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City OKs funds for Mountain parking

On a 6-2 vote, the Detroit Lakes City Council on Tuesday agreed to provide $550,000 for parking lot improvements at the new Detroit Mountain Recreation Area.

The city will also provide an interim $300,000 loan to help finance those improvements.

The loan will come from unspecified city reserve funds, and the Detroit Mountain group will pay interest on the loan at 3 percent for six years to hold those funds harmless.

The principal will be returned to those funds over six years as revenue from the city’s food and lodging tax comes in.

All nine aldermen were at the city council meeting, and six ‘yes’ votes were required to pass the measure.

Al Brevik and Ron Zeman voted against it and Jamie Marks Erickson abstained because she works for the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corp., which is involved with financing the project.

The city money is contingent on the Detroit Mountain group conveying mountain property to the city, as planned, because the city can’t use food and beverage tax money for improvements on non-city property, said City Attorney Charlie Ramstad.

Zeman said he would like to see the Becker County Board step up on the mountain project.

“I wish the county were more involved in this,” he said. “Everybody should be in the pool to help pay expenses.”

Alderman Dan Wenner said he raised concerns about the request at a recent city finance committee meeting. He thanked the Detroit Mountain organization for addressing each concern in a detailed letter.

The food and beverage tax brings in about $300,000 a year, but is needed for trails and a number of other projects — that’s why the reserve funds will be made whole over several years.

The city originally pledged $300,000 to the Detroit Mountain project.  In addition, it spent about $15,000 toward a feasibility study.

The Public Utilities Department also contributed cash and in-kind labor for electrical and other technical services worth about $150,000.

With council approval of the $550,000 for the parking lot improvements, the city and the public utilities will have about $1 million invested in the Detroit Mountain project.