BAXTER -- Baxter City Council members appear to be leaning toward the pursuit of a local sales tax.
And one possibility they discussed Tuesday was the creation of a local sales tax district that could include Brainerd, Baxter and Nisswa.
Baxter council members still plan to gather input about a possible local option sales tax from Baxter residents at the city's annual town hall meeting March 8 at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter.
The council also will discuss with residents at the March 8 town meeting how they plan to re-address the entire city over the next 2-3 years in order to upgrade to Crow Wing County's E-911 grid system. All residents would receive new E-911 addresses with blue address signs posted at the end of their driveways and roads with similar names would be renamed at a cost of $75,621 for the entire project.
At Tuesday's council meeting, Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen said he met with Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd, and Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, two weeks ago to discuss the possibility of a local option sales tax in Baxter.
The city of Baxter is considering a 1/2 percent local sales tax that is estimated to generate more than $1 million for the city.
Muehlhausen said he would like to see Baxter's "sister city," meaning Brainerd, join Baxter in pursuing a local sales tax. He said he hadn't had an opportunity to discuss the issue with Brainerd officials yet. One possibility he and the local legislators talked about was the creation of a local option sales tax district, including Brainerd, Baxter and Nisswa.
The city council has to enact a resolution to the Legislature to explain what the city would use the additional sales tax funds for. The council decided Tuesday to talk about the possible city uses for the additional revenue at a 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 council workshop.
In most cases, a local option sales tax bill presented before the Legislature would require voter approval through a referendum.
However, Jeremy Vacinek, assistant Baxter finance officer, told the council the city's proposed bill could be done without a referendum. This would allow the city to enact the local sales tax within the current legislative session.
"I think the community needs to vote on it, but we need to get off the dime and do something about it," said Mark Cross, a council member.
In other discussion Tuesday, the council heard from Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss about the importance of upgrading the city's addressing to a similar E-911 grid the county has already adopted. Sluss said roadways in Baxter are confusing and make it difficult for emergency personnel to locate homes in a timely manner.
Sluss said he lives on Timberlane Drive in Baxter, which is also known, according to varying signs posted on the roadway, as Timber Lane, Timber Lane Drive North and Timber Lane Drive South.
The cost of re-addressing the city would be $75,621, which includes the blue signs, posts and installation of the signs. The project would also need a project coordinator.
City Planner Todd Holman said a tentative schedule for re-addressing would be that this year the city would gather data. In 2004 the city would install the signs and all residents would need to use their new addresses by 2005.
This issue will also be discussed at the March 8 town meeting.
"One life saved is worth all the cost you're talking about," said Sluss.
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