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Minnesota Avenue repairs will wait until next year

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Monopoly players will not be charged for street repairs for now. Neither will those on Minnesota Avenue.

Last month residents filled Detroit Lakes council chambers to question utility repairs and reconstruction of several streets throughout the city, mainly Minnesota Avenue from Willow Street to West Lake Drive.

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The issue was deferred to the street and park committee for February's discussion and then voted on Tuesday evening at the city council meeting.

"These are the reasons we hold these public meetings, to get information," City Engineer Gary Nansen said.

Dennis Sherman said Parkview Street, which he has lived on since the early 1970s, has been reconstructed twice in the last 30 years and he didn't want to have to pay for a third time. There is no sewer under the street and the water mains are PVC pipe, meaning the street had no reason to be torn up and reconstructed.

City Administrator Rich Grabow agreed he didn't see the point of reconstructing Parkview Street.

Minnesota Avenue brought much more discuss and opposition, though.

Minnesota Avenue resident Ruth Solie said replacement of the sidewalks are a concern of hers and that she might be able to help with finding a more "environmentally-friendly" way of replacing them.

She said she has done research into cities putting in rubber or re-used material sidewalks rather than concrete.

"Minnesota (Avenue) could be a test place," she said.

She said she hoped the different type of sidewalk would save some of the trees.

Nansen said it's something he could look into with Solie's help, but some of the trees would have to come out because of work to be done on service laterals, or the sewer and water pipes from the street to the residences.

He added that if Minnesota Avenue was taken off the agenda this year, he felt it should still be on the 2008 list of priority streets because of the age of the utilities, not necessarily because the street is falling apart. His main concern is the service laterals, not the main line.

Resident Jim Kauffman said he's had to have his service line fixed twice at the cost of $7,000. He was in favor of the city doing the work so he wouldn't have to take care of another problem in the near future.

Resident Pat Johnson said that it's not like Minnesota Avenue never needed to be done, but the residents should have been given more notice.

Going along with not knowing a time frame, resident Tom Harper also spoke, saying he didn't understand how the Minnesota Avenue project wasn't on the Dec. 1 list for street repairs and suddenly was as of January. His question couldn't seem to be answered.

Hannon said that citizens know just as much as the city council aldermen do, meaning they were all notified around the same time.

Alderman Leonard Heltemes spoke in favor of going forward with the project.

"It costs everyone as you put this off. Summit (Avenue), that was a wild time, but most people would say, 'I didn't like it at the time, but I think it's good now.'"

Giving the Minnesota Avenue residents more time wouldn't change the fact that they just don't want to pay for the repairs, he added.

Alderman Jim Anderson said he's supportive of preventative work on the utilities, but he's also supportive of pulling Minnesota Avenue and Parkview Street from the list of streets to be repaired this year.

Alderman Walt Tollefson agreed.

"I feel bad telling people the bulldozers are coming in whether you like it or not."

Aldermen James Hannon and Matt Brenk said they felt the project should go forward in its entirety. Alderman Bruce Imholte said he was in favor of delaying the streets in question.

Because of the confusion or misinformation of whether Minnesota Avenue was going to be replaced in 2007, city staff has come up with a plan to have a chart of upcoming plans so people will know well in advance what streets are tentatively planned for repairs or reconstruction.

Because the council initiated the street repairs, the vote needed to pass by four-fifths. Since Alderman Ron Zeman was absent, all eight of the present aldermen had to agree -- an impossibility.

Tuesday night, Minnesota Avenue resident Bill Fern addressed the "conflict of interest" issue of Hannon living on Minnesota Avenue. City Attorney Bill Briggs said the short answer was that it wasn't a conflict of interest and that Hannon could vote on the issue.

The first vote to pass the project in its entirety -- Hannon said he supported it because it's like holding those with sewer problems "hostage" by not fixing the utilities -- failed when more than half the council voted opposed.

Imholte made a second motion to go forward with the project after removing Minnesota Avenue and Parkview Streets from the list, leaving Langford Street, Lincoln Avenue, Lyndale Avenue, Front Street, Oak Grove Avenue and State Street.

Alderman GL Tucker said he could understand planning and where the Minnesota Avenue residents were coming from.

"I'm telling you Minnesota (Avenue residents), we're coming for you, so start saving," he said, agreeing to vote to put off the street reconstruction for a year.

Hannon said he wouldn't be voting in favor of the second motion, because if the reason the first didn't pass was because not enough notice was given to the Minnesota Avenue people, the others should be treated fairly and given more time.

Imholte said he was disappointed that Hannon wouldn't vote for the motion simply because Hannon's motion to include Minnesota Avenue wouldn't pass, a thought backed by Tucker as well. Imholte also stated there hadn't been opposition to the other street repairs.

Hannon said that wasn't the reason he'd be voting against the second motion.

The second motion failed, with Hannon and Heltemes voting opposed. At this point, no construction will be done on the streets, which City Engineer Gary Nansen said should be reconsidered because some of the projects could be linked to mutual state aid projects this summer.

Imholte said hopefully the issue could be discussed at the March street and park committee meeting.

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