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DL City Council votes to seek half-cent sales tax to fund new police facility

This conceptual drawing from BKV Group architects was submitted to the Detroit Lakes City Council this week to give them an idea of what a new police department might look like – but it is a preliminary design only, according to architect Bruce Schwartzman. (Graphic by BKV Group)

The Detroit Lakes City Council voted unanimously at its Monday night meeting in favor of calling a special election on Nov. 6, to determine whether it can use a half-cent local option sales tax to build a new $6.7 million police department building.

A question will be placed on the general election ballot, asking voters to approve the imposition of a temporary sales and use tax of a half cent, until the necessary $6.7 million, "plus an amount equal to interest and the costs of issuing any bonds," is raised — a period that might take up to 10 years, but the tax could be rescinded sooner if the total amount needed is raised more quickly than anticipated.

If the voters approve the proposal, it will then be sent to the Minnesota State Legislature, which must pass special legislation authorizing the tax in order for it to be imposed.

The tax, if approved, will be used to construct a new, 17,800 square foot facility on city-owned property at the southeast corner of Summit Avenue and Front Street, just east of the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center.

This location was chosen from a list of 16 different sites, each carefully vetted as part of a 2016 facility study conducted by BKV Group, a Minnesota-based architectural and engineering firm that has completed over 80 police station construction projects and studies, throughout Minnesota and the Midwest.

According to the study, this location was chosen due to its strong visibility near the downtown business district; its centralized location and ready access to Highway 10; its proximity to the courthouse, city attorney's office and sheriff's department; and adequate parking nearby.

Also as part of that study, BKV architects determined that the current 6,000 square foot building on Holmes Street was "drastically undersized" — about 12,000 square feet short of what was needed for required operations of a modern police department, which includes things such as indoor squad vehicle parking, secure evidence storage and processing areas, private interview and investigations areas, staff workspaces and secure lockers for their gear, just to name a few.

If the sales tax is implemented by the State Legislature at its 2019 session, construction of the new building would likely begin in the spring of 2020. Anyone who has questions about the plans for a new police department, or would like to schedule an appointment to tour the current facility, should call the Detroit Lakes Police Department at 218-847-4222.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454