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'Another exciting and productive year': Detroit Lakes' mayor reflects on successes of 2017

The year 2017 will be remembered as one where "our city moved to a new level," said Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk in his "State of the City" address to the City Council and the general public at Tuesday night's council meeting.

"We continue to enjoy tremendous development, expansion and growth in our private sector," Brenk said, "but this past year and moving into 2018, we are engaged with a number of significant civic projects as well."

Specifically, he highlighted this past October's groundbreaking on an $18 million runway expansion project at the joint Detroit Lakes/Becker County Airport; the awarding of up to $17 million in state grant funding for the city's $30 million wastewater treatment plant, slated to begin construction this spring; another $3.3 million in state grant funds for construction of a new segment of the Heartland Trail from Detroit Lakes to Frazee; a $1.24 million grant to the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area for land acquisition, trail development and additional park enhancements; and the completion of a $2.9 million utility expansion along U.S. Highway 59 North that will service the new Becker County Jail and surrounding areas.

With regard to the airport expansion, Brenk noted, "up to 95 percent of the funding for this project will come from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the State of Minnesota." Most significantly, Brenk added, the project will extend the existing runway to 5,200 feet, "allowing larger aircraft to utilize the facility and enhancing opportunities for our city and regional business." Brenk thanked Detroit Lakes Public Utilities General Manager Vernell Roberts and his staff for all their hard work in helping to secure grant funds to pay roughly 50 percent of the cost of the wastewater plant.

"Approaching $30 million, this new plant will discharge treated wastewater to some of the highest quality standards in Minnesota, and will serve our citizens for many generations in the future," he said.

Brenk said that, along with the aforementioned grants, the city also secured grant funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for improvements to West Lake Drive and Randolph Road, and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the Detroit Lakes Fire Department to replace its aging Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus gear.

All in all, over $28 million in grant dollars were secured for the city in 2017, Brenk noted.

Though the city's property tax levy for 2018 will see a "modest increase" of just over 6 percent, he added, "the continued strong expansion to our overall tax base" over the past year means that "most homeowners who did not receive an increase in their assessed (property) value will actually see a decrease in their city tax bill."

Brenk said that the Detroit Lakes Development Authority, Planning Commission and Community Development Commission had a busy year in 2017, with a continued emphasis on housing development resulting in building permits of just under $29 million issued for the year. "In conclusion, I think we can all agree that overall, 2017 was another exciting and productive year in Detroit Lakes," Brenk said. "We remain financially strong, we are relatively diverse and prosperous in our various business segments, we have good planning and solid leadership that continues to be supported by our citizens and finally, we enjoy a quality of life that is the envy of many cities in the state... I look forward to a great 2018 as we make Detroit Lakes an even better place to live, to work and to visit."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

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