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Rail spur proposal tabled for six weeks

A proposal by Crow Wing Recycling to lease land from the BNSF Railway has been presented to the Brainerd City Council. 

Crow Wing Recycling wants to use a rail spur to load scrap material into train cars for transport. To do that, the city must first vacate to BNSF a platted but unbuilt portion of Front Street that extends into the rail yard. Crow Wing Recycling’s operation would also require a conditional use permit from the city. 

Chuck and Cheryl Karnowski, who have lived across the street from the proposed operation for the past 28 years, stated they were opposed. Cheryl Karnowski said the city has tried to remove industrial uses in downtown and the operation, despite a 3-foot berm and 6-foot fence shielding it, would be a detriment to their “lovely little space.”

Resident Jeff Czeczok was opposed to the city giving BNSF land when the railroad hasn’t been the “friendliest neighbor” to the city, noting issues with a deteriorating fence along Washington Street, a shed and parking spaces. 

Czeczok and Guy Green also said the beeping sound from trucks backing up at the operation would be intrusive to neighbors. 

Crow Wing Recycling owner Grant VanWyngeeren said none of his trucks and the loader that would be at the spur have beepers for when they back up. 

Planning Commission Chairman Mike Jay, whose commission recommended approval of the street vacation, said to not vacate a street that never will be used was ridiculous. He also said he applauded the city giving the land to BNSF so that two businesses could make more money. 

Jay noted Crow Wing Recycling’s current rail operation was in Baxter and he would like to see it in Brainerd. m

The council approved tabling the requests for six weeks to determine if there were other areas for Crow Wing Recycling to locate. 

In other action, the council:

Approved by a 6-1 vote maintaining scaled back council minutes, per action at the council’s Jan. 24 retreat. Council member Bob Olson was against, stating he preferred more in depth minutes.

Approved a first reading on a proposed ordinance amendment regarding automotive uses in a B-6 zoning district. The amendment provides definitions between minor and major automotive repair. Council member Kelly Bevans, owner of Kelly’s Service, on Washington said he supported the amendment because it was a step in the right direction, but the ordinance would only allow him to do 80 percent of what he does. City Planner Mark Ostgarden said existing uses would be grandfathered in, and new uses subject to the ordinance and falling into the major definition would require a conditional use permit.

Heard during the public forum from Czeczok, who was critical of past statements from City Administrator Dan Vogt, which Czeczok said were false, regarding the 800 megahertz radio system and the response time for firefighters; when the council voted to move to a volunteer fire department; regarding a 20-percent reduction in staff; and about a former firefighter’s embezzlement from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Czeczok said he presented the information to the council in advance of Vogt’s performance evaluation.

Was introduced to new Main Street Coordinator Amber Haapajoki-Hahn. 

Was informed by Mayor James Wallin that the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program would meet at city hall at 6 p.m. Monday for a strategy meeting to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon City.

Approved canceling police officers’ city-issued cellphones and instead installing a stipend policy for officers’ personal cellphones that would cost about $575 a month, compared to $850 a month to have the city pay for the cellphones. Olson voted against paying for officers’ cellphones when the city was also buying new police radios. He said not every officer needed a cell phone, and questioned why the police chief would when he had a land line phone in his office. 

Council member Kevin Goedker said it was imperative for the police chief to have a cell phone so he could be reached at any time and pointed out that cell phones and the new 800 megahertz radio system were two different ways of communicating. Council member Bonnie Cumberland said there are some issues law enforcement works with that you don’t want going out on the entire 800 megahertz system. Council member Kelly Bevans said the discussion brought forth “really funny things” to mind but he wasn’t going to say them. 

Approved donating $100 to the Kiwanis Clean-Up Blitz on May 7.

Approved $12,107 in quotes for downtown streetscape maintenance. The cost will be assessed to property owners.