Downtown Brainerd will have lighted trees for the holidays, although city council members differed on whether the city should help pay for the effort.
Brainerd council members voted 5-1 Monday in favor of using up to $500 from the city's beautification fund to help pay for the lights. A group of downtown Brainerd businesses made the request to help light about eight trees.
Council member Kelly Bevans voted against the motion. Bevans said investing money in beautification was a sensitive topic where questions remain about who should pay for it: The city or businesses.
Council member Bob Olson said the businesses are spending as well and he thought it was a worthwhile cause.
It would be nice to see downtown pretty again at Christmas time, said council member Mary Koep.
Mayor James Wallin and council member Lucy Nesheim were absent.
In other business, the council:
Heard police department updates. There are 28 new McGruff houses throughout the city where children can find a safe haven if they feel unsafe or in a scary situation. Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said the city and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department have a number of free gun locks available so people can lock guns up safely at home.
Accepted 30-year veteran Jack Davies retirement from the police department effective Jan. 21 and approved offering a job to Thomas Bergs Jr., who topped a group of three names on the police officer eligibility list.
Heard street project updates. The Laurel Street sidewalk project should be completed this fall. The new signal light intersection at Highways 18 and 25 in east Brainerd should be operational in mid-December. An equipment delivery delay pushed the project back.
Decided to wait on assessments and a public hearing until a final cost is known for the turn lane construction project on Highway 25.
Approved a variance 5-1 with Bevans opposed to allow Barbara Worms to construct a single family home within the Mississippi River shoreland with a setback of 75 feet from the ordinary high water mark instead of the ordinance-required 150 feet.
Asked for a legal opinion regarding city options in dealing with blighted properties that need paint and whether the city can have the work done and assess the homeowner. Owners of a house on 12th Street Southeast were given until May 30 to paint the home.
Approved up to $13,000 from the drug forfeiture fund to purchase a used vehicle for a police department investigator's use. Olson disagreed with the purchase and said the spending was not the best use of the budget. Council member Anne Nelson Fisher said crime is not going down and they needed to support staff. Koep suggested using a vehicle seized in a drug bust. Bolduc said that was their first option but the inventory did not have a suitable vehicle.
Bolduc said most criminals are not buying new vehicles.
"But we are hoping that changes," he said, getting a laugh from the council.
Suggested purchasing fuel efficient vehicles. Olson suggested buying gas on a contract basis or putting in a tank next to the city garage instead of paying pump prices.
Canceled an agreement with L&M Steel to purchase a lot in the city's industrial park. The city approved the lot sale in January 2003 but attempts to close on the sale proved fruitless.
Approved extending an agreement for rental housing inspection services with Otter Tail Wadena Community Action Council for another year.
Appointed Becky Lapka to the library board with a term to expire Jan. 1, 2008.
Noted the city planner interviews are 6 p.m. Wednesday in the city hall conference room.
Set a public hearing for the Eastgate Mobile Home Park closure notice for Dec. 20.
Adjourned to a 5 p.m. Nov. 29 meeting for a bond sale.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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