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City Council: Chamber, DDA to fight for community development director

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Rita Albrecht isn't gone yet, and the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce wants to keep it that way.

The Chamber and the Downtown Development Authority plan to have representatives attend Monday night's regular council meeting to state their opposition to the council's decision to eliminate the city's community development director by the end of 2009 and reallocate those funds toward the city's 2010 budget.

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Lori Paris, the president of the Chamber, said Friday that the Chamber wants the entire position to remain.

"It's a critical position," Paris said.

The council on Aug. 10 voted 4-3 to eliminate the community development director position, which Rita Albrecht filled upon its creation in 2008.

"The Chamber board of directors has concerns regarding the decision City Council has to eliminate the position of community developer," according to an e-mail sent Friday encouraging Chamber members to attend the council meeting.

"The Chamber board feels this is (an) extremely critical position for the city," the e-mail continues. "The Downtown Development Authority has expressed the same concern and is also encouraging attendance at this meeting."

Discussion of the community development director position is not currently listed on the City Council agenda. The council could choose to add the topic to the agenda, or Chamber representatives could speak during the portion of the meeting dedicated to allowing the public to address city issues not on the agenda.

Paris said Friday that she herself has not talked individually with councilors, but that board members have. She had no indication Friday morning as to whether the council would be open to reconsidering the position's elimination.

But, she continued, the Chamber feels the community development director is important.

She listed recent city actions and plans such as the redevelopment of the south shore, the orderly annexation agreement, the downtown study and airport initiatives as reasons as to why that position is "critical."

"The plans are visualizing that has gotten us to this point ... are innovative and progressive," she said.

According to the Chamber e-mail, Chamber Chairman Mike Beard will read a letter to the council requesting reconsideration of this decision. Paris said the DDA already sent its own letter to the council.

To reverse its decision from last week, one of the four councilors who voted against the position's elimination would need to change his or her vote. All seven city councilors were present. Voting in favor of the position's elimination were Councilors Jerry Downs, Roger Hellquist, Barb Meuers and Greg Negard.

bwesley@bemidjipioneer.com

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