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Train depot opening delayed

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The inside of the Detroit Lakes BNSF train depot may be spotless, with new shelves, countertops and coffee machines, but the transit center that's been renovated by White Earth officials is no closer to opening.

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Construction has been finished for a while, and the sign has been erected outside, so what's the hold up?

White Earth Transportation Director Burny Tibbetts said it was only a tax exemption agreement preventing them from opening back in May, but now, he said they're working out lease agreements with railroad officials and applying for Minnesota Department of Health licensure.

"What [the railroad] is trying to do is lease it at $20,000 per year plus 6 percent each year," Tibbetts said, "and we don't think it will be feasible to run with those costs, plus other operating costs."

On the possible tax exemption agreement with Becker County, Tibbetts defaulted to Joe Plummer, the White Earth lawyer working on the case.

Plummer said he's working on applying for licensures to the Minnesota Department of Health, and is waiting for tax assessments from county officials.

"We're starting to figure out the hoops for Minnesota health before getting into the exemption process," Plummer said.

Becker County Administrator Brian Berg said he hadn't heard anything from Plummer in a couple of months, and didn't know the status of the transit center.

Becker County Assessor Steve Skoog said the same, but added "If they're looking for a change in their tax status, they should be working on it now."

"If they're working on partnering [with the city or county], they should be coming forth with a proposal," Skoog said.

Skoog said in May that the tribe would have to reach an agreement with the county by July 1.

Although they've missed that deadline, Tibbetts said they are still hoping to open the transit center this year.

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