizzard games

A final step in approving an ordinance that allows the city to issue on-sale malt liquor and on-sale wine licenses to the owner of the Blizzard junior hockey league team was taken.

The team plays at the Runestone Community Center.

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The ability to issue these licenses were provided to the city through a special law that was adopted by the state Legislature during the 2022 session. The council approved the ordinance on Aug. 11.

On Nov. 7, the city received an email from the League of Minnesota Cities reminding the council that it must also file a resolution approving the law and send a certified copy to the secretary of state. The council approved that action Monday night.

Depository designated for RCC funds

The council designated Ameriprise Financial Services to serve as the city’s depository for donations to the Runestone Community Center expansion project.

The RCC Capital Campaign Committee has been raising money for the project for several months and continues to meet with donors.

All securities received as donations will be immediately converted to cash and transferred to the city’s money market account designated for the RCC capital campaign.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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