Baxter plans public information meetings on local options sales tax

BAXTER -- In order to provide information to residents about the local option sales tax prior to the ballot question in November, the Baxter City Council discussed options Tuesday.

BAXTER - In order to provide information to residents about the local option sales tax prior to the ballot question in November, the Baxter City Council discussed options Tuesday.

Plans include utilizing the city newsletter, website, presentations and news outlets. More information is expected in late September or early October. The last time the local option sales tax was on the ballot, the city also hosted public meetings at city hall, but they were sparsely attended.

"I think we still have to offer it," Mayor Darrel Olson said. "There are new people to the community, too."

The extension of the half-percent sales tax is through 2037 or when $40 million is generated for the approved projects and costs. With the extension, $32 million is earmarked to cover costs for the sanitary sewer, storm sewer, water projects and transportation safety improvements. In addition, $8 million is for improvements at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

Two 30-minute informational meetings are expected in October at city hall.


The city's plan is to show projects the local option sales tax dollars were used for and how property taxes could have been affected without those dollars. The question will be on the Nov. 4, general election ballot.

Council member Jim Klein asked about the note the city is required to include advising voters that voting yes could increase their property taxes. Because the city is issuing bonds that will be backed by the city's taxing authority, the language about the property tax increase is required by state law.

Olson said it's important to note the city went through the terrible years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 with the current sales tax and the recession and were still OK.

"I agree with the importance of being clear and that is what we are doing with the expenditures," council member Rob Moser said.

In other business, the council:

Set a public dedication of Riverview Park at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 16, at the park. If there is time, council members plan to swing by Berrywood Park to tour improvements. While work is not entirely complete at Riverview, the council agreed to go forward.

"I still think it's good to celebrate what's there," said council member Todd Holman, adding it is a way to draw attention to the park and the city could show what will be coming.

Set a special meeting to discuss the Isle Drive project at 7 p.m., Sept. 9, at city hall. Council member Mark Cross said he is busy every Tuesday night and could not make the meeting.


Heard from Don Narveson, Baxter, that residents in the Wildflower area were wondering if they'd have access to walk to Clearwater after the current construction project is completed and a temporary road removed. Until now, a 4-foot-deep drainage ditch posed an obstacle.

Holman previously asked if there could be a paved walking trail. Staff is researching what the cost would be.

Heard from new Brainerd School District Superintendent Klint Willert and Cori Reynolds, Brainerd School District Community Education director. Willert and Reynolds spoke during the open forum part of the agenda praising the partnership with Baxter, particularly working with the city's parks and recreation for more opportunities for children. The two new district staff members said they wanted to carry on the partnership with Baxter and wanted to stop by and introduce themselves, saying they were excited to be part of the community. Olson said Willert, who came from the Marshall School District is one who knows his snow days. Willert, who now lives in Fort Ripley said the difference between the Brainerd lakes area and Marshall is that the snow comes down sideways in southwestern Minnesota.

"We had a great first day of school as well," Willert said.

Rejected bids for the Independence Road improvement project after bids came in more than 40 percent higher than anticipated. The project will be rebid next year when it may be included with a bigger project. The property owners affected, Potlatch and Simonson Lumber, were comfortable waiting, the city reported.

Approved an animal control contract with Don Hannahs, Animal Control Enforcement Services, for 2015 at $762 per month or $1.20 per person given Baxter's population of 7,620.

Police Chief Jim Exsted said Hannahs was reachable by phone 24 hours a day at 829-0991, except for one scheduled day off each week and vacation. Baxter residents are able to phone Hannahs, a private contractor, directly. This option eliminates the need to call the police department for stray animals.

In council comments, Holman provided a report from the League of Minnesota Cities, noting one in four crashes involve inattentive driving, making up 52,000 crashes in the last three years and 19 fatals. Holman said the emerald ash borer is continuing to move east and north and killing trees with extensive costs for cities to contain and dispose of those trees.


"I think inevitably we'll be seeing that up here," Holman said.

Approved an off-sale liquor license to Kjerbeersten for Sept. 3 through June 30, 2015, who has purchased Westside Liquor. The business was approved for a tobacco license as well.

Heard Olson's report noting the recent two-day event of the Lakes Country Triathlon presented by the Baxter Kiwanis Club brought a lot of people to the city. The annual event was hosted at Whipple Beach. Olson said people enjoyed the changed route as they biked through the countryside and ran through Baxter neighborhoods.

"This summer in general, I think, was just phenomenal," Olson said, noting the number of times the hotels were full from baseball tournaments to the K-9 trials to the triathlon. "I think it was a real banner summer."

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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