Detroit Lakes Is Building: Detroit Lakes Mayor Brenk Gives State of City Address

Detroit Lakes Is Building: Detroit Lakes Mayor Brenk Gives State of City Address Click to Enlarge

DETROIT LAKES, MN--"Another very good year in the City of Detroit Lakes" words Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk began his State of the City Address with at Tuesday night's city council meeting...

Brenk highlighted civic projects, finance and the private sector projects from 2019:

"To the City Council, City Staff and to the Citizens of Detroit Lakes Minnesota, it is an honor to deliver this evening, the annual State of the City Address for the year 2019.

Overall 2019 was certainly another very good year in the City of Detroit Lakes with several significant City projects as well as continuing development, expansion and growth in our private sector and in new housing units. We continue to be financially strong and stable. 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.

Tonight, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly review and highlight some of the things that have happened this past year and some of the plans for 2020 and beyond.

Some notable civic projects:

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. 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. This project expands the runway’ to 5,200’ including a parallel taxiway allowing larger aircraft to utilize the facility and enhancing opportunities for our City and regional businesses.

Construction continued in 2019 for our new state of the art Wastewater Treatment Facility, the largest single municipal project ever funded in the City of Detroit Lakes at almost $35 million dollars. As of November, the project is approximately 82% completed with final completion scheduled for this spring. Detroit Lakes is under 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.

The Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes completed construction and opened their doors on their new 30,000 square foot facility this past year. This $6.2 million project is a public/private/non-profit venture as 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. Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area can be proud of the local stewardship that once again has built a significantly important community facility.

In the private sector:

Detroit Lakes had another solid year in 2019 both in terms of private development and in housing development. Building permits topped $35 million this past year, the second highest total in the past ten years and included 35 new single-family housing units. Over 200 new homes have been constructed in Detroit Lakes in the past five years.

Multi-family projects completed or currently under construction include: The Norby’s Flats, a $2.7 million project which includes 10,000 square feet of retail space and 13 housing units on the second floor, Apex Townhomes, a 30 unit affordable townhome development, Pelican Landing, a $12 million project providing 76 assisted living units and Midtown Development, a $6 million project on South Washington Avenue creating 11,000 square feet of service and retail space and 30 living units on the top three floors.


We can all be proud that Detroit Lakes continues to remain fiscally sound – and has done so in-spite of the drastic reductions in Local Government Aid over the past 19 years.

Our Finance Department again received the Government Finance Officers Association “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” which we have received annually for over 20 years. In addition, our credit rating remains excellent and our City’s auditing firm issued a clean audit with no

findings in 2019.

In December, the City Council approved the final 2020 budget and levy. While the Council did approve a modest increase in the levy of 4.5%, because of the continual strong expansion of our City’s tax base, taxpayers who did not receive an increase in their assessed value, will see their City tax bill decrease from the previous year.

Detroit Lakes continues to enjoy one of the lowest tax rates in the region including cities like Fergus Falls, East Grand Forks, Bemidji, Thief River Falls and others. And statewide, our City tax rate is significantly lower than the average City rate for all greater Minnesota cities with populations between 5,000 and 10,000.

Providing property tax relief, flexibility in funding growth and providing enhancements to our quality of life, Detroit Lakes also enjoys prosperous enterprise revenues.

Our Municipal Liquor Store had gross receipts topping $7.3 million in 2019, making our operation the 8th highest grossing municipal liquor store in Minnesota. With healthy net profits from operations, transfer to the General Fund from the Liquor Store is scheduled to be $561,000.00.

Our Finance Department also projects that final receipts from the City’s Food & Beverage tax will be approximately $500,000.00 for 2019, another new high since the inception of the tax. While not a direct transfer, the 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.

Finally, transfer to the General Fund from the City Electric Utility as a payment in lieu of taxes will be $605,000.00 in 2020.

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.

This past fall collections began on the new local sales tax which will provide the funding for a new police department facility. Initial collections are far exceeding the original projected income. Assuming this trend continues, the facility could potentially be paid off in less than 6 years.

The City’s Departments, the Public Utility, the various advisory Boards & Commissions and the City Council committees continued to work with the City Council this past year to enhance the public good and the quality of life here in Detroit Lakes.

I urge the City Council and interested citizens to review the various year-end reports from our City departments copies of which can be obtained from City Hall.

Here are just a few of the highlights from our various departments this past year:

The Planning Commission, the Development Authority and the Community Development Committee had a busy 2019 dealing with numerous activities.

The Planning Commission and the Community Development Committee reviewed 4 re-zoning requests, 14 conditional use permits, 9 variances, 7 subdivisions, 2 non-conforming use permits, 6 annexations along with numerous City Code Amendment reviews. Of the 14 condition use permit applications, 11 of those reflected the changes to our Zoning Ordinance allowing short term rental by conditional use. And after three years of effort, a new Shoreland Ordinance was adopted by the City Council and approved by the DNR.

