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The Detroit Lakes Jaycees water fight team scrambles backwards as the hanging ball was blasted to their end during the 2011 Northwest Water Carnival water fights in City Park in July.

the year in review

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the year in review
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Unless something earth shattering happens in the next couple days, 2011 will go down as a year of development and expansion projects, school changes and sudden personnel changes.

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School happenings

At the end of last year, Lake Park-Audubon residents approved a building levy that would remodel the elementary school and build a new high school. Bids were let in January, and the elementary remodel was finished and ready for the start of the 2011-12 school year this fall. The high school will be ready to open in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Pine Point School not only built a new building this year, but they also moved to a year-round schedule. While it was a move to reduce the budget, it was also a way to eliminate the learning gap that summer causes and help maintain higher test scores without having such a long break in learning over the summer months.

And in Frazee, though there wasn't any physical change, there were certainly personnel changes throughout the year.

In June, after a couple months of heated discussion -- from both the board and members of the public -- the Frazee-Vergas School Board bought out Superintendent Deron Stender's contract for about $377,000.

Charles Cheney was named interim superintendent for a year.

Soon after, with the retirement of business managers Diane Menz and Donna Mineer, the district opted to high Lakes Country Service Cooperative to run the business office instead of hiring new district employees.

Personnel changes

Another controversial personnel change was that of Becker County administrator.

In February, Tom Mortenson took the position of administrator, only to resign six months later. Though an official reason was never given, the county board accepted his resignation by a 3-2 vote, after a performance evaluation.

Essentia Health St. Mary's also had a surprise personnel change this year, when CEO Tom Thompson left the company. No reason was officially given for his sudden resignation either.

One man who did give a reason for stepping down though was Detroit Lakes City Council Alderman Jim Anderson, who after 11 years said he was too busy with work and personal commitments to serve on the council any longer. The city is working on finding his replacement.

Not quite so surprising are the changes being made at the City of Detroit Lakes. Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena retired after 15 years as chief, and former sergeant Tim Eggebraaten was sworn in as the new chief. Several months later, officer Chris Phillips was then promoted to serve as sergeant.

City Finance Offcier Lou Guzek and Assistant City Administrator Lynne Kreiger also retired this year, and Public Utilities Supervisor Curt Punt said he will be leaving at the end of January.

Making a few switches among school officials was former Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School superintendent and elementary school principal Mitch Anderson, who took the position of superintendent in Perham.

When he left, he recommended his position be split into two to concentrate on school success. Brandon Lunak took over as the school's superintendent, while Frazee native Travis Nagel is the district's new elementary school principal.

More than two years after the murder of Mahnomen County Deputy Chris Dewey, the trial of Thomas Lee Fairbanks took place this year. Fairbanks was found guilty of murder after shooting Dewey in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 2009. After a long health struggle, Dewey died Aug. 9, 2010.

Government procedures

After just passing the half percent food and beverage tax last year, the Detroit Lakes City Council also passed a 1 percent sales tax within the city.

Minnesota saw some big arguments when first a recount delayed Gov. Mark Dayton's swearing in, and then because the governor and legislators couldn't come to a budget agreement in time, the state shut down services for about a month.

Also on the state level, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman from Vergas caused some anger with a Twitter message -- "Sen. Goodwin just called people with mental illness idiots and imbeciles while debating HHS bill" -- that she was then told to apologize for after an ethics committee voted that she was in the wrong.

For the first time, Native Americas on the White Earth Reservation celebrated Chiefs' Day. Over 200 people filled the White Earth Community Center for a four-hour celebration of chiefs and ancestors.

Another day that would be celebrated if and when it happens is the the day the state accepts White Earth's proposal to build a casino in the Twin Cities to help fund a new Vikings stadium.

Added responsibilities have been shifted to the three area snowmobile clubs this year, giving them the chore of grooming all 260 miles of trails in Becker County.

The county divided the maintenance responsibilities between Midnight Riders, ULTRA (United Lakes and Trails Riders Association) and Northwoods Trail Reapers. The county will also distribute $110,000 among the clubs from a pool of DNR grant money given annually for snowmobile trails.

Development, expansion

After quite a bit of debate on price of land, payment of parking and timing of development, the Downtown Crossing development went forward this year, and three buildings are in the process of going up.

A much debated parking assessment will be assigned to business district establishments, which will pay for the reconstruction of the public parking lot behind the new development and Norby's.

On Veterans Day, a ribbon cutting was held at the new Veterans Memorial Park, and a new monument to the veterans of Becker County was dedicated.

Other developments in Detroit Lakes throughout the year were the remodeling and expansions of Essentia Health-St. Mary's and Sanford Health facilities. Both held their ribbon cutting ceremonies this year and welcomed more healthcare services to the community.

The Compassion House, a homeless shelter that is slated to open after the start of the new year, was first approved in January for 25 beds. Earlier this month, The Refuge -- the entity behind the homeless shelter -- asked for approval of an additional 34 beds to help finance the project, which the planning commission approved. The city council has yet to vote on the issue.

On a more fun note, the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center opened the Backyard addition, which incorporates a Kids' Playland that is the second biggest indoor playground in Minnesota.

A business development that has the city less than happy is that of 10,000 Lakes Liquors, an off-sale liquor store near Lake Melissa. The big debate was whether the business was within a three-mile radius of Detroit Lakes.

By way of roads, it's outside the three-mile radius. "As the crow flies," it's just within three miles, and therefore would not be allowed to build because the city already has a municipal liquor store. The road ruled, because the liquor store is opening.

And though it hasn't broken ground yet, the city has approved a $3.9 million liquor store to be built at the former Burger Time site. It will be built next summer, with an opening date of October 2012.

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