The council agreed two points of discussion for a future workshop session would be broadband access in the city and when construction fees are released.
Council member John Ward said changes expected later this summer from the Federal Communications Commission could have significant negative effects for internet connectivity for residents.
“There are a whole lot of people in the city of Baxter in our whole area that are going to lose their internet,” Ward said.
With state and federal funding available for broadband expansion, Ward recommended the topic be discussed in greater length with the council. City Administrator Brad Chapulis said he is getting information from CTC on the topic.
Regarding the residential construction, Ward told the council during the Tuesday, Feb. 4, Zoom meeting, a constituent raised the issue of the fees.
Money is set aside until a house passes city inspections and receives a certification that it is ready to be occupied.
“But what happens is the contractors need the money right away,” Ward said.
Ward recommended a discussion to look at the process and when that money could be released to the contractors. The rest of the council agreed to have those conversations.
The upcoming Super Bowl was also on Ward’s mind.
“We’ve got a young guy by the name of Joey Haeg who went to Nisswa School and graduated from Brainerd High School and just like in the fall when Nick Anderson, Brainerd High School grad was in the World Series, Joey Haeg is going to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday. So we're rooting on the Bucs for that,” Ward said.
In other business, the council:
Approved beginning the process of filling the engineering internship position after confirming approval of Sourcewell funding. Sourcewell has a program available to local governments in Crow Wing County. The program provides financial support of $12 per hour for up to 640 hours if the intern is enrolled in a post-secondary institution for the entire internship period.
The intern would assist the city in collecting and evaluating data on stormwater ponds, updating the pavement marking information, as well as assist with sanitary sewer and water inspections and other tasks. The pay is $16 per hour with the city adding $4 per hour.
“Staff views this as an opportunity to utilize a local Sourcewell program to complete work that has been difficult to finish due to workload of full time staff,” the public works department reported.
The student must be 18 years old or older and have a valid state driver’s license. Desired qualifications include civil engineering technology or pre-engineering courses, two or more years working with the general public and experience in a public works department.
Council member Zach Tabatt thanked Sourcewell for its contribution for the internship position.
“It’s amazing to me the amount of support, funding and assistance, just staff time, that that organization provides across the region here,” Tabatt said. “I’m glad we have that opportunity and hopefully it goes well.”
Appointed Jacob Reber to the open position in the streets and utilities department. Reber will take a position vacated after a retirement in late 2020. Reber’s start date is estimated to be Feb. 16.
Approved the city’s pay equity report and submission to the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget.
In other council comments, Ward congratulated the Brainerd Jaycees on its virtual Extravaganza as a successful event that wasn’t easy to do and many nonprofits will reap the benefits.
Ward also praised Jeremy Vacinek, city finance director, for handling and taking care of a question from a resident.
Ward noted the legislation about the Whiskey Creek project at the state, saying he sent letters to the legislators on those bills in the House and Senate as well as asking area legislators to review and support it. Ward said sending letters, especially to those on the bill, really do have an impact and he encouraged the council members to consider it.
Met in closed session for about 40 minutes to discuss purchase of real estate. The council took no action once it was back in session other than noting discussions with the property owner will continue.