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Baxter City Council: Split vote moves construction project forward

BAXTER--Proposing to put down new pavement instead of a sealcoating for a Baxter residential street was equated to doing surgery when a Band-Aid was needed.

The Baxter City Council meets in regular session Tuesday, April 3, with an audience interested in upcoming street projects. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
The Baxter City Council meets in regular session Tuesday, April 3, with an audience interested in upcoming street projects. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER-Proposing to put down new pavement instead of a sealcoating for a Baxter residential street was equated to doing surgery when a Band-Aid was needed.

Baxter resident Mike Hammer, who lives on Circle Pines Road, said while it would be nice to have the old pavement milled away and a fresh pavement overlay on the street, he questioned if the 25 residents would see a property value increase equivalent to the anticipated assessment of about $3,300.

Instead, he asked the council Tuesday, April 3, to do a seal coating. Hammer said if the city had done such maintenance five or eight years ago on Circle Pines that other residential streets received, such as Cottage Grove, it would be in better shape now and not require a mill and overlay.

Hammer asked council members to extend the life of the road as long as they could.

"Give us a choice at what we have done on that road," Hammer said.

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Trevor Walter, Baxter public works director, said when the city picked up its pavement maintenance plan after the Great Recession, it wasn't financially possible to do all the streets at once.

Walter said he thought if the city waits much longer to do the work on Circle Pines, it may move from a mill and overlay to a more expensive full-depth reclamation, during which the street and its base are ground up and used for a new base with fresh pavement. Walter pointed to the deteriorating Memorywood Drive and said in 2013 Memorywood could have gotten by with a pavement overlay but now needs the full-depth reclamation. The question, Walter said, was if the city waits and pushes the limits a few years would that leave the Circle Pines residents paying double, which is twice the cost.

The council then prepared to move forward with the agenda, which had the mill and overlay project on the consent agenda to be passed with a host of other items considered non-controversial and ready to be passed in one motion. Council members, as well as meeting attendees, can request such items be pulled from the consent agenda to be acted on separately. That call came from the audience. The council then considered the matter again hearing from residents before voting.

Hammer said residents would pay for the seal coating at no cost to the city and asked the council to take Circle Pines off the list of streets planned for construction work in 2018. In addition, Beth Kidrowski, a Cedar Scenic Road resident, asked the council to reconsider the work on Cedar Scenic Road.

Kidrowski pointed to the assessment cost to her family of $14,400. She asked the council to consider at least postponing the project stating the plan to add bike/pedestrian options on both sides of the street didn't make sense if there was nothing to connect it to and no trails near the stretch of road. Kidrowski suggested the city put more into the elevation instead of sacrificing land widening the road to 40 feet for the pedestrian/bike options.

At an earlier workshop session in March the Kidrowskis reported the assessment to them was extremely unfair, unnecessary and would put their young family in a financial crisis. They noted their neighbor also faced an assessment of $19,000. In March, the city noted it also received a letter from an attorney on behalf of the neighbor, Tom Bercher, in opposition to the project. Of the estimated $400,000 Cedar Scenic Road project, which is also slated to elevate the road bordered by wetlands, 2 percent of the cost is proposed for assessments.

After hearing from the residents, there was a moment of silence from the council. Then council member Todd Holman made a motion to order the improvement and preparation of plans and advertise for bids for the project. Council member Quinn Nystrom seconded the motion.

Council member Mark Cross said if an entire neighborhood can come to the city and add a street project he wondered if a neighborhood could come and remove one. He said the residents have come to meetings and now it's getting to the tipping point. Cross said Kidrowski brought up an interesting point about raising the road higher to deal with the high water as the Minnesota Department of Transportation usually uses 3 feet for elevation, and the city was at this point planning 2 feet.

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Cross said he was a little concerned they would be spending the money and not completely fixing the problem.

Mayor Darrel Olson said he would play devil's advocate. He said the council's job is to look out for everyone in the city. He wondered what would happen if every neighborhood came in and didn't want a project and then the streets go to pot. Who is responsible then, Olson questioned, adding the council was elected to make decisions that may or may not be popular. Cross said he understood the mayor's point, as well as the neighborhood residents making an informed decision knowing they may pay more by waiting.

Council member Steve Barrows said the city put the plan together, which he added was an important move by the council, to update the streets and took an approach they believed was important to the city as a whole. In some neighborhoods, Barrows said, it is going to be controversial and tough to accept. Barrows said the city council needed to stick with its plan and move forward with the projects.

About nine people attended the meeting outside of city staff or consulting engineers.

The council voted 4-1 to go forward, with Cross opposed.

"Just to be clear, this process isn't done," Olson said, telling the residents if the bids come in and the council considers them too high, they still have the option to stop.

Streets on the project list for 2018

Streets listed for mill and overlay work:

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• Circle Pine Road (Memorywood Drive to Cedar Scenic Road),

• Emily Road,

• Emily Circle,

• Kelly Drive,

• Kelly Circle,

• Wedgewood Drive (east of Parkwood Drive),

• Parkwood Drive (Highway 48 to 50 feet north of Mountain Ash Drive),

• Parkwood Circle,

• Flintwood Drive (Fairview Road to Excelsior Road).

Street listed for full-depth reclamation:

College Road (Highway 371 to 280-feet west of Cypress Drive).

Streets listed for reconstruction:

Cedar Scenic Road (city limits to 1,000 feet east),

Baxter Drive (north of Highway 210).

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