Presidents sometimes use Camp David to hammer out peace agreements.
Brainerd and Baxter officials headed north Wednesday night to their own version of Camp David, the Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center, to attempt to bring an end to the annexation dispute between both cities.
Armed with maps and a 12-pack of soda, city officials and staff members sat down together and peaceably discussed why each city felt it could best serve the area north of both cities along the Highway 371 corridor in Unorganized Territory.
In the end, both sides did not come to an agreement but decided to bring issues brought up at the meeting back to each of their councils next week. Then another joint meeting will be held.
Those attending the meeting included Brainerd Mayor James Wallin, Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen, Brainerd City Council members Gary Scheeler and Lucy Nesheim, Baxter City Council member Craig MacDonald, Brainerd City Administrator Dan Vogt, Baxter City Administrator Larry Kruse, Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether and Baxter City Planner Todd Holman.
"First of all, I want to thank you guys for coming tonight," began Nesheim, who serves as Brainerd council president. "This is city business. There will be nothing personal here."
Baxter officials explained they built the city's year-old water tower on Woida Road in order to serve development north of Baxter as it occurs. Baxter's future plans include bringing a water line north on Danielson Road to serve as a 371 backage road once that area becomes developed, said Holman. That way both sides of the roadway would benefit and share assessment costs.
Scheeler questioned why Baxter needs more land since 8 percent of the city is developed while Brainerd is 99.5 percent developed. Oak Lawn Township, said Scheeler, is considering becoming an incorporated city, which would not allow Brainerd to expand to the east.
"(Brainerd) has to grow," said Scheeler. "We don't have the luxury that you have with undeveloped areas. There's got to be some give and take here. We have got to serve Brainerd, too. We've got Oak Lawn (Township) down our throats to the east and we're losing out on some new growth."
MacDonald said Baxter contains a large amount of wetlands area that can't be developed. Holman said that on June 12, Minnesota Planning will look at 14 factors in deciding which sections of land should be annexed into either city or remain in Unorganized Territory. Baxter was prepared to present those 14 factors to the state, he said.
Scheeler said Brainerd City Council members will vote Monday whether to extend the East Gull Lake sewer line through Baxter or farther north on Beaver Dam Road to County Road 77. It will cost $600,000 more to exclude Baxter, said Scheeler, but that's something Brainerd is willing to do.
"We're already there," said MacDonald. "This area is better serviced by Baxter. You'd be placing a major burden on taxpayers."
"It's nice to look at the lowest cost, but you also have to look at the biggest benefit to the city," said Nesheim.
"I don't understand," said MacDonald. "You're not doing justice to your taxpayers. If you don't like what we say, what, you're going to pick up your sewer line and go home?"
Scheeler said there was no benefit for Brainerd to go through Baxter with the East Gull Lake sewer line.
"Having a force main through a wetlands doesn't service anyone," added Kruse.
Scheeler drew a line on the map of the contested annexation area west of the Northland Arboretum, asking Baxter officials whether that was a good place to start releasing the land east of that line in this annexation dispute. Muehlhausen agreed that a portion of the arboretum should be in Brainerd.
Scheeler said other members of the Brainerd council may not agree, but he said he and Nesheim would be willing to set the boundary along Danielson Road with Brainerd taking land east of that roadway while Baxter could keep the 371 corridor. The Tank property, he said, would then be included in Baxter, although portions of the property are located on the east side of Danielson Road.
"Does it make sense for your police department to drive through Baxter to serve that island?" asked Kruse. "Does that make sense? It's just not practical."
Scheeler said Brainerd would then request a sewer interconnection from Baxter. After all, he said, Brainerd has done the same favor for Baxter.
"You're ending up with the tax base and we'd be getting the swamp," Scheeler said of his proposed boundary line.
"Why do you want the swamp?" asked Muehlhausen.
"Well, why do you want the swamp?" responded Scheeler and Nesheim in unison.
"What the heck do you want that swamp for?" added Muehlhausen with a laugh. "Is there oil under there? Are you thinking of starting a mosquito farm?"
Scheeler said if this boundary dispute isn't reached soon, Marv Prochaska of Menards told him the company will pull out of its plans to build on the Tank property in July.
Scheeler said today he believed the meeting went well Wednesday, despite the tension felt during the start of the meeting. Both cities will discuss those issues at Monday's and Tuesday's council meetings.
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