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Baxter City Council: City approves appraisal contract for Paul Bunyan trail reroute

BAXTER--The city of Baxter is moving forward on appraisals for a bevy of properties next to Highway 371, or where the Paul Bunyan State Trail could be rerouted.

Mayor Darrel Olson (center left) speaks on the "double-edged sword" nature of discussions around appraising properties along the Paul Bunyan State Trail reroute. The council opted to go ahead with the appraisal, bucking the recommendation of the parks and trails commission. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch
Mayor Darrel Olson (center left) speaks on the "double-edged sword" nature of discussions around appraising properties along the Paul Bunyan State Trail reroute. The council opted to go ahead with the appraisal, bucking the recommendation of the parks and trails commission. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER-The city of Baxter is moving forward on appraisals for a bevy of properties next to Highway 371, or where the Paul Bunyan State Trail could be rerouted.

During the Baxter City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 2, members voted unanimously to award a contract to Nordic Appraisal Services for $17,750-in line with the stance of city staff, but flying in the face of recommendations by the parks and trails commission to deny the contract.

"It's always a double-edged sword. I admire the tenacity of the commission and how they guard their budgets because funds are scarce and they're hard to come by," said Mayor Darrel Olson, who noted a number of future projects, including the reroute, may be inhibited or progress based on getting solid numbers now. "At the same time, how do we plan ahead, how do we start saving, how do we do whatever?"

Prompted by safety concerns, the city is looking to reroute a stretch of the Paul Bunyan State Trail from the east side of the roadway, where it's currently located, to the west side. The length of trail in question is roughly from the Mississippi River to College Road.

Much of previous discussions revolved around 27 parcels in the planned project's southern portion. Most of these are owned by Navillus Land Co., between the Mississippi bridge and County Highway 48. Navillus offered to sell its properties on the route, though it hasn't given particulars or a price.

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Staff said the city received three bids for appraisal services of these properties, with Nordic Appraisal Services making the low bid for $17,750, or about $650 per parcel. While Navillus' offer and other projects in the area (which include infrastructure) present opportunities now, developments along the trail and related property acquisitions may not take place for years.

The parks and trails commission recommended to the council to deny Nordic Appraisal's bid on account of the still-undetermined status of the trail and when the city will address it. Essentially, if the city doesn't move the Paul Bunyan State Trail reroute in five years, these appraisals will be outdated, obsolete and a waste of limited city funds.

Timing-when and how quickly the city moves on the trail reroute project-could change the commission's recommendation, Community Development Director Josh Doty told the council.

"They did indicate that if the project was to move forward in a more timely manner, that it might change their views on it," Doty said. "Their perspective is based on the fact that the appraisal would be funded out of the park dedication fund."

At the same time, it was the recommendation of city staff to accept the proposal.

Council member Todd Holman said there were reasons to move forward now, even if these properties didn't come into play for years.

"You need a number to start the conversation," said Holman, who also noted in discussions with commission members they indicated to him they didn't have a full picture of the external infrastructure projects and how they factored into the current appraisal. The discussion might have been very different otherwise, he said. "An agenda item to deny the contract-I'm just struggling with that."

In other business, the council:

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Scheduled a public hearing for certification of delinquent utility bills, invoices and abatements for 7 p.m. Nov. 20 or thereafter, at Baxter City Hall.

Scheduled a special council meeting for 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at Baxter City Hall to award the 2018 bond sale.

Accepted a donation for $1,500 for a new bench at the Whipple Beach recreational area.

Convened in a closed session to discuss negotiations for the Fruth Property near the Excelsior Road roundabout project. The property has posed as the site of a potential startup, such as Panera Bread, in recent years.

Approved a license agreement allowing the Brainerd School District access to the property currently slated for the new Baxter Elementary School. The agreement allows the district to conduct a number of tests, samples and surveying to progress with their project plans, while also holding the district liable if any damage is sustained by the property.

Related Topics: BAXTERPAUL BUNYAN STATE TRAIL
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