Good news for sidewalk fans in Alexandria

The Alexandria City Council voted to accept a bid of $533,161 to extend the sidewalk on the east side of Highway 29 South from 34th Avenue to 44th Avenue.

Sidewalk 4701.jpg
Crews work on a sidewalk extension along Highway 29 South in Alexandria in the fall of 2021. Another project this year will extend the sidewalk from 34th Avenue to 44th Avenue.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo

ALEXANDRIA – Those who like sidewalks will like this news.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council voted to accept a bid of $533,161 to extend the sidewalk on the east side of Highway 29 South from 34th Avenue, near Plaza Liquor, to 44th Avenue, near Walmart Drive.

The low bidder was Joe Riley Construction of Morris. The bid was well below the city’s estimate of $584,906.

The total cost of the project, which includes the bid, engineering and wetland credits, is $645,983.

The project will have no impact on Alexandria taxpayers. The project will be funded entirely from the state Local Partnership Project and municipal state aid.


The new section of concrete sidewalk will be 6-feet wide and about a half-mile long.

This is the second of three consecutive projects that will ultimately extend the sidewalk from 15th Avenue to 44th Avenue. The city’s long-term goal is to provide pedestrian access for the entire length of Highway 29 from Interstate 94 to Third Avenue.

The new sidewalk will be a “significant safety improvement” along the Highway 29 corridor and will provide a critical mobility connection where none currently exists, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.

At past meetings, Schoonhoven said the project will provide a much-needed link between the Midway Mall/Viking Plaza commercial area and the Target/Walmart commercial area. “The pedestrian link is needed as evidenced by the number of people seen regularly walking along the highway,” he said.

Tim Schoonhoven

All work on the project will be within the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s right-of-way.

New THC store gets license

The council approved an application from MN Releaf Inc. to sell THC-products (tetrahydrocannabinol) at its store at 4961 Sanibel Drive, the building that also houses Boulder Tap House.

The license was reviewed by the police department for violations and none were noted. The business will also sell CBD, vaping and hemp products.

There is a $500 annual fee for the THC license and a $500 investigation fee for initial applications.


The business partnership includes COO Len Worthington of Brandon, CEO Dan Einarsson of Alexandria and CFO Randell McKernan of Garfield.

In a related action, the council also approved MN Releaf’s application for an electronic delivery device license. These are battery-powered devices used to smoke or “vape” a flavored solution that usually contains nicotine.

The council also acted on the following licenses:

  • It denied a tobacco license to Smoke N Vape at 611 44th Ave. W, Suite 101. The store is under construction near Starbucks in south Alexandria. Initial plans called for the building to house a King Tobacco location but on Jan. 23, the council did not renew King Tobacco’s license for 2023 at its store at 4617 Highway 29 South because it failed four compliance checks and it also suspended King Tobacco’s store at 307 North Nokomis for three months. The owner of Smoke N Vape is also one of the owners of King Tobacco but because tobacco licenses are issued for a particular location, there’s nothing that would prevent someone previously associated with King Tobacco from applying for a tobacco license at a new location, according to city staff. Council member Scott Allen made the motion to deny the license. He said that all King Tobacco was doing was moving 1,000 feet away from its previous store that doesn't have a 2023 license. He said the council should stick with its decision to suspend King Tobacco's license. King Tobacco has the right to appeal the decision, under the city's ordinance.
  • It approved TNT Fireworks to sell fireworks at two parking lots – Walmart and the now-closed Burger King North at 209 Nokomis Street.
  • It approved a temporary vendor license to Doug Hasz doing business as Doug’s Kettle Korn.

A time to honor women and girls

It’s time to honor the trailblazing achievements of women and girls who have helped build the community.

The council has proclaimed March 20-24 as Lakes Area Professional Women’s Week in Alexandria. Every March, Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to honor the generations of women and girls who have shaped the community’s progress.

“Let us recommit to the fight and help realize the deeply American vision of a more equal society where every person has a shot at pursuing the American dream,” the resolution says. “The major goal of honoring Lakes Area Professional Women’s Week is to promote equity for all women and to help create better conditions for working women through the study and advocacy of social, educational and economic issues impacting women in the workplace.”

The Lakes Area Professional Women has honored the contributions of working women and employers who support working women and their families since 1972.

Mayor Bobbie Osterberg urged all citizens, businesses and community organizations in the Alexandria Lakes Area to join the salute. “We encourage and promote the celebration of the achievements of all working women as they contribute daily to our economic, civic and cultural goals and livelihood,” Osterberg stated in the proclamation.


Bobbie Osterberg

College student to intern in city’s building department

A second-year student in the Alexandria Technical and Community College’s carpentry program will be interning with the city’s building department this spring, April 3 through May 5.

The council approved an employer agreement to offer the full-time, temporary internship. The total estimated cost to the city is $2,650.

The student has an interest in code administration and would like to experience the day-to-day activities of the profession, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

“Not only is this an opportunity for the student, it is also an opportunity for the city to encourage the next generation of code officials,” Weber said in a memo to the council.

Mike Weber
Mike Weber
licia marie photography

Over the last five years, code officials have been leaving the field in record numbers and this is projected to continue over the next five to 10 years, Weber said. Most of this, he said, is because of retirements.

“As is the case with most trades these days, there are not nearly enough individuals interested in pursuing them,” Weber said.

The city’s biggest concern, Weber said, is not being able to find a competent code official to hire, when needed. He said that several cities are already experiencing the trend and are moving to outsourcing their permitting and inspections to non-local entities.


“When this happens, the community connection is gone,” Weber said.

Heavy snow changes personnel policies

At the request of the city’s public works department, the council approved a pay policy change to address the challenge of weekend snow storms.

Because overtime calculations are based on hours actually worked, there have been more occasions when weekend hours related to snow and ice removal did not qualify for overtime, according to Karin Tank, human resources director.

While discussing this issue and consulting City Attorney Tom Jacobson, the personnel committee decided to recommend a number of updates and changes for this type of “specialty pay” scenario as well as other personnel policy amendments.

Major revisions included:

  • Adding a special assignment pay policy to address not only public works’ weekend wno and ice removal but other unique specialty assignments to be authorized by unique position.
  • Clarifying on-call and call-back pay. Example: When a non-exempt employee is called back to work during their off-duty time, they will be paid at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate and receive a minimum of two hours pay for their call-back work.
  • Eliminating the opportunity for “stacking” pay codes.
  • Outlining when comp time can be accrued.
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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