The Brainerd City Council on Monday started the ball rolling for a study on the possible merger of Brainerd and Baxter.
The council passed a motion to ask Baxter to participate in the study. If one of the cities doesn't cooperate, there can be no study, said Dan Vogt, Brainerd city administrator.
What do you think?
Do you favor a merger between the cities of Brainerd and Baxter?
To vote online, go to The Dispatch Web site at http://www.brainerddispatch.com and scroll to the bottom right side of the home page to "My 2 Cents."
To vote by phone, call The Dispatch Extra Access line at 829-2900, or 800-547-2909. To vote in favor of the merger press the four-digit code -- 4477. To vote against the merger, press code 5588.
Results will be tabulated Friday.
The Brainerd council agreed there are still too many questions surrounding a merger, and hopes were that a study would help clear them up.
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said that eventually the two cities will need to consider a merger, and now was as good as any time to start.
"To me it's one community. It would be a benefit to everyone," Wallin said. "Maybe not right away, but in years to come."
Council member Jim Dehen said the need to proceed with a merger study is to get information, something that is lacking on the issue.
"It would be a little remiss to ask the public to vote (on a merger) without information," he said, adding the council can't answer any merger questions from the public because the council doesn't have the answers. "In a formal, organized way, with someone who knows how to do it (professionally), we need someone to put together the answers and bring them back to the community."
The Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce has met with both cities and has put its support behind a study. Lisa Paxton, chamber executive director, said if nothing else a study would help the cities work together.
"All we are asking is that you (the council) should take that first step," she said. "It's simply a study to analyze the resources of both communities, to get both communities involved."
Some citizens of the cities say the two towns are ready to join together. "It would be good for the communities," said Brainerd resident Loren Fritze, who was at the Westgate Mall, which happens to be located in both Brainerd and Baxter. "It's (the communities) already meshed, so I don't see what the difference would be. It would be a benefit for everybody."
Jodie Olin, owner of Christmas Point Wild Rice Co. stores in both Baxter and Brainerd, as well as Nisswa, said she doesn't think a merger would have much of an effect on her business. Speaking at her Baxter store, but as a resident of Brainerd, she said she would still like to see the cities join.
"I just think it would make for a more unified community, to get everyone on the same wavelength," Olin said in reference to the competition between the two cities. "We should all be on the same page."
"I really don't see that it's ever going to happen," Joan Novak, Baxter, said of a merger. She attended Baxter's city council meeting Monday. "Baxter started out so small and they're proud of what they've done and they want to keep it that way."
"It has some advantages and disadvantages," added Arlie Matthys, Baxter, who also attended the Baxter meeting. "I'd have to think about it."
(Staff Writer Jodie Tweed contributed to this story.)
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