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Baxter City Council: Expresses concern for state legislative trend

One item didn't find its way back to city hall after the Super Tuesday primary, causing a brief delay to start the council session.

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A missing U.S. flag had the Baxter City Council improvising Wednesday, March 4, by using an image projected on the big screen. The flag was moved to a polling place for Tuesday's election. City attorney Brad Person, right, council members Mark Cross, Todd Holman, Major Darrel Olson, Zach Tabatt, Connie Lyscio and Jeremy Vacinek, finance director, recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — City Administrator Brad Chapulis noted bills were introduced at the state Capitol following a trend from the recent legislative sessions to limit local authority on items such as the building code, zoning, finances, tax increment financing.

“There have been six bills that were introduced at the Senate level,” Chapulis said.

Based on the city’s past position, Chapulis said he is preparing a letter to submit to Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R. Nisswa, expressing the city’s opposition to any bill that limits local authority on local issues.

A missing Old Glory caused a brief delay in the Baxter City Council meeting as those present turned to face the flag for the pledge of allegiance only to find the flag was no longer in its usual place.

The meeting traditionally starts with the recitation of the pledge after Mayor Darrel Olson scans meeting participants to ensure no hats are left on top of heads. But Wednesday, March 4, meant the usual meeting start stopped abruptly when the council stood and realized they were ready but the flag was not.

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The flag was apparently left at a polling station after the Tuesday presidential primary election, which was also the reason the council met a day later than normal. The hunt for a replacement took a little longer and with no other flag immediately available, other than the one outside on the flag pole, the council opted for an image of the flag displayed on the large screen via a computer.

Wednesday the council met in three sessions, first as the city’s economic development authority. Jeremy Vacinek, city finance director, gave an overview of tax increment financing overview.

Next, in a council work session, members heard a presentation from Widseth Smith Nolting on a city hall needs assessment looking at the facility from windows to shingles and what it may need between five and more than 11 years in the future. In addition to a look at city hall’s physical structure, which includes the Baxter Police Department, the assessment looked at current work flow and what space needs the city has for the future. The assessment updates a facility study the city did in 2005 before the Great Recession shelved any ideas for a future city hall and contracted staffing. Expectations are for a thorough conversation on the assessment during a March 28 retreat.

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Baxter Council members Connie Lyscio, left, Zach Tabatt, Mayor Darrel Olson, Todd Holman and Mark Cross wait for an American flag to be found before starting the meeting Wednesday, March 4, with the Pledge of Allegiance. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

In other business, the council:

Adopted assessments for the 2020 Oakwood Drive Trail, Fairview Road, Golf Course Drive, Excelsior Road and Excelsior Trail improvements project. The project includes a new pedestrian trail along highways 210 and 371 from southeast Highway 371 and Excelsior Road to the south side of Fairview Road about 700 feet east of Golf Course Drive. In addition, a new pedestrian trail would follow Oakwood Drive, connecting Cedar Scenic Road to Whipple Beach Park.

Assessments will be payable over 12 years beginning in January 2021 at a 4.50% interest rate. Total special assessments are $695,054 from 19 parcels. The Lakes Area Presbyterian Church on Excelsior Road appealed the Excelsior Road and Golf Course Drive assessments.

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Requested an advance of state aid street funds. Those Municipal State Aid Street funds — funding by gas taxes — are an expected source of money for the Cypress Drive improvement project and the Fairview Road, Golf Course Drive, Excelsior Road and trail connection project. The city noted the revenue is provided yearly into Baxter’s state aid construction account. The Minnesota Department of Transportation allows an advance up to three years on the city’s allocation. The advance would amount to $967,500.

Met in closed session to discuss the purchase of property.

Expressed appreciation for the recent League of Minnesota Cities Conference in Baxter. Council member Connie Lyscio complimented Olson for welcoming people to the conference and singing Baxter’s praises.

“And as I’m listening to all of the other council members share stories, I was reminded again how really, really fortunate we are to work with each other — and I mean with each other and not against each other. Baxter is just a wonderful place and thank you for the opportunity,” Lyscio said.

Council member Zach Tabatt agreed. “I just wanted to take a moment to probably float from the same optimism that she took out of that. … With all of the terrible news worldwide and nationwide right now, I just thought that I’d share some optimism about the fact that I think city staff is a group of people that we can trust to handle the difficulties that are out there right now and I think the city itself is doing really well and things are looking up. I just wanted to share my confidence and optimism about the way the city itself is positioned right now the way the world looks.”

Council member Todd Holman concurred and said the data shared at the council really drove home the civic trust in the local unit of government. “That was great for me to hear,” Holman said.

“I’ve always known we have a great city staff here. It’s good to see everybody thinks the same on that,” Council member Mark Cross said.

Olson said one of the interesting statistics brought up was 89% of the people don’t trust Congress.

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Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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