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Gateway, new sales tax are top priorities for DL

DETROIT LAKES - After a meeting of the minds and hours of discussion, the city of Detroit Lakes has identified major projects to look at and prioritized them accordingly.

Topping the list is the Gateway District as priority No. 1.

No. 2 is the half-cent sales tax, No. 3 is trails, parks and lake quality, No. 4 is wastewater and water, and No. 5 is the industrial parks.

Department heads and other city and committee personnel met all day Thursday to determine Destination DL 2020.

Mayor Larry Buboltz said although 2020 sounds a long way off, it's really only 12 years, not long at all.

Before the strategic planning conference, city staff was asked to submit their ideas for the city's top priorities.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau said he found many similarities in those submitted, and lumped them into a few main categories -- the RDG downtown/Gateway plan (the consultants hired to redesign the Gateway District and take a look at West Lake Drive and North Washington Avenue), a conference center, trails and recreation, the Highway 10 corridor east and west of the city and annexation (which could be anywhere from the Floyd Lake area to the north side of Highway 10 across from the Wal-Mart and Kmart area).

He said with the Gateway District and Highway 10 corridor, the city has "exposed parts of our community like never before."

During discussion, the roughly 25 people in the room threw out other ideas they felt needed to be added to the list. Some of those included housing renewal, low-income housing, sewer treatment plant, liquor store relocation, expanding the library, a citywide alert system, addition of a second water tower, industrial parks and a local half-cent sales tax.

"It's a chance to do some of these things (and) to not have to tax the residents," said City Finance Officer Lou Guzek, pointing out that it's better to have tourists and those coming to town help pay with the half-cent sales tax.

Also added to the list was lake quality, parks, and senior housing. With the list growing more and more, Buboltz said they were "good problems" to have, meaning the city is growing.

"One of the purposes (of this meeting) is not to say this needs to be done next year," Buboltz said as he continued to list requests. He compared it to eating an apple, which can't be done in one bite.

As the morning went on, the group of men and women narrowed the list by consolidating related topics.

For example, the liquor store move, Gateway District, downtown study and North Washington redevelopment all tie in together.

The group also found that some of the issues fell under many of the main topics. For example, annexation could fit under multiple headings, as could financing, green space and lake quality.

"I see these as tools to get where we want," Utilities Supervisor Curt Punt said relative to financing, etc.

Now that the list has shrunk and been prioritized, city staff will work on details of implementing the projects, and the group plans to meet again in two to three months for more discussion.