The City of Detroit Lakes had a lot to be positive about in 2019, according to Mayor Matt Brenk.

The mayor delivered his annual State of the City address Tuesday night, Jan. 14, at the first regular council meeting of 2020.

"We continue to be financially strong and stable," Brenk said. "Good leadership and planning continue to be the hallmark of this city, providing us all with a good quality of life and a bright future."

Brenk noted that 2019 was very good to the city overall, referencing several key development projects in both the public and private sector that were either started or completed during the course of the year.

"Phase One and most of Phase Two of the new $20 million runway and taxiway project at the Detroit Lakes Becker County Airport was completed in 2019," Brenk said. "Phase Three of the project was also begun this past fall, with the entire project scheduled to be completed in May and June of this year."

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When complete, the airport project will expand the main runway to 5,200 feet, including a parallel taxiway that will follow the entire length of the runway. This will allow larger aircraft to use the facility, thus enhancing transportation options for both local and regional businesses.

Brenk also talked about the city's new $35 million wastewater treatment facility, which as Public Utilities General Manager Vernell Roberts also reported at Tuesday's meeting, is now roughly 82% complete, with the remainder set to be finished this spring.

The mayor said that the facility is "the largest single municipal project ever funded in the City of Detroit Lakes," necessitated by the fact that the state had imposed "some of the most stringent wastewater discharge standards in Minnesota."

"With the startup of the Membrane Biological Reactor in September, all indications are that we will meet or exceed those standards," Brenk said.

Matt Brenk
Matt Brenk

Another major project that was fully completed in 2019 was the new $6.2 million Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, a 30,000 square foot facility that resulted from a partnership between the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

"The city owns the land, the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes operates the facility, and the charitable giving of private donors made the project a reality," Brenk said. "Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area can be proud of the local stewardship that once again has built a significantly important community facility."

Building permits top $35 million

Private sector highlights of 2019 included the fact that city building permits topped $35 million — "the second highest total in the past 10 years," said Brenk — and several multi-family housing projects were either completed or began construction, including Norby Flats, Apex Townhomes and Midtown Development, and the $12 million assisted living and senior housing project Pelican Landing was also finished.

"Over 200 new homes have been constructed in Detroit Lakes in the past five years," said Brenk, and permits for 35 new single-family housing units were issued in 2019.

The mayor also noted that Detroit Lakes remained financially sound from a government standpoint — "and has done so in spite of the drastic reductions in Local Government Aid over the past 19 years."

While the council approved a modest tax levy increase of 4.5% for the coming year, Brenk said that due to the continued strong expansion of the city's tax base, taxpayers whose homes' assessed value did not increase should actually expect to see their tax bill decrease in 2020.

Lakes Liquor had strong year

Brenk also highlighted the fact that Lakes Liquors, the Detroit Lakes municipal liquor store, had gross receipts totaling $7.3 million in 2019, making it the eighth highest-grossing municipal liquor store in Minnesota.

"With healthy net profits from operations, this year's transfer (of revenue) to the General Fund from the liquor store is scheduled to be $561,000," said Brenk, adding that the city's finance department projects profits from the city's food and beverage tax to be approximately $500,000 for 2019.

"While not a direct transfer, the (food and beverage) tax provides an ongoing resource for stewardship to our area lakes, for parking and trail improvements and for continued re-development of our business corridor sectors," he added.

The city's public utility will also see a revenue transfer of about $605,000 into the general fund, as a payment in lieu of taxes.

"To put these funds into perspective, assuming these revenue funds did not exist in the city this past year, Detroit Lakes would have had to increase property taxes by over 30% to maintain and fund the status quo," Brenk said.

"This past fall, collections began on the new local sales tax, which will provide the funding for a new police department facility," he continued. "Initial collections are far exceeding the original projected income. Assuming this trend continues, the facility could potentially be paid off in less than six years."

Coming in 2020

Brenk also looked forward to a few projects slated for 2020 and beyond, including:

  • A joint project with Becker County to reconstruct the portion of South Washington Avenue between Willow Street and North Shore Drive, set to begin this summer.
  • Reconstruction of West Lake Drive from Legion Road to County 6, another joint project with Becker County that also tentatively planned to begin this summer.

  • Expansion of the trails at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, along with improved parking lot and playground facilities, all slated for completion this year.
  • Construction of a new $6.4 million Becker County Museum, to which the city has pledged a $450,000 commitment. Construction of this facility is tentatively set to begin this fall.
  • A new Public Works building for the city, to be located on North Tower Road, which is tentatively slated to begin construction in 2021.

"2019 was another exciting and productive year in Detroit Lakes and I want to thank our citizens, businesses and industries for all you do for Detroit Lakes," said Brenk, adding his thanks to his fellow council members as well as city advisory board, committee and commission members and city employees.

"It's an honor to work with you and for you," he said. "I look forward to a great 2020 as we make Detroit Lakes a better place to live, to work and to visit.