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Unhappy with Highland Drive, township turns to county for help

Detroit Township has turned to Becker County for help upgrading Highland Drive, which serves as a connection between Highway 10 and Highway 34 on the east edge of Detroit Lakes. But Becker County isn’t eager to take over the road.

Highland Drive also connects to the Detroit Lakes industrial park via Eighth Street, and serves as a feeder route for truck traffic.

At a recent Becker County Board meeting, Detroit Township Board Chairman Gene Pavelko asked the board to consider turning Highland Drive into a county road.

“It’s a 5-ton road being used now as a 10-day road, basically,” he said. “It’s quite challenging to keep it up, it’s in need of work, but it’s a 10-ton road, just because of where it is ... to turn it into a 10-ton road is probably over $1 million — the township certainly can’t afford to do that — it’s very difficult for us, with a $350,000 budget, and that’s to take care of all our roads.”

The roadway is narrow, and long-term is probably going to need a major overhaul, he said.

Commissioner John Okeson suggested a sit-down meeting with the city, township and county to discuss Highland Drive. It would make sense to do any sewer and water improvements at the same time as the road upgrade, “because in the future, DL will annex that property, tear up the road and put their infrastructure right down the middle,” he said.

“What are the odds that area won’t be annexed in the future? Not much,” added Commissioner Larry Knutson.

The city can’t annex it now without the support of residents, and “people on the east side don’t want to be in the city,” Pavelko said.

There is bad blood there in part because the city annexed a residence in the area “without even telling them,” Pavelko said. “They had just built a big fence for their horses,” and now find themselves living within city limits, he said.

“We told (Detroit Lakes City Administrator) Kelcey Klemm that wasn’t cool. It was legal, but not cool. It doesn’t make for good neighbors.”

To meet a March 1 application deadline, the county board approved a $1 million grant request for Highland Drive on Tuesday.

The roadway has “significant deterioration and needs to be improved to a 10 ton roadway due to increasing traffic volumes and loadings,” according to the resolution approved by the board.

It supports a $1 million MnDOT Local Road Improvement Program grant application by the City of Detroit Lakes and Detroit Township for improvements to Highland Drive.

Even if the grant is awarded, local governments will still need to accept it. There is a big local share of the cost, estimated at perhaps $3 million.

“The township can’t pay $1 million, it’s not feasible,” said Becker County Commissioner Don Skarie. “There’s not another 10-ton township road in the county, that I know of,” he said.

Commissioner Ben Grimsley noted that there are several development projects impacting Highland Drive, and with the ongoing growth in that area, the city should be looking at annexation.