Baxter City Council to continue Zoom sessions for now

Baxter City Council members and staff meet via Zoom Tuesday, June 16. Screenshot by Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Baxter City Council members weighed benefits and challenges to returning to meeting inside city hall.

With the council chambers able to have 24 people, Brad Chapulis, city administrator, said historically meetings have included 25 or fewer people unless there is a public hearing on a controversial project.

At the council’s Tuesday, June 16, session via Zoom, Chapulis noted group meetings in the state’s phased reopening increased recently from 10 people to 25 people. If the council wanted to go back to meeting in person, Chapulis suggested July 1 would be a good date to start.

Council member Mark Cross questioned how many people would be allowed in the meeting after the council and staff compared to having the meetings accessible on YouTube. Council members Todd Holman and Connie Lyscio said they could go either way. Council member Zach Tabatt wondered if more viewership would be available online versus the council chambers.

“I’m good with staying remote unless we find a reason being back in the building is in fact better,” Tabatt said.


For viewership, the average is two to three people watching live with six to eight people at any one time and additional views after the fact. Mayor Darrel Olson said if there was a crowd for a meeting, they have options to find a different location.

Chapulis said they will wait for the next move in the phased reopening of the state and entertain the conversation again when there will be options for more people to meet in the chambers. Holman noted there is no way to predict which topics may involve more deliberation or discussion and he thought being able to see body language and hear each other more completely is helpful as cues or information may be missed in a virtual environment.

“As we look forward, I am comfortable here, but I would lean toward getting back in the building,” Holman said.

Olson agreed. “I can go either way, too. I just think in the past our numbers would not cause alarm for if we are going to have room for everybody.”

The council will continue to meet via Zoom for the time being.

The council meeting was delayed momentarily when council member Mark Cross dropped out of the Zoom meeting after losing his internet service, reappeared briefly in a frozen photo but could not respond before dropping back out. An attempt to reach Cross by phone was unsuccessful. As a meeting participant to start the meeting, Chapulis said they needed to give Cross a chance to continue with the meeting. When he couldn’t be reached, the council continued with the meeting with the quorum of the remaining four council members. Cross later returned to the council session.

In other business, the council:

Appointed Joshua Doss as the city’s eighth seasonal park attendant at $13 per hour.


Approved liquor and tobacco licenses.

Approved a conditional use permit to allow forestland conversion — tree clearing — to relocate an existing stormwater pond and expansion of an existing parking lot at 14775 Edgewood Drive, which was requested by Thomas and Terrie Getty. The move, the applicants stated, will maximize the potential future commercial development. A buffer of existing trees is expected on the property’s west side between the property and single family homes. The west and central side of the site, which is between NAPA Auto Parts and Christmas Point, would be cleared of trees. No buildings will be constructed at this time and the land will be left in grass, the applicants stated.

Approved an interim use permit allowing a tent with fireworks sales about June 19 to July 6 in the Westside Liquor parking lot on Audubon Way.

Approved a lawful gambling permit for a July 30 raffle for the Ruffed Grouse Society, Drumming Log Chapter.

In council comments, Lyscio said the traffic increase indicating people were coming here from the metro was encouraging to see.

Tabatt said it seems people are out doing the best they can. Holman said it was amazing to see the projects and energy of people out walking and biking. Holman pointed to work on trails now by Kohl’s, by the Fleet Farm car wash and Super One Foods. “This summer in particular, I guess I’ve never noticed a time when they are more significantly connecting to each other,” Holman said, noting people feel empowered to get out and move with benefits for public health because it is safe and they maybe didn’t before. Holman said staff continues to do a stellar job and a lot of city work and services go unsung, but people do notice and appreciate it.

Cross echoed earlier comments. “I just want to thank everyone for their patience,” he said. “I think that’s what is getting us through this. … Hang in there. It will be over.”

Olson thanked Todd DeBoer, Baxter information technology director, who has had his schedule turned upside down in recent weeks.


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at
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 or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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