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Brainerd: Council reverses decision, rezones water treatment plant land

After hearing new information, the Brainerd City Council reversed a previous decision, now agreeing to rezone 50 Jenny St.--the site of the city's water treatment plant--from single family residential to light industrial use.

Scott Magnuson, of Brainerd Public Utilities, addresses the Brainerd City Council Monday, June 17, with BPU's request to rezone the water treatment plan land from residential to industrial. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Scott Magnuson, of Brainerd Public Utilities, addresses the Brainerd City Council Monday, June 17, with BPU's request to rezone the water treatment plan land from residential to industrial. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

After hearing new information, the Brainerd City Council reversed a previous decision, now agreeing to rezone 50 Jenny St.-the site of the city's water treatment plant-from single family residential to light industrial use.

The council denied the rezoning request on June 3 on the grounds of not having a specific plan for what Brainerd Public Utilities wanted to do with the land. The original request in the June 3 council packet only listed the ability for the water treatment plant to better serve the community as the reason.

Scott Magnuson of BPU was not present June 3 but came to the council's meeting Monday, June 17, to argue his case and persuade council members to reverse their decision.

Magnuson presented plans for a new steel maintenance garage, which is not allowed in a residential area.

Council members asked if a variance could be given for the building instead of rezoning the land, but Community Development Director David Chanski said to grant a variance, there needs to be a provable hardship. Because there is space for the garage and no physical hardship with building it, Chanski said this project would not qualify for a variance. Rezoning, then, would likely be the best option.

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Chanski noted if the council ever wanted to sell the land, it could rezone it back to residential before selling to make sure a new owner does not use it in a way "unbecoming" to the city, as council member Kelly Bevans put it.

Bevans, along with council members Jan Lambert and Gabe Johnson said they felt much more comfortable with rezoning the land, knowing BPU has specific plans in place, which also include new water tanks at the plant, as the current ones date back to 1935 and are nearing the end of their useful life, Magnuson said.

The council approved the rezoning request 5-1, with council member Dave Badeaux opposed and council member Dave Pritschet absent.

In other business Monday, the council:

Approved a lawful gambling application for the Brainerd Jaycees to conduct an event July 27 at 410 East River Road. The council also approved two temporary on-sale liquor license applications for the Jaycees for events July 13-14 at Memorial Park and an event July 26-27 on Front Street.

Approved a second hand goods dealer application to JAK Antiques and Collectibles to conduct business at the Eagles Club 287.

Approved a street closure application for the Lil Rubber Duckie Race to take place July 27 on East River Road. The road will be closed between the North Star Apartments and the high school parking lot.

Approved a memorandum of agreement between the city and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 (street department) clarifying only the sick leave portion of an employee's severance payment will be contributed to the employee's health care saving's plan.

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Hired Crystal Gauthier as the transit operations specialist, effective July 8, and placed her on step 2 of the city's wage grid, earning $23.04 per hour.

Promoted Shawn Middaugh, a maintenance worker in the streets and sewer department, to street and sewer foreman, effective June 17, after the retirement of Dale Rademacher. Middaugh will be placed on step 4 of the city's wage grid, earning $31.23 an hour.

The council authorized staff to begin the hiring process to fill the new maintenance worker vacancy.

Hired Michael O'Brien, of Lakes Area Wildlife Control, as the city's animal control officer. Brainerd has been without animal control service since July 2018.

Approved the purchase of a new bus for the transit department at a total cost of $84,632. The transit department budgets for one new bus per year, with 20% covered locally and 80% covered by state/federal funding. The 20% local share is split between Brainerd and Crow Wing County, with Brainerd's share covered through collected fares.

Adopted a resolution allowing the city administrator and mayor to enter into an agreement with the state of Minnesota to provide public transportation services in Crow Wing County and selected areas of Cass County. The resolution, which has been approved in the past, provides for a local cost share of 15% of total operating costs and 20% of total capital costs, with the state's share being 85% and 80%, respectively.

Denied a request from a resident to turn on a streetlight on Eighth Avenue Northeast between J and L streets. City Engineer Paul Sandy said the resident requested the city turn on the light because children are present in that area. A majority of council agreed there was not an immediate safety issue in that area to justify turning the light on, as Sandy said it could be a slippery slope to approve all such requests. If having a light in that area were a matter of visibility for traffic or pedestrians-such as at an intersection-Sandy said it would be a different issue.

Many street lights in alleys and in the middle of blocks were turned off several years ago for cost saving purposes.

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Accepted the resignation of Dale Parks from the Economic Development Authority.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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