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Brainerd City Council: Putting together a panel

The city of Brainerd is making good headway in developing a pool of people to complete surveys about the city. City Planner Mark Ostgarden told the Brainerd City Council Monday night 190 people had signed up to participate in the Community Survey...

The city of Brainerd is making good headway in developing a pool of people to complete surveys about the city.

City Planner Mark Ostgarden told the Brainerd City Council Monday night 190 people had signed up to participate in the Community Survey Panel, nearly two-thirds of the way toward the goal of 300 people. Members of the panel are asked to participate in up to 12 surveys over 12 months about issues important to the city.

The goal is for the panel to consist of city residents, Ostgarden said, but he won't turn away people who live outside the city but want to sign up.

"It gives us an opportunity to compare opinions of residents versus non-residents," Ostgarden said. "And that could be very useful for the council in determining some of its future plans."

The signup period will run through the end of the month, Ostgarden said. City Administrator Jim Thoreen noted city staff had looked at preliminary survey questions and found them to be well-crafted and valid. Council member Dave Pritschet suggested announcing the survey during daily announcements at Brainerd High School, to encourage high school students to sign up.

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"This truly is our chance to be heard, no matter what our opinions are or how we think," council member Chip Borkenhagen said. "This is the chance that so many of us have been looking for for a long time."

The city hired research software company Qualtrics to help facilitate a number of community surveys which will take place during the next year. Survey respondents will be asked to answer multiple choice questions, rank different statements or options and provide comments on certain issues. The member names are confidential as are any individual opinions expressed in the surveys.

Questions about the Community Survey Panel can be directed to the city Planning Department at planning@ci.brainerd.mn.us or 218-828-2309. Visit www.ci.brainerd.mn.us/CivicAlerts to sign up for the Community Survey Panel.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a motion opposing the location of a methadone clinic in the city of Brainerd. On Aug. 9, the Crow Wing County Board denied a letter of need request from Meridian Behavioral Health, which is looking to acquire the methadone clinic located at 2214 S. Sixth St., currently operated by Pinnacle Recovery Services. The clinic is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid addiction.

Council member Mary Koep, who made the motion, said the council can't shut the clinic down or stop the sale, but it's important to go on record opposing the clinic. Koep has fielded many complaints over the years about the clinic, she said, "and while the state has the final say, as a city, mothers and fathers, we can certainly state our opinion."

It's helpful for those representing the city at the state Legislature to know the city opposes the clinic's location, council member Sue Hilgart said. Hopefully they can then advocate at the state Department of Human Services on the city's behalf, she said. The clinic is in her neighborhood and while she was campaigning in the area, she repeatedly heard concerns from residents about the clinic's location.

"I certainly object to the location and I'm not sure I want it in Brainerd at all," Koep said. "I don't think it should be in the city of Brainerd."

Council member Dave Pritschet noted the issue with the clinic is the fact it draws patients from neighboring counties. Of the 440 patients treated by the clinic, 48 claim addresses in Crow Wing County, while 62 live in St. Louis County and 96 in Carlton County. Patients are transported from these areas and other communities in the state, with costs associated with transportation paid by the state.

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"For our local population, we can pay taxes to deal with problems caused by local residents," Pritschet said. "That's a little bit more palatable than bringing people in from other localities."

Council member Gabe Johnson said he would support the motion but noted the idea behind the clinic is "a great thing."

"Treatment as opposed to incarceration is the right path forward for our society," Johnson said. "But if we're going to put one methadone clinic in greater Minnesota, there's going to be one, I don't want it in Brainerd."

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