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Study says Detroit Mt. idea 'feasible'

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On Tuesday, the much-anticipated feasibility study for the development of Detroit Mountain into a four-season recreation area was presented to the Becker County Board of Commissioners.

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"It is a feasible project," said Aaron Lauinger, who made the presentation on behalf of the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, the non-profit organization charged with doing the study.

Following the presentation, the commissioners took another tentative step toward the county becoming a partner in the project.

By a 4-1 vote -- Commissioner Larry Knutson being the lone dissenter -- the board passed a resolution empowering the county finance committee and economic development coordinator to begin exploring financing options for acquisition of the site.

Included in the resolution from Commissioner Barry Nelson (seconded by Commissioner Harry Salminen) was a charge to approach the owners of the property and see what the actual asking price might be.

"Nobody's ever seriously negotiated with the owners over what it (Detroit Mountain) could actually be purchased for," pointed out Charlie Ramstad, a member of the group making the presentation.

"Good point," Salminen responded.

The price listed for the property by Jack Chivers Realty is $1.2 million.

"I think the project has merit, but the dollar amount is pretty steep," Nelson said, noting that it was "a stumbling block" that would need to be looked into further.

"We don't expect you to fork out $1.2 million today," noted DMRA member Bob Bristlin, who has been an outspoken advocate of the project.

What the DMRA was looking for, however, was some sort of commitment from the board, stating its willingness to at least explore the possibilities of a public-private partnership -- i.e., public ownership and private operation.

And that, the commissioners were willing to give -- although, as Commissioner Nelson pointed out, they were not authorizing the finance committee to actually make an offer on the property.

"It gives the finance committee the latitude to explore our options," clarified Board Chair John Bellefeuille.

The feasibility study

The 47-page study, prepared by board members of the non-profit Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Inc., included a recommendation for a public-private partnership as the best way to operate the proposed site.

"It is clear that the use of some form of Public Private Partnership is both a necessary requirement for the development of the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area and the optimal arrangement for its future success," the study states.

It also includes an estimated startup cost of $380,000 for bringing the ski area back up to date. Prepared by Paul Nordland, general manager of Eagle Ridge Resort in Lutsen, Minn., the cost estimate included skiing and snowboarding equipment, tow ropes, safety signage and fencing, site development, etc.

A complete copy of the study is available at the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area's website, www.detroitmountain.com.

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