Detroit Lakes City Council approves assessments for tree abatement, curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs

Members of the Detroit Lakes City Council held a public hearing and approved the assessment rolls for the city's 2022 tree abatements and curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs during their meeting on Nov. 7.

Flagging of leaves on a tree infected with Dutch elm disease.
M. Grabowski / UMN Extension
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DETROIT LAKES — Members of the Detroit Lakes City Council approved the assessment rolls for the city's 2022 tree abatement and curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs during their meeting on Nov. 7.

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Shawn King, public works director for Detroit Lakes.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Dozens of property owners will need to make their first payments to the city by Jan. 2, 2023. The assessable costs to each property range from about $300 to $4,894. Shawn King, public works director for Detroit Lakes, said the affected property owners were all notified over the last six months about the tree abatement or repairs and the assessments shouldn't come as a surprise.

"The assessment roll are the ones that called us to have our contractor take (the dead or diseased trees) down, or they just never responded to us, so we just take them down and bill it against the property," said King.

The annual city tree abatement is focused on eliminating diseased trees from the city limits because they could infect nearby trees and are more likely to cause utility and property damage during severe weather, due to their weakened state, he added.

"We go around every spring and we inspect (the trees) and, of course, you can tell the ones that are dead or diseased," said King. "(Dead or diseased trees) could come down on power lines, they could come down on cars, they could actually block a street until we get out there and get it cleared."


According to the University of Minnesota Extension website , Dutch elm disease is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen that can affect all native elm tree species in Minnesota and is spread from tree to tree by feeding bark beetles. The fungus can also spread to neighboring trees through root grafts when their underground roots become intertwined due to their close proximity. Dutch elm disease, if caught early enough, can be pruned out and the tree can undergo fungicide injections to prevent bark beetle infection.

Some symptoms of the Dutch elm disease are:

  • Leaves on one or more branches in the outer crown of the tree turn yellow, wilt and then turn brown.
  • Fallen leaves are strewn over the lawn in spring or summer.
  • Yellowing and wilting of leaves progresses down the infected branch toward the trunk of the tree.
  • If the bark is removed, brown streaking can be seen along the sapwood of wilted branches.

Curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs are important because streets and thoroughfares need to maintain their designed flows of stormwater runoff to eliminate pooling, King said. Pooling that occurs on top of concrete cracks and other surface defects can damage roads and sidewalks if they are not repaired before going through a freeze-and-thaw cycle. This can cause pooled water to freeze, expand, and then thaw, leaving a large air pocket in its wake, which can turn into potholes or other defects.

"The biggest thing is that you want to keep that water out of that sub-basin because once the sub-basin becomes saturated and goes through a freeze-and-thaw cycle, it'll actually screw up the road also," said King.

The repairs were completed throughout the summer and the assessment roll approval by the city council is the final step in the 2022 curb, gutter and sidewalk repair process.

Assessment payments may be made by property owners in five equal installments over five years with an annual interest rate of 5%.

In total, the city of Detroit Lakes assessed property owners $14,152 for the 2022 tree abatement and $47,863 for their annual curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs. The city is also paying $42,415 to cover its portion of the assessment costs.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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