Invariably, when the concept of merging Brainerd and Baxter is brought up, the first stumbling block people identify is the name of the new entity. "Would they call it Braxter?" is the question that usually pops up.
A merger makes sense in a lot of respects. Many of the tourists who drive through our towns are only vaguely aware that there are two cities. We share common borders, the Mississippi River, the Northland Arboretum, a wastewater treatment plant and even the Westgate Mall. In fact those faithful walkers who do laps around the inside perimeter of the mall traverse back and forth over the Brainerd-Baxter border as they exercise.
Civic pride, which is not a bad quality at all, is at the root of many objections to a possible merger. Citizens of both communities are rightly proud of their communities' histories and identities. Opponents of the merger idea tend to dig their heels in rather quickly when the subject is broached.
Maybe the key to increasing cooperation between the two cities is to forget about a merger for now but to seriously investigate areas where the two cities can share services and avoid unnecessary duplication. Areas that come to mind where cooperation might be initiated or increased are fire and police protection, parks, water management and street maintenance.
Determining the footing of bills for joint projects could be figured out from census estimates. As Baxter's population grows its share of the costs for joint city projects could be adjusted.
The two cities have traditionally been cooperative with periodic joint meetings to discuss important issues. They might reach a point where a merger makes sense.
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