A Brainerd City Council member and the Brainerd mayor are upset with comments Baxter City Council members made at Tuesday's Baxter City Council meeting.
At that meeting, Baxter council members said they were frustrated with the lack of cooperation by Brainerd.
Lucy Nesheim, Brainerd City Council president, said Brainerd has been open to requests from Baxter for services.
"We have willingly worked with them on fire, water and sewer services," she said.
"During the 1990s, Brainerd went over and beyond the call, and now we're not going to extend the amount of services. Brainerd's growing so fast we have to focus on our citizens," said Gary Scheeler, Brainerd council member. "In the '90s, Baxter used to have Brainerd helping them run services in the city and now they are getting too used to it. Brainerd probably went too far."
Nesheim also took exception with Mary Marana's statement that Baxter had begged and prayed for a fire substation but Brainerd had always denied the request.
"I think she is misleading the people," said Nesheim. "They have never spoken to us about a fire substation, even as long as I have been on the council."
Marana said this morning that the issue was raised by Baxter as recently as the end of last year at a joint city council discussion.
Comments from both sides were triggered by recent discussions of co-funding a merger study. The Brainerd City Council authorized funding $10,000 for the study March 5. The Baxter City Council had been holding off authorization of its half of the study cost until it could get more information on the study.
At a Brainerd City Council retreat July 31, council members had discussed not answering requests about such services as a fire substation until Baxter agreed to fund its part of the merger study.
At Tuesday's Baxter City Council meeting, Baxter council members decided to have its residents vote whether to co-fund the study.
Baxter council members authorized three questions to be placed on November's ballot concerning a merger study between Baxter and Brainerd. 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?
Brainerd City Council member Frank Asplund said Wednesday it was a good idea for Baxter to put the issue to vote.
"It ought to be considered, what the people want to do rather than what the council members want to do," he said.
Wallin, however, wasn't as happy about the news as Asplund was.
"I was very disappointed in those elected officials to put this to the voters," Wallin said. "If they (the Baxter City Council) can't make a decision on a merger study, maybe they should let someone else serve on that council because they aren't doing their residents any favors.
"It's going to take a while to get the study back anyway, this will just postpone it further. "
"I think that the elected officials should be answering the three questions they are asking the voters. That's why they were elected," said Scheeler.
Minnesota Statute states a merger study may be initiated through separate petitions to the executive director of the Minnesota Municipal Board by the residents of Brainerd and Baxter. The petitions for each city must be signed by at least five percent of the residents who voted for the governor at the last general election.
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