By Theresa Bourke 10/2/18 at 11:00 a.m.
Brainerd city workers, in October 2016, unload a truck of campaign, real estate and miscellaneous signs at city hall that were posted around the city and not in compliance with the ordinance. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch file photo
Brainerd city staff will sweep streets to get rid of campaign signs or any other signs in violation of city ordinance.
The ordinance does not allow signs of any kind to be placed within the public right of way of any city and county streets. After publishing a reminder of the rules in last week's Brainerd Dispatch and other media sources, city staff contacted political candidates in violation of the ordinance. City Engineer Paul Sandy told city council members during their Monday, Oct. 1, meeting, not all signs were removed from rights of way and asked for direction on how to proceed.
Council members discussed a possible sign ordinance change in the future, as the defined right of way is different for each street, making it difficult for candidates and others placing signs to understand what does and does not comply with the ordinance. Council member Sue Hilgart suggested an amendment stating exactly how far away from the curb signs can be placed, like 10 or 15 feet, which makes the rule uniform for all streets.
"While I'm entirely opposed to signs being in the boulevard—that's an understandable infringement that's easy to interpret—the right of way is not," Hilgart said. "I would like to see it more specific and manageable, and I know that that's the frame of reference in the city of Bemidji, which is a comparable sized city to Brainerd. And it's much easier to enforce, and it's much easier to follow."
Sandy agreed, as that would cut down on confusion and the number of calls he gets asking about rights of way.
Though an amendment likely cannot be completed before this year's election, Mayor Ed Menk told council members they better devise a plan before 2020. Council members advised staff to look into amending the ordinance, but agreed in the meantime to follow and enforce the current sign ordinance and directed city staff to take a day to sweep all city streets for signs. They did not set a date for the sweep, as Sandy said he would like to notify real estate agents first, in the same way staff notified candidates.
Council member Dave Badeaux voted against the measure to remove signs, saying he was against similar measures when he ran for city council two years ago. Council member Dave Pritschet was not at the meeting.
2016 sign removal
The city received backlash in mid-October 2016 after canvassing streets and removing hundreds of political, real estate and business sign weeks before the election. Residents and candidates complained, not understanding why their signs were removed.
Council members at the time admitted they should have done a better job of notifying the public before removing signs. Hilgart also suggested in 2016 the city be more clear on where rights of way are for each street.
The 2016 city council referred the issue to the safety and public works committee to review the sign ordinance.
On Monday, Badeaux asked if the city should issue a public notice about sign removal before it occurs, but Sandy said candidates have been informed personally, and reminders of the ordinance have appeared on various media sources.
In other business Monday, the council:
Gave approval to post internally for an additional building inspector position with a potential hiring date of mid-December, prior to the adoption of the 2019 budget.
Approved a lawful gambling application from the Lakes Area Bowling Association to conduct bingo Nov. 12-16 at Jack's House.
Approved a street closure application for the Brainerd Homecoming 5K, 10K and parade 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 6. The races will use trails and sidewalks adjacent to South Fifth Street, East River Road, West Laurel Street, County Highway 48 and College Drive. The parade will use South Fourth, South Fifth, Front and Laurel streets and College Drive and East River Road.
Approved a street closure application for the Rise to Recovery Walk 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21. The walk will use Lum Park facilities and sidewalks and local streets in northeast Brainerd.
Approved a street closure application for the St. Francis School Marathon 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 17. The race will use streets around St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School.
Approved a street closure application for Zion Lutheran Church's trunk-or-treat festivities 4-7:30 p.m. Oct. 31. The event will be in the church's parking lot and adjacent alley.