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Four members of the Bemidji City Council took the Oath of Office Monday night during the regular council meeting. From left are re-elected Ward 2 Councilor Roger Hellquist and newly elected Councilors Rita Albrecht, Ward 4, and Jim Thompson, at-large; and newly elected Mayor Dave Larson. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

Newly seated Bemidji mayor, councilors call for joint meeting with county board on 2 a.m. bar closing time

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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The faces might be new, but the issues are the same.

The new Bemidji City Council was seated Monday night. At the tail end of the relatively uneventful meeting, new Mayor Dave Larson asked his fellow councilors to endorse the idea of a joint meeting with Beltrami County commissioners to discuss the city's and county's positions on bar closing times.

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The former City Council, in its last meeting of 2010, voted 4-3 to allow city bars the option of extending their bar closing times one hour, from 1 to 2 a.m.

Meanwhile, Beltrami County commissioners are scheduled today, Tuesday, to hold the first reading of an ordinance amendment prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages after 1 a.m. for county bars. If approve, it would only affect about eight establishments in the county, and would not affect establishments within the limits of incorporated cities.

"I've had conversations with several of the county commissioners, and in view of the change or apparent impending position the county is taking on the liquor closing, I think it would be appropriate to meet with the county commissioners and have a continued dialogue on that," Larson said.

The issue was not on the agenda. Larson brought up the issue during the end-of-the-meeting council updates, during which elected officials and department heads discuss ongoing issues and recap committee meetings.

The joint meeting will be scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, at Bemidji City Hall. The council already was planning for a work session that night.

"Just to open up that dialogue and compare notes and get on the same page and have similar understandings," Larson said.

City Manager John Chattin said he spoke with County Administrator Tony Murphy last week on the possibility and Murphy believed most, if not all, of the commissioners would be available for the meeting.

Councilor Ron Johnson noted that the city used to have annual meetings with the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners.

Larson said the commissioners he spoke with are interested in continuing discussion with city councilors on other issues beyond just the bar closing time.

Larson was not the only person to raise the 2 a.m. bar time during the meeting.

Speaking well before that was Steve Fogelson, who is not a city resident but owns commercial property in the city limits, addressed the council during the portion dedicating to hearing from the general public.

Fogelson asked the council to consider rescinding the ordinance allowing the later bar closing time.

Failing that, he suggested that the council amend the ordinance to require that a bar wanting to serve alcohol later would have to have been established in Bemidji for five years and have held a liquor license for at least five years, among other requirements.

"I would appreciate your consideration," he said.

Fogelson also asked whether any local bars have applied for the later 2 a.m. bar closing time permit since the ordinance was passed.

However, City Clerk Kay Murphy pointed out that the ordinance cannot take effect until 30 days after legal publication, which would be Jan. 24.

The council also acted on the following:

E Accepted the feasibility report for the 2011 Street Renewal Project. A public meeting will be scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, and a public hearing was set for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7.

E Accepted a $22,000 grant, with a $3,000 required local match, to be shared by the Bemidji Fire Department and Bemidji Rural Fire Association to study shared fire and rescue services.

E Approved a bid of $23,531.84 from Basketball Products International for portable basketball backstops for The Sanford Center.

The council also acted on the following:

- Accepted the feasibility report for the 2011 Street Renewal Project. A public meeting will be scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, and a public hearing was set for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7.

- Accepted a $22,000 grant, with a $3,000 required local match, to be shared by the Bemidji Fire Department and Bemidji Rural Fire Association to study shared fire and rescue services.

- Approved a bid of $23,531.84 from Basketball Products International for portable basketball backstops for The Sanford Center.

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Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337
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