Baxter Council: Leaf disposal options may have to wait until 2016

BAXTER - Changing a leaf drop-off site to the Northland Arboretum may be put off until 2016 as Baxter City Council members considered pros, cons and an upcoming construction project.

BAXTER - Changing a leaf drop-off site to the Northland Arboretum may be put off until 2016 as Baxter City Council members considered pros, cons and an upcoming construction project.

The Northland Arboretum would offer a place for residents to drop off leaves and grass clippings six days a week through spring, summer and fall. Baxter would be asked to pay for the service at the same rate it is paying now and provide equipment and staff time to move leaf piles.

When the city discontinued its own leaf compost site and installed a leaf-burning ban, it looked for alternatives. In the end, the city worked with Hengel Ready Mix on Highway 210. When the subject came up recently, city staff was asked to see if the compost pile at the arboretum would be visible from the Northern Lakes Senior Living development. It was determined a few places could see the compost site but a majority of views would be obscured by dense forest canopy.

The council also looked at the Excelsior Road construction project expected in 2015 as a complication in terms of access to the arboretum.

Council member Jim Klein said the arboretum is a valuable amenity to the city and offered a greater convenience to residents. That said, Klein was not opposed to putting off a decision until 2016.


Council member Todd Holman said he was also in favor of working with the arboretum. Holman said he had no complaints from working with Hengel, which provided an efficient service that has worked well. Another question from the council was whether there would be a contractual relationship with the arboretum in the event of management changes. The arboretum closed its compost site for financial reasons last summer.

In other business, the council:

Did not support council member Rob Moser's request to be less restrictive on a new personnel policy establishing a dress code. Moser wanted to relax the new language calling for shirts and ties for men for council meetings, commission meetings and meetings with the public.

The dress code examples of acceptable attire for meetings includes blazers, suits, dress pants, dress shirts with ties, sweaters or cardigans with a tie for men and dresses, skirts, blouses, dress pants and sweaters or cardigans with a blouse for women.

Moser thought a collared dress shirt without tie was appropriate for meetings outside special events. Moser said a shirt and tie look great but he didn't feel the requirement for the tie at every meeting was needed.

"I feel a collared shirt is fine," Moser said. "I don't believe you need a tie to be a professional."

And Moser wanted to allow colored twill pants as appropriate attire in the workplace.

Holman said he was empathetic but what is now in place is already good. The committee that developed the new standards took pieces from other communities. Holman, who helped set the standards on the committee, said there is already flexibility in the policy to give the administrator and department heads options to relax the requirement. However, the list of appropriate clothing for meetings does not list other options besides a shirt and tie.


Holman said the employees don't report to the council, but report to the administrator and department managers who could relax the requirement. The council previously approved the personnel changes with the new dress code. Holman said it was up to the administrator and not the council's call and he didn't want to get in the way of that discretion.

"I'm really comfortable with the way it is," Holman said of the policy, noting he wanted to keep it intact.

Council member Mark Cross said he didn't see a need to change anything.

None of the council members were wearing a tie at Tuesday's meeting.

Discussed potential Briarwood Lane improvements. The council recently met with residents who noted the gravel drive is only used by residents, has wetlands along the road and threatened Blanding's turtles nesting there. The interest to pave the road, which serves about four residents, actually came from people who live nearby.

The city looks for 75 percent approval from residents for a road improvement petition, which it does not yet have in this case. Of the four properties, one owner was in favor, one opposed, one indifferent and one unable to be reached.

One family suggested leaving the last segment of the road leading to their home gravel in order to protect the habitat and the turtles. They also suggested using prairie grass instead of the city's usual reseeding.

Tuesday the consensus from council members was to pave the entire road instead of leaving a portion gravel, meaning a road grader would need to travel there to service a small section. Moser was interested in getting more information on the prairie grass option. Cross said prairie grass is expensive and isn't supposed to be mowed, which isn't the city policy.


Mayor Darrel Olson said the irony is the major proponent to pave the road is from people who don't live on it so he struggles with that.

Klein said he didn't think it was a pressing issue. Holman said he agreed it is not a high priority for 2015 or 2016. Holman asked if the value of having the paved surface instead of maintenance costs with gravel would be a reason to go forward even if the city didn't have 75 percent of the property owners in favor.

Administrator Gordon Heitke said he'd try to reach the final property owner again and see if there was something to report in time for the next council meeting.

Learned with the complex utility relocation work on Woida Road the contractor may not be able to work on the trail project. Aric Welch, consulting engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, reported there is a chance completing the trail this year won't be feasible. That could mean higher costs if the contractor comes back next year to finish it. Welch said the majority of utility relocation will need to be done with trenching and by hand. If the trail is completed, utility companies may have to dig through the pavement and sod. Welch said it isn't known yet if the trail project will have to be delayed until 2015 but he wanted to make the council aware of the possibility.

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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