Baxter City Council: Residents seek more time for road project, city notes costs will increase

Projects included Clearwater Road, Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project. The issue is before the council Tuesday, May 16.

People fill many of the chairs in the gallery at Baxter City Hall
Clearwater Road is part of several street projects before the Baxter City Council. Projects included Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — What are Baxter residents willing to live with in terms of street quality?

That is an ongoing question before the Baxter City Council as projects line up with aging streets or those that did not stand up to previous road work.

More than 30 residents were before the Baxter City Council in a special session Thursday, May 11, with questions on proposed assessments, why they were included and asking the council to wait on three roads that are part of the plan to fix a deteriorating Clearwater Road.

A closeup of Clearwater Road with cracked pavement
Clearwater Road is part of several street projects before the Baxter City Council. Projects included Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project.<br/>
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

The preliminary estimate for the project was $5,432,549. The final estimate came in lower at $4,994,349. Thirty-eight percent of the project is being assessed with 62% paid with other sources. Assessments have a 12-year term at an estimated 8% interest. Projects included Clearwater Road, Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project.

Plans are for the work to begin this summer. The city council will consider awarding the construction bid at its Tuesday, May 16, meeting.


The city council members said there wasn’t an easy answer when it comes to road projects. Mayor Darrel Olson said while waiting to do projects gives residents an opportunity to save for the assessment, it also means the cost will be higher when the time comes and he struggled with what was the best answer. The assessments for Memorywood Drive not long ago were about $6,500 or $6,800. Now the assessments are up to $8,300 in about four years time.

There were plenty of specific questions and confusion on different assessments for different zoning and whether those numbers were fair.

Others pointed to work establishing roads and decisions in the city’s past going back decades to the 1970s and 1980s, including building in areas that likely would now not be approved because of the wetland status. They spoke of standing water at the intersection of Forest and Fox roads.

Jim Heidman, Fox Place, said the road is barely 20 years old.

“How many retired people live on that road that cannot afford to be assessed again?” Heidman asked. He was critical of work and inspections on the road years ago with a project to add sewer and a rush to finish the work in the fall that left a road that retained standing water.

Trevor Walter, public works director and city highway engineer, said the work was done in phases and hit dirt that wasn't suitable with three different spots where brush was buried when the road was built in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. After Fox Place was paved in 2001, it started to have a rolling effect. Walter said they brought in asphalt paving association experts in that fall and again in the spring. The determination, Walter said, was not because of a bad job, or bad inspections during the paving process, but they should have waited to pave the road. The water table had not equalized from the dewatering to install the sanitary sewer before the road was completed.

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“Hindsight being 20-20, we should have waited a year to take and pave that stretch of road,” Walter said. Walter said the inspector on the project, who since died of COVID-19, was one of the best the city had. Walter said it was not a workmanship issue.


Olson said Walter hit the root of the problem from his earlier comment that they found buried trees and brush when they were digging for the sewer installation, something that was probably not uncommon in that whole area.

“We're all paying for it and probably will forever because I don't think it'll ever be right, to be honest with you,” Olson said. “I was talking to one of your neighbors that’s been there pretty much from day one, and made the same comment, I don't think this is ever going to be fixable, because of what's underneath there, because of what happened here. That probably would not happen today.”

People fill the chairs in front of the Baxter City Council during a presentation
Scott Hedlund, Short Elliott Hendickson project manager, outlines the planned road project in a special meeting Thursday, May 11, 2023, at Baxter City Hall before the council and residents. <br/><br/>
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

The meeting was contentious at times with people speaking from the back of the room while others were at the podium. A couple of residents, who said they were frustrated, continued to speak of incompetent work while Walter repeatedly told them the work was inspected and investigated after there were issues, and the issue was determined to be related to the groundwater.

Dave Arndt, Fox Road resident, wondered why his road, which appears in better shape, was lumped in with the Clearwater Road project.

“I would think it would last at least another five years,” Arndt said. “... There are probably a lot of other roads that need it more than that. There’s no potholes. The sides aren’t crumbling. I don’t see the problem. … If I know it’s coming in five years I can start saving up for it.”

Forest, Fox and Fox Place roads were added as an alternate bid so the city could remove those roads without impacting the Clearwater Road project. Walter said Fox Road is 22 years old and noted the city has been patching potholes and have spray patched the road every year. Walter said the road could go another three to five years.

Council member Mark Cross noted a resident petition from Fox and Forest make it pretty clear they do not want the road project. Cross said he’d be in favor of not doing that part of the project at this point.

Noting he’s said this before, Olson said this is the absolute worst part of the job. But one of the things Olson said he struggles with is whether they are doing a disservice to residents and missing an opportunity to save money now by putting a project off and knowing they’ll also have the cost for all the taxpayers to maintain the road for the more years as well. The general consensus might be to never assess anyone, but that isn’t the real world, Olson said.


Council member Jeff Phillips asked about the economy of scale of having Forest and Fox included. Walter said because the work is right there on Clearwater there is a cost savings to do the neighboring streets. Council member Connie Lyscio said she preferred to have several resolutions drawn up so the council could make the decision Tuesday on the road projects. Council member Zach Tabatt was absent Thursday.

The issue is on the council’s agenda for Tuesday, May 16.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at @DispatchBizBuzz.

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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