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City manager: 'Caveats need to be included in any plan to save building'

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News Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The issues of the Carnegie library and television access need to be separated, according to John Chattin, city manager for Bemidji.

In a memo to the Bemidji City Council, Chattin said the document is "not intended to reflect an opinion" on issues related to the expected discussion and possible consideration of Upstream TV's proposal for the preservation and reuse of Bemidji's historic Carnegie library.

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"I am neither in support of or opposed to saving the Carnegie," Chattin writes. "However, these caveats need to be included in any plan to save the building."

Chattin's memo includes at least five points he wants the council to consider in moving forward.

In the memo, Chattin said he believes the council must separate the Carnegie issue from the Upstream TV proposal because the council has not given city staff any specific direction regarding government access television expansion.

"So far we have only had speculation on the future of government access and staff are unable to plan for the future when the council has set no direction in this area," he writes. "There may also be additional alternatives through Lakeland Public TV for our government access in the future that could or could not include Upstream TV."

Chattin also said he believes Upstream TV must stand on its own, and if its proposal for the Carnegie is accepted by the council, it should go before a committee that would be formed to seek funds to preserve the building.

He said any plan for the Carnegie must include moving the building 10 feet to the east, at a minimum.

"The Carnegie is a beautiful building in a terrible location," he writes. "If any grant funds are obtained, we would likely never be able to move the building without reimbursing those funds. Requiring that it be moved up front would resolve those issues."

Chattin also said any Carnegie plan must be fully funded because "phasing a project like this just doesn't work."

"Whatever the final plan is, it should be fully funded before it is implemented," he wrote.

Further, the fully-funded plan must be coordinated with the planning process for Library Park, he said.

The last point Chattin makes is that a definitive timeline should be required because it is unlikely that Carnegie supporters would be able to fully fund the entire project by October.

"History has shown that raising those levels of funding simply cannot be done in such a short time period without some 'sugardaddy' contributing the lion's share," he writes. "However, a timeline with fundraising goals specified would keep the process on track and indicate either success or when it is time to throw in the towel."

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Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337
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