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BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL: Citywide clean-up effort to feature curb-side pickup using city crews

A citywide clean-up effort using city crews was given the OK Monday by the Brainerd City Council. 

The council authorized the city administrator and city engineer to organize city crews from the street and parks departments and city vehicles to handle a residential, curb-side neighborhood cleanup starting May 9 and completed May 13. 

Items appropriate for collection include appliances, building materials, furniture, mattresses, box springs, doors and bundled brush, to name a few.

The council also approved supporting a voluntary, citywide garage sale on May 14. 

And the city administrator and city engineer were authorized to inventory the city’s 220 blocks of alleys between May 1 and May 31 with the purpose of identifying nuisances to be corrected. 

The fourth and final motion supported the 2011 Brainerd in Bloom program and encourage citizen participation. All four motions were passed unanimously.

The clean-up and beautification efforts were proposed by council members Bob Olson and Bonnie Cumberland, who worked with City Administrator Dan Vogt and City Engineer Jeff Hulsether on ideas. 

On the clean-up effort May 9-13, Olson said the city would be divided into sections. On a specific day, city crews would go to a section and pick up discarded items left at the curbs by residents. Crews would be in each section from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tipping fees required would be paid for out of the city’s recycling fund, which has about $35,000, Olson said. 

“Bonnie and I are presenting this program to the council, asking for your support in helping develop pride of ownership in our community,” Olson said. “This begins with elected officials, city staff and our citizens.”

Cumberland said the idea for a citywide clean-up effort came from other cities that run similar programs. 

“The whole idea is these are things I can live without, let’s put them out, let’s get rid of them, let’s beautify community and take pride in our community,” Cumberland said.

She said she’s been discussing the May 14 citywide garage sale with the Dispatch for possible promotion, ad rate reductions and a contest. 

Council member Kelly Bevans asked how much of the recycling fund might be used. Olson responded he didn’t know, but noted that past neighborhood associations clean-up drives used between $3,000 to $4,000 from the fund. He said he expected the citywide program to cost a reasonable amount. The savings would come from using city crews during regular working hours instead of haulers. 

Mayor James Wallin noted the Kiwanis Clean-Up Blitz on May 7. Cumberland said the dates for the city-wide program were chosen to not conflict with the Kiwanis effort. 

Council member Kevin Goedker thought the program was a great idea but questioned whether using city crews would take time away from their regular duties. Olson said Vogt and Hulsether told him the crews could handle it. 

Council member Lucy Nesheim said it would be a challenge for city crews to pick up the items alone, and asked if garbage haulers would help. Vogt said haulers weren’t interested until you paid them. 

While supportive, council President Mary Koep said she didn’t want the city to duplicate the efforts of service organizations and she wanted a report back of what the crews hauled. She also didn’t want residents to become dependent on the city for recycling pick up.

“To me it’s kind of an irresponsible attitude. First of all, people should assume responsibility for their own junk, in my opinion,” Koep said. 

“I think we have to be careful letting people think things are free ‘cause they are not.”

Olson responded that when he first discussed the program with Koep, she told him she didn’t want her tax dollars going to pick up someone else’s junk. He said he told her to be positive, not negative. At that point, Olson said, Koep told him she’d support it. 

“Now I hear these negative things and I want to go ballistic,” Olson said at Monday’s meeting. 

Koep said the definition of being positive may be different for some people. 

“For some, positive is spending government money on everything there is, for others that’s negative, “ Koep said. “I will support this but will be watching the outcome and results.”

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.