Time to clear the air ... about the Brainerd-Baxter merger possibilities:
First, maybe it should be Baxter that aggressively seeks the merger with Brainerd and not the other way around.
Second, two city governments that constantly compete against each other only make them stronger and offer more to the people they represent. Take for example the idea of only one business in town for people to shop. They are not offered comparable pricing and are forced to accept whatever kind of service that is given to them (good or bad). Competition is not always a bad thing because the savings created by competition far exceed the "overlapping" or "duplicating" of government. Governing bodies should have to compete for growth, housing and business and should be broken down into many sections in order to work; otherwise, dictatorship would take over.
Third, most residents take pride in their community and what they have accomplished. "Merging" tends to make people feel as if they have lost their identity.
Fourth, I question the idea of a merger between the two cities for the following reasons:
1. Brainerd has the only sewer plant that can serve itself and has the capacity and capability of contracting out to surrounding communities. Some of Brainerd's neighboring communities are already nearing their contracted allotment. (The East Gull Lake sewer project could also be routed down Beaver Dam Road to avoid any interference with the city of Baxter.)
2. Brainerd's water supply produces far more than what is actually needed and is running at or around half of its capacity. Brainerd sells water to Baxter on an as-needed basis.
3. Brainerd's Fire Department, and Dial-A-Ride serves not only Brainerd, but the surrounding communities.
4. Brainerd's City Hall contracts out its city building inspectors to Baxter.
5. Brainerd is home to the airport which serves a vast majority of Mid-Minnesota. Brainerd owns half of the land, joint with the county.
6. Brainerd offers hospitals, of every type, serving central Minnesota.
7. Brainerd's schools also serve a large part of central Minnesota.
8. The East-West Highway 210 strip can match any surrounding strip (mile for mile) and will only continue to grow. (Out to airport -- soon!)
9. Brainerd's "Downtown" area continues to grow and get better and better every passing day and is home to the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center.
10. It is not difficult to see that Brainerd is on the move toward growth with signed petitions and annexation occurring at every council meeting. There are over 700 acres of petitioned land between Beaver Dam Road (West of Highway 371 and South of Wise Road). There are over 400 acres of land petitioned going North East to the airport that has just had its second reading heard at the Brainerd City Council meeting. Brainerd has added over 20 acres of land east of the city (by Highway 18 and Highway 25) just one month ago. Brainerd has seen a tremendous increase in land size and continues to serve its community well. Brainerd will likely double in land size within the next few years.
11. Brainerd has no intentions of enforcing a sales tax increase, as some neighboring communities are attempting.
12. The city of Brainerd has a debt which is 50 percent less than that of its neighboring community. In simple terms -- its debt is approximately $5 million dollars less. By year's end, this figure could double.
13. Brainerd will have the lowest sewer rates, water rates and land taxes.
14. Brainerd Power contracts to parts of Baxter.
Should there still be a question as to whether or not the two communities should merge? Ask yourself this question, the metro area is comprised of almost 60 different communities including Hill Top (which is the size of our state hospital) and none of those communities talked of merging. I came from the St. Cloud-Waite Park area and in many ways Brainerd is similar to that of St. Cloud (with its resources) and Baxter to that of Waite Park (without its resources) and yet you still have Sartell and Sauk Rapids that need St. Cloud's resources and yet have never talked of merging.
If merging were such a great thing, then why not just have one county in the state of Minnesota, why not one city within the state, why not one state for the country, and on, and on? Should we still invest $20,000 to have this idea studied any further?
(Gary Scheeler represents Ward 3 on the Brainerd City Council.)
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