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Museum looks at addition to DLCCC

The Becker County Historical Society is planning for a possible $6 million addition to the Detroit Lakes Community Center that would house the Becker County Museum.

The funding would involve about $1.1 million from the county, $1.2 million in tax credits, and $1.1 million existing pledges, leaving some $3 million to be collected through a capital campaign, Becker County Commissioner Ben Grimsley said at a County Board meeting Tuesday.

The museum addition would include a basement and two stories and it would connect to the Historic Holmes Theater side of the community center. The cultural center would receive an improved entryway with a softer, more gradual staircase leading up to the theater.

"It's something the community center is looking at," Grimsley said.

In other news:

• Commissioners agreed that they do not want to pursue a Tobacco 21 ordinance (raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21) similar to the one recently shot down by the Detroit Lakes City Council. But Commissioner Barry Nelson asked the sheriff's office to look into the legality of smoking on restaurant and bar patios and decks. Sheriff Todd Glander said state law does not apply to any outdoor tobacco use, including in outdoor seating areas at restaurants and bars.

• The county will solicit bids from private accounting firms for its annual audit, required by the state. Becker County is one of three counties sued by the State Auditor's Office after the Legislature changed the law to allow private audits, which are generally less expensive than those done by the state. Becker County has used the state auditor's office for its annual audit while the process has wound through the legal process—now going to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Nelson was on the losing side of the county vote to contract out the audit to a private firm, but was still upset that County Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson had not yet proceeded with the bid letting, since it was a board directive.

• The county opted to proceed with a medium-term fix for street improvements on West Lake Drive from the Pavilion to Legion Road—milling and bituminous surface work that will last five to 10 years. That will give the city time to finalize its plans for street improvements and a bicycle trail along the city's mile-long public beach. The county approved a low bid of $80,784 from Driveway Service of Detroit Lakes, which was about $65 above the engineer's estimate. Other bids were received from Central Specialties of Alexandria ($84,684), Mark Sand and Gravel of Fergus Falls ($96,133) and Anderson Brothers Construction of Brainerd ($99,075).

• The county is applying for a $1 million state grant to reconstruct Washington Avenue from the Pavilion to Willow Street. The streetscaping and improvement project (estimated to cost $1.5 million to $2 million) will be designed to match Washington Avenue from Willow Street north to Highway 34.

• The county also awarded a $138,402 contract for culvert replacements on County Road 126 and County Road 9 to low bidder Riley Brothers Construction of Morris. There were seven bidders in all, with the high bid coming in at over $230,000.

• Becker County recently decided to shop around for less expensive health insurance when it found it is facing a 19 percent cost hike next year. The results aren't in on that yet, but the county isn't the only government agency facing higher health insurance costs: Sunnyside Nursing Home near Lake Park, owned by the county but managed by Ecumen, is facing a 49 percent hike in its health care costs next year. And the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System, which includes the Detroit Lakes Public Library, is facing a 20 percent cost hike next year.

• The board approved an application for a new transit bus, to be 100 percent funded by the state. The transit system is considering extending its hours of operation to 7 p.m. weekdays to make sure passenger needs are met.