A few Brainerd City Council members are upset what they perceive as Baxter's lack of cooperation.
The Brainerd council members voiced their concerns with Baxter on Monday at the council meeting. The Brainerd City Council approved proceeding with a study about future cooperation between the cities.
The council's concerns with Baxter come in light of recent differences in annexation views, most notably Baxter's recent aggressiveness in annexing land.
Council member Gene Goedker had the item amended to the agenda.
To open discussion on the issue he read aloud from a letter he prepared to the council. In it he mentioned the lopsided cooperation between the two cities, noting that Brainerd has supplied Baxter with such things as interconnection to Brainerd's sewage systems, use of wastewater treatment facilities, fire protection and Dial-A-Ride.
Despite all these accommodations, Goedker said Baxter has not returned the hospitality.
"... Brainerd has consistently cooperated with Baxter to accommodate them as much as possible," Goedker read from his letter. "Unfortunately, it has been a one-way street with Brainerd constantly agreeing to their requests."
Specifically, council members were upset with Baxter ignoring two letters sent to them concerning Brainerd's request for a sewage and water interconnection for the proposed Menards sight.
Menards was also an issue of mistrust following a letter that Baxter officials denied sending to the company requesting it sign a petition with Baxter rather than Brainerd. At an emergency meeting of the Baxter City Council Monday morning, Baxter officials acknowledged a letter was sent to Menards.
Baxter took an aggressive stance in annexation last week by asking several other property owners, who had originally petitioned Brainerd for annexation, to switch their petitions to Baxter.
"It's becoming obvious that Baxter officials won't be satisfied until they annex land all the way to the Canadian border," Goedker said.
Goedker recommended, and by a vote of 6-1, the council approved three provisions for Brainerd staff to research. Council member Mark O'Day voted no, stating he felt there was not enough time allowed to study the issue. The provisions were:
-- "That staff be directed to research any and all contracts and agreements between the cities of Brainerd and Baxter to explore our options up to and including cancellation or substantial rewording to clearly make these agreements in the best interests of our taxpayers. Also, in regards to the sewer agreement, to have staff research if Baxter has already over-built its sewer capacity with the number of housing units and structures currently built and not yet served by sewer. When the time comes for renegotiating the agreement, the city of Brainerd must be in control of any and all future connections and extensions.
-- "That staff be directed to cease all discussions on service provisions, including "full service" utility water provider and fire substation construction. Further, that any request for any assistance from the city of Baxter such as building inspection noted earlier must receive specific council approval.
-- "That the agreement for the East Gull Lake sewer line specifically state that the city of Baxter shall not be allowed connection. If that doesn't sound agreeable, than we use the northern route along Country Road 77."
Goedker and council member Jim Dehen were also critical of The Dispatch at Monday's meeting. Goedker said it appeared Baxter owned the media, and that articles in the paper concerning Brainerd and Baxter issues weren't objective.
"Baxter has the spin on everything," Goedker said. "I don't know how (The Dispatch) can be so blind." Dehen added that The Dispatch is letting the Baxter council get away with things that it wouldn't let the Brainerd council get away with, specifically in not challenging Baxter's denial of the letter to Menards after the letter surfaced.
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said he hopes the Baxter City Council will look at Goedker's recommendations and see the need for the two cities to work together.
"We need to work together as one," Wallin said. "What affects one affects the other. I hope these two government bodies can work together."
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