BAXTER -- Brainerd area officials and citizens told the House DFL Rural Issues Task Force on Thursday night at a hearing in Baxter that the state needs to help out with a host of issues affecting the community, including education costs, highway improvements and the impact of rapid population growth, according to a news release issued by the DFL representatives.
The Baxter forum was the first in a series that the task force will hold in rural Minnesota. Testimony offered to the panel Thursday night included:
-- Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen and Brainerd Mayor James Wallin jointly testified on a host of growth-related challenges facing their two cities.
-- Wallin and Muehlhausen were among a host of people who urged faster action to complete the four-laning of Highway 371 from Brainerd to Little Falls and Highway 210 from Baxter to Motley.
-- Crow Wing County Engineer Duane Blanck told the panel that the area needs better local roads, as well as state highways. The Brainerd area's summer traffic volume is as high as that in the Twin Cities, he said, but the state-aid system for county roads doesn't recognize the special needs of counties with high seasonal traffic.
-- Brainerd School Board Chair Lew Hudson told lawmakers to safeguard school funding from the ups and downs of the state budget now that the state has assumed more of the cost of education.
-- Helen McLennan, the DFL candidate in the special election in House District 12B, said the Legislature has to act on three issues: The rising cost of prescription drugs, full funding for rural school districts with declining enrollments, and the cost of wetland-replacement laws in local road projects.
-- Crow Wing County Administrator Peter Herlofsky asked lawmakers to restore funding for hazardous materials incident response teams in greater Minnesota, which were cut last year. Herlofsky noted that the county has significant rail and truck traffic, and that means a lot of hazardous chemicals are moving through the area.
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