BAXTER -- Baxter voters will decide for themselves whether they want to spend money to study if the city should merge with Brainerd.
Baxter City Council members Tuesday night authorized that three questions be placed on the ballot for voters to decide during the general elections on Nov. 7. The move is contingent on whether the city is able to do this. City Attorney John Person is studying the issue.
Those three questions will ask Baxter voters:
-- Should Baxter participate in a merger study with Brainerd?
-- Should Baxter study whether to merge services with Brainerd?
-- And should Baxter study whether to develop regional districts for services like wastewater treatment and fire protection. The city relies on Brainerd for fire protection and wastewater treatment.
Baxter City Council member Mark Cross said he wanted those questions put before the voters because the Brainerd City Council on July 30 told its city staffers to no longer work with Baxter city staffers on the development of a regional wastewater facility or a fire department substation in Baxter until Baxter agrees to fund a merger study. Those were issues Baxter has been exploring in recent months.
Baxter City Council members listened to a presentation on the possibility of a merger study two months ago, but took no City Administrator Larry Kruse said the city was too busy right now to further research a merger study.
In addition, Baxter City Council members said they were frustrated with the lack of cooperation by Brainerd.
"We've begged and prayed for a fire substation for so long. The problem is we've always had no cooperation. They've always said, 'No,'" said Marana. "We're being told what to do. The gun is being cocked to our head. We're asking the voters here."
Council member Barb Wells suggested that the city send out a newsletter to all Baxter residents this fall to inform voters of what services Baxter provides and what services the city receives from Brainerd.
City staff members will be developing the actual questions for the ballot and the council will accept those questions at its next council meeting.
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