Pickleball courts bounce ahead in Alexandria
The process of building new pickleball courts in Alexandria City Park bounced ahead Monday night.
The Alexandria City Council voted to call for bids on the project, which includes excavating/grading/paving, fencing and surface painting. The total estimated cost is $123,500.
The park’s existing tennis courts, built in the mid-1950s, are in very tough shape, according to Bill Thoennes, city parks director.
“When we had them redone in 2007, the contractor stated that this was the last Band-Aid the courts could take,” Thoennes said in a memo to the council. “With the popularity of the ‘fastest growing sport that no one knows about,’ we feel it makes good sense to convert the tennis courts into designated pickleball courts.”
These will be the first designated pickleball courts in the area, Thoennes said, adding that it’s a sport for all ages and abilities.
Other places are available in the city for tennis players. There are 12 courts at Alexandria Area High School and eight at Discovery Middle School, Thoennes said.
The city received a petition from the pickleball players requesting the courts. Thoennes met with them to get their input into the design and layout of the facility.
The project calls for an eight-court system, allowing up to 32 people to play at the same times.
The city may have the opportunity to host pickleball tournaments, Thoennes noted.
The project is in the city’s 2020 Capital Improvement Plan and would be funded through the Capital Improvement Fund, which has a balance of more than $1 million.
COVID-19 impacts Revolving Loan Fund
Help is on the way for businesses that used the city’s Revolving Loan Fund but are now struggling to repay their loans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council agreed to suspend payments for all borrowers for three months – April, May and June – if the borrower wants to do so.
The city has about 18 active loans. Most are retail or restaurant related, as well as mixed-use properties, such as apartment units on the upper floors of commercial buildings.
Payments typically range from $13,000 to $15,000 a month.
The city will add the suspended payments to the back end of the loans with no penalty or additional accruing interest.
The city has about $267,000 available in the fund.
City may raise tobacco age to 21
Alexandria is taking steps to amend its tobacco ordinances to reflect federal law changes that have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
It voted unanimously to make the changes, which were recommended by the city’s Legislative Committee.
The amendments would also change the city’s compliance check rules to allow 18 to 20-year-olds to conduct the checks under the direction of the Alexandria Police Department.
The amendments must undergo a second reading and a public hearing before the changes can be approved.
Big Ole-sized fun
On a 3-2 vote, the council approved the Alexandria Jaycees request for a special event permit for the “Ole Oppe Fest” – a three-day celebration on May 22-24 in Big Ole Central Park on Second Avenue.
The event will include live music, car show, vendor fair, kids activities, bean bag tournament, emergency vehicles on display, a police dog and more.
In a related action, Garden Center/Fat Daddy’s received a temporary liquor license to serve alcohol at the event.
Both approvals came with the condition that public health guidance must allow large gatherings of 50 or more people before the festival begins.
Council members Roger Thalman and Dave Benson voted against both permits. Thalman said he wasn’t comfortable authorizing a party for 400 people just a few weeks after the state’s stay-at-home order was issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “I think it sends the wrong message,” he said.
Council member Todd Jensen said that people will have to work back to normalcy at some point and the event is a step in that direction.
New options for Third/Kenwood?
The city will work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation this summer to explore ways to make Third Avenue safer, including options at the pedestrian crossing of Third Avenue and Kenwood Street.
As part of a demonstration project, the existing island at the crossing will be removed and replaced with a new configuration. Other pedestrian crossings will likely be considered, such as Maple or Lake Street.
The city’s Highway Committee recommended the action. Two other items from the committee included:
Addressing speeds on Voyager Drive. The street department will restripe the street this summer and narrow the travel lanes to 11 feet. The city engineer said the narrowing lanes are effective at reducing speed.
Traffic calming islands. Two more intersections will receive the temporary materials this summer – Fourth Avenue and Lake Street, and 11th Avenue and Lake Street. The seasonal island at Fifth Avenue and Kenwood Street, which was first put in place in 2017, was previously approved and has been well received by the neighborhood, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.
Council member Bobbie Osterberg voted against the temporary islands. She said the decision should be based on specific criteria. She also suggested using the city’s Neighborhood Fund to pay for the islands.