Baxter Council haggles over Mississippi River signage agreement

Mayor Darrel Olson described the proposed agreement as "no value" to Baxter residents, which sparked a lengthy discussion between council members and staffers Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Community Development Director Josh Doty (left) addresses the Baxter City Council during its bimonthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18. Baxter city officials discussed proposals to establish signage on the Mississippi River near Overlook Park in conjunction with the Minnesota Headwaters Board, a move originally characterized by Mayor Darrel Olson as one with no value to Baxter tax payers. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — Baxter city officials hashed out particulars for plans to establish a halfway point sign by Mississippi River Overlook Park with the Mississippi Headwaters Board — a proposal that, in Mayor Darrel Olson’s estimation, added no value for Baxter residents.

In the end the Baxter City Council voted Tuesday, Dec. 18, unanimously to move forward with plans, with the added direction to staff to incorporate references to Baxter parks and properties aligned with the Mississippi River. People using the river would be able to reference the sign as a measurement of their own progress, as well as a reference point to access the Baxter parks and trails system.

The original agreement represented a 50/50 partnership between the Mississippi River Headwaters Board and the city of Baxter for a Mississippi River Trail signage project. The project is intended to create a river trail route starting at Kiwanis Park and ending at Crow Wing State Park. The city of Baxter's Mississippi River Overlook is the halfway point of the route. A sign would notify those using the river trail that they are at the halfway point.

Under the agreement, the Mississippi Headwaters Board would develop and construct the sign panels. The city of Baxter would purchase the sign post/posts and install the sign. The agreement also states the City will maintain the sign for five years and if the sign face needs to be replaced within the five years, that it would be a 50% cost share between the city of Baxter and the Mississippi Headwaters Board to replace the sign

“I’m not trying to be a problem child here,” Olson said. “But, I’m trying to figure out how this is a benefit to Baxter taxpayers. To me, it’s like joining MnDOT and paying for a sign on the highway — if it was a sign that said ‘This is Overlook Park,’ then whatever, but it’s a mileage thing. We have to pay 50% for five years. I don’t know why we get involved in this.”


Community Development Director Josh Doty said similar proposals were well-received in nearby municipalities and noted the signage would serve to accommodate users of the river and trail system — whether they’re from the lakes area, Baxter or from outside the area.

Often, he noted, people aren’t aware they can access the Baxter parks system from the river, or that Overlook Park even exists. Doty added the original proposal had the contract open-ended, while the current arrangement allows the city to “see how it goes” and potentially back out at a later date.

“It’s just a signal to people on the river that you’re halfway there, that you can stop and enjoy Overlook Park,” Doty said.

Olson noted that if the sign needs to be replaced altogether, the city is on the hook for 50% of reconstruction costs.

Council member Todd Holman — who works in conjunction with the Mississippi Headwaters Board outside of his council capacity — noted the signage plan “isn’t random” and plays a part in 400 miles of river usage. He noted he was in favor of the city of Baxter expanding its signage in its extensive parks and trail system.

“I don’t think this addresses that,” Holman said. “So, I wondering if we could tack onto that — a sign that says ‘Baxter City Park’ or ‘Overlook Park.’”

In other business, the council:

Approved two partial pay estimates to Landwehr Construction Inc. in the amount of $150,60.56 and $2,294.65 respectively for the 2018 Cypress Drive improvements project.


Approved a change order and partial pay estimate to Knife River Corporation - North Central in the increased amount of $1,468.37 and $76,373.35 respectively for the 2019 Mill & Overlay and full depth reclamation improvements project and 2019 Memorywood improvements project.

Approved a change order and partial pay estimate to J.R. Ferche Inc. in the amount of $59,974.56 and $289,356.76 respectively for the 2019 Mapleton Road, Jasperwood Drive and Knollwood Drive area improvement and the 2019 South Sanitary Sewer Interceptor improvements projects.

Approved the final pay estimate for Water Treatment Plant generator improvements project in the amount of $4,149.92 to Holden Electric Co. Inc.

Adopted a limited use permit agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to maintain a non-motorized trail on MnDOT property at the intersection of trail on Highway 210 and Highway 371, near the parking lot of Kohl’s. The agreement is for 10 years.

Approved a contract with DeChantal Excavating LLC for snow removal in the 2019/2020 snow season.

Approved the official decertification of tax increment financing status for Clearwater Estates after the contract reached fruition. In exchange for providing specialized housing at affordable rates for low-income residents, properties may be granted tax increment financing to incentivize developers.

Approved a contract for building maintenance cleaning services at Baxter City Hall to One Way Cleaning and gave notice of termination to Marsden Building Maintenance Services. One Way Cleaning’s contract is set to begin Feb. 1, 2020.

Approved a wildlife control contract with Lakes Area Wildlife Control. After learning Lakes Area Wildlife Control was operating at a loss, Baxter city officials renegotiated the contract. The agreement entails wage increases as follows: 30% for 2020, 30% for 2021 and 15% for 2022. The agreement will move the city away from the previous per capita rate.


Approved an amendment for a Habitat For Humanity purchase and development agreement granting a time extension for completion of the project. The agreement called for Baxter to sell five homes and provide a forgivable loan for the acquisition of real estate and related soft costs to the relocation of three of the homes and the construction of two new ones.

Approved amendments to the Parks and Trails maintenance worker job description. The first amendment clarifies that park maintenance workers are not on call and require a Class A driver’s license to drive a skid steer.

Convened a closed session to approve the purchase of a property owned by Bill’s Gun Shop and Range for an Excelsior Drive project in 2020 involving reconstruction from Highway 371 to 600 feet west of Cypress Drive. The stretch will comprise a component of bike trail involved in the project.

After closed session, the council directed staff to continue negotiating for property owned by Potlatch parallel to Jasperwood Dive on both sides of Highway 371. The property is intended to be incorporated into infrastructure improvements in the 2019 South Sanitary Interceptor project.

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .
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