BAXTER -- City, township and county officials throughout the Brainerd lakes area showed up Thursday night at Baxter City Hall to discuss the possible development of a regional wastewater system.
The city of Baxter, which is researching its sewer treatment options, called the meeting to gauge the interest in surrounding communities for a regional wastewater system.
Presenters at Thursday's meeting included representatives from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; James Bullert, an engineer with B.A. Liesch of St. Paul, who specializes in wastewater treatment plant construction; George Orning, planning consultant; and Dan Vogt, Brainerd city administrator.
City and township officials and other interested people who attended the meeting included those from Brainerd, Baxter, East Gull Lake, Lake Shore, Crow Wing County, Crow Wing Township, Brainerd Public Utilities Commission, Madden's Resort, MPCA, Thirty Lakes Watershed District and the Gull River Sportsmen. Baxter City Administrator Larry Kruse served as facilitator.
While city representatives remained mum on how interested they were in a regional wastewater treatment plant, Vogt stressed that Brainerd was interested in working with area communities on whatever decision is reached.
Vogt read through a list of services Brainerd taxpayers are paying for that benefit Baxter and the entire region, including fire protection, wastewater treatment, Dial-A-Ride, Lakes Area Senior Activity Center, Community Action, water, and sewer and water services to the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds.
Vogt said discussion to create a new wastewater treatment plant was like "putting the cart way before the horse."
"I'm just not sure it makes a lot of sense to build another plant to add more into the Mississippi River when we have a plant that is working well," said Vogt.
Highway 371 is the greatest outside force that has propelled the growth the Brainerd lakes area has been experiencing, said Orning. In Crow Wing County, 700-800 new housing units are built each year. Of those, 350 homes are not built in cities; they are constructed throughout the county in townships and Unorganized Territory, Orning said.
"What MnDOT has created is the most accessible commercial spot in central Minnesota," Orning said.
Reed Larson, MPCA regional manager, said he has been approached by many of the people sitting in the room at Thursday's meeting about the creation of a regional wastewater system.
Larson said the MPCA will conduct a series of meetings in July and August to further open discussions about regional collaboration on wastewater treatment options. He said it would take up to five years to plan and construct a treatment plant.
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