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Baxter City Council is willing to part with land for school building

Students attend a Baxter City Council session Tuesday. The council also met in a closed session to talk about selling city land for a potential new Baxter Elementary School. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER—The Baxter City Council is willing to sell 40 acres of land to the Brainerd School District for school purposes.

The decision came after the council met Tuesday in a closed session regarding purchase of property. The land in question is just to the east of Forestview Middle School, on the other side of Knollwood Drive.

Steve Lund, Brainerd School District business services director, spoke to the council in the closed session regarding use of the land as the potential site of a future Baxter Elementary School. The plan was to present a framework to the city council with tentative plans for the western half of the city-owned land. After further deliberation following Lund's departure, the council went back into open session. Baxter City Council members Todd Holman, Steve Barrows and Quinn Nystrom as well as Mayor Darrel Olson were part of the discussion. Council member Mark Cross was absent.

City Attorney Brad Person said the city will work with the school district for a final layout and details, but is willing to sell up to 40 acres of the land. Person said selling 40 acres leaves enough space for a future city hall to be constructed at the site, which was the original reason the city got the land from Potlatch before the start of the Great Recession. The economic downturn put all those plans for a new city hall on hold.

Lund said concrete plans won't be made until a path is determined by the April 10 referendum vote. A new Baxter Elementary School is expected to cost $26 million and is part of the first question on the referendum regarding investing in elementary school buildings and the Early Childhood Family Education program.

The school board looked at two main options for a new Baxter Elementary School. One was the city land east of Forestview. The other was the land the school district already owns north of Forestview Middle School, which includes the school forest.

School officials looked at 12 potential sites before naming a primary and secondary option, both near Forestview. The city-owned land was known as the primary site.

The referendum vote is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 10. Early absentee voting begins Friday.