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Tennis courts project at Alexandria park is delayed

This year's deadline for a matching state grant for the $545,000 project will be missed but the council said the grant program will be available next year.

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Because of parking concerns, the Alexandria City Council tabled the park board's recommendation to apply for a state grant that would help build four new tennis courts at Dean Melton/Fillmore Park, just north of the skateboard park area.
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ALEXANDRIA – An idea to apply for a state grant to build four new tennis courts at Dean Melton/Fillmore Park in Alexandria was tabled Monday because of parking concerns.

Parks Director Bill Thoennes, with support from the city's park board, asked the Alexandria City Council for authorization to apply for an Outdoor Recreation Grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. If approved, the grant would have provided $272,855 in state funds and the city would have contributed a $272,855 match.

Council member Roger Thalman said concerns were raised over parking. More stalls would have had to be added to accommodate the courts, an additional cost estimated at between $100,000 and $200,000.

Council member Bill Franzen made a motion to table applying for the grant and it was unanimously approved.

Mayor Bobbie Osterberg said that because the deadline for applying for the grant is March 31, the city will now have to wait until next year to apply.

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Council members thanked the park board and the Alexandria Tennis Association members for their work. They encouraged them to submit a grant application next year that would incorporate a "more complete project."

The courts would have been consistent with United States Tennis Association standards, including materials, gates and fencing, a gathering area, seating and a small bridge to link to an existing parking lot, Thoennes noted in the grant application.

Tennis courts are in high demand, according to Thoennes.

“The Alexandria area currently has no public park tennis courts,” Thoennes noted in the application. “The city has lost multiple tennis courts in recent years. This included courts near the hospital on land that was sold. It also included City Park as the city converted them to exclusively pickleball courts.”

Bill Thoennes
Bill Thoennes

Although school courts are available, they have limited use for the general public because they are often used for tournaments, practices, lessons, leagues and youth camps, Thoennes added.

Tennis is a lively and growing sport in Alexandria and many residents look for and expect to find places to stay, Thoennes noted.

“As Alexandria continues to grow and aims to be an attractive destination for all ages to live, work and play, tennis courts at a public park are a critical asset for the area,” Thoennes wrote in the application.

Paramedic agreement approved

The council approved Police Chief Scott Kent’s request to sign a service agreement between North Memorial’s paramedic program and the city.

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The police and the paramedics have been working on the new partnership for about a year. It's called ACCESS, an acronym for "A Community Collaboration of Enhanced Support Strategies." Its mission is to empower residents to achieve their best self in health, safety and well-being by providing a bridge to other community partners.

They provided the council with an example of how law enforcement and the paramedics helped a young women, who was living in her car, with finding housing, transportation and education. Another example was helping a bilateral amputee find social support, food, economic stability, health care access, education and other needs.

Those involved in the program described their efforts as "connecting the dots" between those needing the services with the local resources that are available.

The police department’s budget includes $50,000 for the paramedic program.

Paramedics will provide a variety of medical and support services – health assessments, chronic disease monitoring and education, medication compliance, immunizations and vaccinations, laboratory specimen collection, hospital discharge follow-up care and other care transitions, connecting to community resources, coordinating with home care providers, wound care, health coaching, advance care planning, motivational interviewing, home safety and more.

Under the agreement, the city agreed to pay North Memorial a fee of $85.28 per hour for each paramedic who provides services. North Memorial reserves the right to increase the rate by up to 3% each year.

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Those involved in the ACCESS partnership between the Alexandria Police Department and North Memorial's paramedic program include, back row, left to right, Sgt. Tony Kuhnau; Dr. Peter Tanghe, medical director for North Memorial; and Clara Kessel, supervisor for Greater Minnesota Community Paramedics; front row, left to right, Katie Harren, community paramedic; Captain Kevin Guenther; and Officer Darcie Zirbes.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Ward boundaries to change

The council gave final approval to change the boundaries of wards that are represented by the five city council members.

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State law requires that congressional, legislative, county and city election district boundaries be redrawn every 10 years after the census.

The goal is to have roughly the same number of voters in each ward. City Planner Mike Weber said that since the 2020 census pegged Alexandria's population at 14,335, the ideal goal would be to have 2,867 residents in each of the five wards. He said the boundaries approved at the meeting are very close to that mark.

The new map showing the wards is on the city’s website, https://alexandriamn.city .

In related action, the council designated the polling places for precincts within the city:

  • Ward I Lake Community Church (490 Voyager Drive).
  • Ward II Reach Church (1310 North Nokomis).
  • Ward III New Life Christian Church (1910 County Road 82 SE).
  • Ward IV Church of St. Mary’s (420 Irving St.).
  • Ward V Alexandria City Hall (704 Broadway).

Liquor store loans paid off

The council agreed to pay-off loans for the two city-owned liquor stores that total $191,685.

The liquor stores used the city’s revolving loan funds to take out the loans, which were used for sidewalk improvements, energy saving projects, and a building remodel. The loans were taken out in 2009, 2017 and 2019.

The stores’ cash positions will allow the loan payoffs without disrupting the cash flow they need to operate, according to the city’s finance director, Jane Blade.

Cash balances at Downtown Liquor are $412,497 and Plaza Liquor has a balance of $782,503.

Shoreland change gets final approval

The council gave final approval to amend the city's shoreland ordinance to create an overlay district for an unnamed basin near County Road 46 near Pilot Truck Stop.

The new provision will allow the city to expand its industrial park area.

The change will also increase the minimum lot size for industrial uses and provide more restrictive provisions for impervious surfaces, private structure setbacks and for native grass buffer areas.

Although the property, which includes between 400 and 450 acres, is considered a public lake, it's more like a wetland area going through a dry cycle because there is no water in it .

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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