Though brief, a new step began Monday in the annexation dispute between Baxter and Brainerd.
Minnesota Planning opened its record on the contested annexation cases between the two cities.
Christine Scotillo, executive director of Municipal Boundary Adjustments for Minnesota Planning, read both Brainerd's and Baxter's contested resolution documents into the record and asked the parties involved to identify themselves.
The hearing was continued to an indefinite date to allow Brainerd and Baxter officials to proceed with meetings to work on a possible annexation boundary compromise.
There was no evidence or testimony taken at Monday's meeting.
At issue are 1,835 acres Brainerd passed a resolution to annex and 560 acres Baxter passed a resolution to annex. Both parcels are in Unorganized Territory and Baxter's resolution is located within Brainerd's resolution. They were both sent to Minnesota Planning in May.
If Baxter and Brainerd can't come to an agreement by July 14, Dean Barkley, director of Minnesota Planning, will decide the future of the hearings. Any number of options could be made by Barkley concerning who will preside over the hearings. Both cases will be heard together, though separate decisions will be made for both.
Once the hearings begin Minnesota statute mandates they be completed with one year. The actual time the hearings might take is anyone's guess.
"Every case is unique," Scotillo said. "A study done ... a few years ago showed a seven- to nine-month average from the date of the first meeting."
Minnesota Planning's meeting in Brainerd -- in the Crow Wing County Service Building -- was attended by officials from both cities, as well as a representative from Crow Wing County and residents from Unorganized Territory.
Some residents of Unorganized Territory attending the meeting were worried about what representation, if any, they would have at possible contested case hearings.
Crow Wing County, which would normally represent Unorganized Territory because it lacks a township board, won't be representing the residents in the annexation cases because the Minnesota Attorney General has ruled that Crow Wing County doesn't have the authority.
"The statute states it has to be a township," said Terry Sluss, Crow Wing County board chair. "The county board can do financial stuff, and other things like provide the sheriff, but the statute exempts the county from representing the resident. Only a township can represent the residents."
"We've got the states and the cities but we haven't got the residents represented any longer," said Unorganized Territory resident Terry Johnson. Scotillo said concerned residents could choose a spokesperson from Unorganized Territory.
No date has been set for Brainerd's and Baxter's next meeting.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.