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Highway 371: Proposal has Pequot Lakes taking over roads in April 2018 - Council talks about signs

The Pequot Lakes City Council learned Tuesday, Sept. 5, that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will meet the proposed April 2018 date to turn over 6 miles of roads to the city, and a $4.6 million payment for those roads by July 1, 2018.

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The Pequot Lakes City Council learned Tuesday, Sept. 5, that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will meet the proposed April 2018 date to turn over 6 miles of roads to the city, and a $4.6 million payment for those roads by July 1, 2018.

"MnDOT's going to try as hard as we can to meet that deadline," Kelvin Howieson, of MnDOT, told the council.

The city will take over the roads as part of the Highway 371 expansion project, including Patriot Avenue, or the former two-lane Highway 371 through Pequot Lakes.

The council had sent a letter to MnDOT after learning MnDOT proposed to turn over the roads by Nov. 1, 2018, when the council had anticipated an April 1, 2018, date. A large part of the 2018 budget revolves around costs and staffing to maintain those extra miles of roads.

Howieson said MnDOT will still maintain and plow Patriot Avenue this winter. He did say MnDOT's plowing priority will be the new four-lane highway, and then Patriot Avenue, so he asked that residents and the city be patient.

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Howieson reminded the council that the $4.6 million payment for the city to take over the roads was based on funding that will be needed to rehabilitate Patriot Avenue. Mayor Nancy Adams assured Howieson that the council was aware of that. The council plans to borrow some of the $4.6 million for other projects, but will repay that money so Patriot Avenue can be improved in the future.

Sign policy

The council adopted a policy that allows a sign no greater than 72 inches by 18 inches to display the name of a business and the direction to that business along road right-of-way on Patriot Avenue (the former two-lane Highway 371 through Pequot Lakes). The city needed a directional service sign plan to allow businesses in town to direct traffic to their business.

A maximum of four sign panels will be allowed on a sign structure. Signs will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and businesses will have to pay a permit fee.

Applications are available at Pequot Lakes City Hall and at www.pequotlakes-mn.gov .

Each sign panel will include the business name and a directional arrow.

Billboards

At council member Scott Pederson's suggestion, the council agreed to have the planning and zoning commission craft an amended sign ordinance to allow billboard signage on city-owned property on the four-lane Highway 371 and present it at the November council meeting.

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Council member Mimi Swanson voted no, saying she opposes any billboards on the highway.

Pederson said he just wants to look at details and gather input from residents and businesses regarding such a sign ordinance, noting he isn't for or against it without knowing those details.

"People pay for billboards because they work," he said.

"All this motion does is at least look at the possibility and get to a public hearing to hear what people have to say," Pederson said.

Council member Randy Loukota said he's not a fan of a billboard idea, but wanted to learn more and hear others' thoughts.

"We need something out there," said council member Jerry Akerson, adding the school needs to advertise its activities along the highway.

Adams said the school district does that via Twitter and Facebook.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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