BAXTER -- Baxter officials said today that they do not believe that the letter Baxter city attorney John Person sent to Menards last week was an "ultimatum" letter, which is why they denied to The Dispatch last week that such a letter was sent by the city.
Baxter city attorney John Person said today his impression of the letter being asked about Friday was a letter that was bullying or threatening in nature. Person said the letter he sent to Marv Prochaska, vice president of real estate at Menards, was merely informational.
"It didn't seem to be the kind of thing (Brainerd City Council member Gary) Scheeler was talking about," Person said. "It was nothing new."
Person said no one besides Menards was sent a letter. But after discussions over the phone the decision was made to send Prochaska a follow-up letter by fax.
The letter to Prochaska stated in part that "the city is prepared to proceed if necessary to insure that the Tank property and adjacent property is not annexed to the city of Brainerd. As you can see, the only way things can proceed expeditiously, so that you would be able to proceed with development this summer, is by pursuing the annexation by ordinance based on the enclosed petition with the city of Baxter."
Person denies any perceived threat in the letter saying it only provided information that annexing to Baxter by a petition was the only expeditious way to proceed if Menards wanted a store right away.
"If you are in a hurry this is the way it can go," Person said, adding it was not threatening or perceived by Baxter as an ultimatum. "Menards is not somebody who can be threatened."
Person said Menards was simply informed a Baxter annexation petition was the only way the company could go forward this year. And annexation plans for that property have long been part of Baxter's overall plans and include a substantial investment in infrastructure improvements.
"It is not us all of a sudden reaching out and making threats," Person said.
Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen today agreed. The mayor said last week that he would be "disappointed" if such an ultimatum was sent by the city. After reading the letter Monday, he believes it just explained Baxter's position on retaining the Highway 371 corridor as a large portion of its business district as written in the city's comprehensive plan.
"I didn't feel it was an ultimatum letter," said Muehlhausen. "I read it a couple times. I felt it was a follow-up communication from a phone conversation. It's all in how you perceive it. I didn't perceive it that way."
Person noted if the proposed Menards site at the Tank's Deerland property on Highway 371 North would have continued a petition to Brainerd annexation, Baxter would have asked Minnesota Planning to come in.
"You have to abut," Person said of annexation petitions that need to be next to a city. "Brainerd is a long ways away from this property and we border it."
Why wouldn't Baxter ask Minnesota Planning to take a look at what made sense in annexation if Brainerd petitions were involved, Person asked.
Person said it seems as if The Dispatch is "throwing sand" in a situation that has passed. The leadership seems to agree from both cities to use Minnesota Planning and look at the annexation issues from a positive perspective, Person said.
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