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Is Alexandria too noisy? City has been getting complaints

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ALEXANDRIA — At Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting, Mayor Bobbie Osterberg said she's been receiving several complaints and questions regarding the city's noise ordinances.

She said residents are wondering how it's enforced, how they can file a complaint and how the city determines whether loud music and traffic noise is a violation.

City Planner Mike Weber explained that loud noises are covered in two different places in the city code — one refers to obnoxious noise and is covered under the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency guidelines, and another includes ordinances that were developed by the city years ago.

Weber said the loud noises are based on certain decibel levels that have to be exceeded for at least 10% of an hour. He gave an example: A loud car idling in a residential area for six minutes may be a violation but a vehicle with a loud exhaust that just passes through an area would not violate the noise ordinances.

Other parts of the ordinances spell out the types of noises — horns, radios, yelling, steam whistles, construction work and more — and may depend on where the noise violation is happening.

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One common complaint is loud outdoor music from a band or a stereo, Weber said. This can be a violation if it is audible from any public road after 11 p.m.

Noise complaints are difficult to address, Weber said, because by the time a resident calls to complain and a police officer arrives on scene, the noise may have stopped or a car, for instance, would be five miles away.

Weber added it wouldn't be practical have 50 police officers out looking for noise.

Residents who want to report a noise violation to the police should gather as much information as they can — where the loud noises are happening, details such as the make, model, color and license number of a loud vehicle. They should then call the police department's non-emergency number to report it, Weber said.

Residents could even measure the decibel levels through an app on their smartphone, Weber added.

At the end of the discussion, City Attorney Tom Jacobson recommended the council authorize its legislative committee to compare the most recent MPCA noise rules with the ones in the city's code to make sure they match. The council unanimously agreed.

Following are other items from the June 13 meeting not included in other council stories.

Lease extended for Opportunity Enterprises

The council agreed Monday to extend the lease of the Bellanca building to Opportunity Enterprises, which has been a “terrific tenant,” according to Airport Manager Kreg Anderson.

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It will now rent 16,100 square feet of space – more than double the 7,500 square feet it’s leasing now.

The new lease rate will increase from $14,676 to $32,200 per year. The initial term of the lease is one year and will automatically renew for successive one-year periods. After the initial term of the lease, either party may terminate it with 90 days written notice to the other party.

The lease also allows Opportunity Enterprises, a nonprofit, to use the cold storage utility shed on the east side of the building for storage. Previously, it has been storing materials both in the parking lot and on the tarmac.

A new lease for another tenant in the building, Alexandria Aircraft, will not be brought forward because it plans to leave permanently this spring, Anderson said.

Opportunity Enterprises offers life skills and on-site vocational training. It opened in 2014 after a group of Christian businessmen came together to discuss options to help ex-offenders and others just out of prison or jail to find work and lead a productive life, according to its website.

It now has 15 paid employees and a board of directors made up of area Christian business leaders, including Tory Bjorklund and David Schonberg with TRC Ministries. So far, Opportunity Enterprises has been self-supporting.

Classes include workplace ethics, communications, anger management, overcoming addiction, financial planning, interviewing, and resume writing. Shop training includes welding and machining.

Schonberg told the council that Opportunity Enterprises has turned lives around. "Many of them feel at home with us," he said.

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In other airport-related action:

  • A project to renovate the city’s seaplane base took another step forward. The council accepted a bid of $6,872 from Seph Excavating of Alexandria to remove the asphalt and concrete at the deteriorating base near Lake Winona. It will also prepare the site for a new concrete ramp. At a previous meeting, the council accepted bids for new concrete and removal of cattails at the site. So the total cost of the project is $17,872, well under the $30,000 the city is eligible to receive through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Right now, six airplanes at the airport are using the seaplane base, according to Anderson The improved seaplane base will now be indicated on all aeronautical maps, airport  directories and facility directories for pilots to see when planning their flights. The project is expected to be completed this spring.
  • The council approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to receive $32,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA. This is the third round of COVID-19 related funds for the airport. One possibility is to use the money to renovate the airport restrooms.

New snowblower on the way

The council authorized Street Director Dane Bosl to order a new snow blower from Midwest Machinery for $15,250.

The price includes the trade-in of an old tractor, mower and snow blower, and the city will also sell a used asphalt zipper.

The zipper was bought in 2008 for milling and reclamation work on streets but is no longer used.

Annexation petition accepted

The council gave preliminary approval to an annexation request on Cardinal Lane in LaGrand Township, south of Latoka Drive.

The owners of the 0.22-acre site are Jacob Shay and Alison Argyll. In their petition, they noted that the land has or is to become, urban or suburban. They’re requesting to be annexed in order to receive city water.

The council accepted the petition; directed staff to notify LaGrand Township, Douglas County and the state; and adopted the first reading of the annexing ordinance.

Broadway bollards to be repaired

The lighted bollards along Broadway that were installed during the reconstruction project in 2014 haven’t stood up well against the salt and other road materials in the winter.

As a result, many of them are peeling and showing rust, said City Administrator Marty Schultz.

After looking into repair options, city staff found that plastic sleeves are available for the bollards and will be installing them, along with replacing bollard light bulbs from Fourth to Seventh Avenue. The cost is $10,195 and will be paid through the public works operating budget.

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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