The Detroit Lakes Development Authority also conducted numerous activities in 2019 and continues to assist Detroit Lakes in making strong gains in economic development and housing growth. The Development Authority and the City Council continue to emphasize housing as a key element in the growth and economic expansion of the City. A Housing Study commissioned several years ago by the Housing Authority and the Development Authority, and updated in 2018, has spurred development of over 313 multi-family living units in the City over the past 6 years.

Our City's entirely volunteer Fire Department continues to provide professional fire protection services to the City of Detroit Lakes and to the surrounding townships of Detroit, Lakeview and Erie. Our department currently stands at 23 firefighters and looks to establish a full roster of 30 firefighters this coming year. In 2019, the Fire Department responded to 259 calls for service along with engaging in 2,000 hours of training and other community activities.

The City Police Department with 17 sworn officers, also saw another busy year in 2019 responding to 13,565 calls for service, an increase of 1,428 calls over the previous year. The Department continued to engage in extensive training this past year including First Aid, CPR, opioid overdose, Critical Incident Stress Management and other training activities including new equipment and technologies – all of which are designed to bring the department into the best tactical readiness possible.

The Public Works Department with 20 full time and 18 part time employees kept the City and the numerous facilities it oversees looking great this past year. One area in which we can all be proud of is the fact that Detroit Lakes has 320 acres of park land and each year, we continue to add and expand our multi-use trail system. A new park is planned to begin this year in Quadrant #4 which is the South Shore Drive area of the City. The new park will include bathrooms, trails, parking and other park amenities to be developed by the Park Board. The North Tower Road trail was expanded this past year increasing our internal trail route to over 21 miles. Construction has begun on the Heartland Trail between Detroit Lakes and Frazee with more work scheduled for this summer.

In terms of water quality stewardship, this past year, our Public Works Department completed 5,600 miles of street sweeping removing 3,496 yards of debris and pollutants and maintains over 100 storm water treatment ponds in the City - together preventing harmful pollutants from entering our lakes and waterways. The City Council adopted the Green Steps City Program in August of last year. Implementation of this program will provide more and better stewardship to our land and water ways and increase energy efficiency along with numerous other benefits.

Several large road reconstruction projects were substantially completed last year. These include the entire length of West Avenue, Willow Street from Washington Avenue to Jackson Avenue and Randolph Road from Kris Street to County Road 54. Final asphalt paving and landscaping will be completed this spring.

As previously mentioned, the big news in our City’s Public Utility is the almost completed new Wastewater Treatment Facility. In October the City and the Public Utility hosted a visit to the facility by Governor Tim Walz, MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop and Office of Management and Budget Commissioner, Myron Frans. All were very complimentary as we showcased the facility and outlined the exceptional water quality that it will produce. They also assured us that we can look forward to our facility becoming a template for other facilities constructed in Minnesota in the future. In addition to this major project, the Utility had a busy and productive year in 2019. Of note in the Water Department, the Utility began working with engineers on a master water plan that will review the status of our water system and elevated storage.

The Utility was busy also on the electrical side with relocation of infrastructure to facilitate expansion of the airport, completion of underground electrical in the North Long Lake annexation area, parking lot lighting and new electrical for the Boys and Girls Club facility along with numerous other infrastructure projects and business expansions. Utility staff have also been busy preparing for the new automated Meter Reading System that will start this year.

As I conclude this evening, here are some things that we can look forward to in 2020 and beyond:

The City Council has been budgeting for several years to construct a very much needed new Public Works facility to be located on North Tower Road. This project is tentatively scheduled for 2021.

In a joint application with Becker County, Washington Avenue from Willow Street to North Shore Drive will be reconstructed. This project will mirror the improvements to Washington Avenue to the north as part of the Business Corridors Redevelopment Plan with construction this summer.

The City Council approved a $450,000 commitment to the new proposed Becker County Museum. Fund raising and legislative fund requests are ongoing. The facility is planned to be built with a connection to the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is expanding with new trails, parking lot improvements and playground facilities all slated for completion this spring.

Reconstruction of West Lake Drive from Legion Road to County 6 is planned for this summer. This is a joint project with the City of Detroit Lakes and Becker County. This project is vitally important as it will help prevent untreated storm water from entering Detroit Lake and eliminate the tremendously dangerous situation for pedestrians and bicyclists along this corridor.

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.

Thank you to our advisory boards & commissions working behind the scenes and helping the City Council to make vital decisions for the City’s future.

To all Detroit Lakes City employees, thank you for all your good work this past year. You are the professionals that keep our City functioning efficiently, and who not only serve our citizens but equally important, make our City appealing to our visitors.

And finally, to the City Council and Vice Mayor Zeman. Thank you from all the citizens of Detroit Lakes for your service, leadership and accomplishments in 2019.

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

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