Becker County may be taking its time on plans for a new highway department complex on North Tower Road, but it’s moving forward on buying the land.

The County Board on Tuesday, June 16, agreed to pay Detroit Lakes $187,500 for two city-owned lots next to where the new city public works facility will be built. The purchase agreement between the county and the city was drafted in 2017, said Becker County Highway engineer Jim Olson.

The county board went ahead with the purchase to pave the way for a joint drainage project at the site, Olson said.

The joint site will need stormwater runoff control infrastructure, including a drainage pond, and it will be easier and less expensive to partner with the city on a project that encompasses the whole site, instead of each doing separate water control projects on their own, Olson said.

The county board will decide next month where the county money will come from for the land purchase, and the real estate deal will likely close in August, Commissioner Barry Nelson said.

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The city asked the county to drop a provision requiring an abstract as part of the land purchase, since it would add about $1,000 to the cost. County Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson opposed dropping that requirement, noting that all county land purchases include an abstract. But the county attorney's office did not have any objection to dropping the provision, so the board agreed to leave it out of the amended purchase agreement.

The county is essentially entering into a long-term partnership with the city at the site, and the two are going to have to amicably work out access plans and any other issues that arrive, Nelson said. If the county was entering into the agreement with a private party, then he would be in favor of an abstract, Nelson said.

On the new highway department complex itself, the county is continuing to work out the details, Olson said, but is basically taking a wait-and-see approach for now to see if state highway funding comes through as planned or is cut due to revenue losses from the COVID-19 economic slow-down.

Expecting to pay no more than $8 million for the new highway department building, the board was taken aback in March when cost estimates for two options both came in at about $12 million. The board in March voted 3-2 to go with a single, larger building, rather than two separate buildings, but directed McGough, the county’s construction manager, to find ways to lower the cost to $8 million to $9.5 million. That work and discussion has been ongoing, Olson said in an interview Tuesday.