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City abandons Front Street parking lot

After reviewing bids for the downtown parking improvements, the Detroit Lakes City Council has agreed to forego improvements to the Front Street parking lot and focus on the Veterans Park and the parking lot behind Norby's.

City Engineer Jon Pratt explained that the low bid is a confusing one, depending on what the council decides it wants to do on the project.

Three bids were received on May 24, and coming in at the lowest for both the Veterans Memorial Parkway and the Front Street parking improvements was Sellin Brothers, Inc.

But, if the council decided not to do the Front Street parking lot, which would largely benefit the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, then JR Ferche was the lowest bidder.

When taking bids, the city asked for bids on both sections to be separated so the council could accept which portion it wanted to improve.

In the end, the council decided to go with just the Veterans Memorial Parkway improvements, but hasn't necessarily awarded the bid yet.

When it awards the bid, the city will have to move forward with the construction project.

This way, by using those bid numbers, the city can give business owners a firm number on parking assessments.

A public hearing for that assessment toll will be at the June 14 regular city council meeting at 5 p.m.

The difference in the Veterans Memorial Parkway portion of the project is $1,662,000 for JR Ferche, and $1,668,000 for Sellin. That number represents the total cost including lighting, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles and other construction contingencies.

A slightly bigger difference in the two bids comes with the construction-only costs, which puts JR Ferche, based in Rice, Minn., at $1,173,000 and Sellin at $1,204,000.

Pratt said the construction bids came in slightly under what he had estimated.

With the JR Ferche bid, there will be several different sources to pay for the $1.7 million total project.

Tax increment financing from the Downtown Crossing project will provide $650,000; costs from the Veteran's Park will be $399,093; from the water fund for hydrants is $20,505; funds from the food and beverage tax is $224,500; special assessments to the downtown business district is $252,700; and the city share will be $115,976.

One cost that would likely decrease if the city puts in a change order to have it taken out of the bid would be for the Veteran's Park.

Building an amphitheater was included in the bid, but, City Administrator Bob Louiseau said the veterans group is willing to take that out to save on costs. The land would still be prepped for an amphitheater if the veterans should decide to install one in the future.

Alderman Bruce Imholte questioned why the city would take out the plan for the amphitheater.

"It's something over and above what the veterans committed to raising funds for," Louiseau said.

The veterans and the city have been sharing costs on the project, with the veterans set to raise $250,000 for it. Veterans are selling engraved pavers to pay for their portion.

"I think they will raise the funds (but) the city may have to loan them," Louiseau said, after Alderman GL Tucker stressed the urgency of getting those funds raised.

Louiseau added that the veterans firmly believes that once people can see the park and where the pavers are going, they will sell a lot easier and quicker.

To lower the cost of the Front Street parking lot, Imholte suggested not doing anything with that lot at the time, but instead working with the DLCCC and the Becker County Museum to clear and put down gravel on the property they own north and west of the respective properties.

He said those entities were more in favor of a lot that was a part of the existing lot and block, and it would be cheaper to put in gravel, at least temporarily.

While that parking lot and other specifics weren't decided, they will be discussed more at the next council meeting.

The council will accept comments Tuesday, June 14, at 5 p.m. during the regular council meeting on the assessment portion of the project. Businesses will be informed prior to the meeting on the amount they will be assessed.