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Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Where are the city's priorities?

This was the question posed to the Bemidji City Council by resident Kathleen Gorick, who spoke during the public comment portion of Monday's meeting.

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Gorick was emotional during her presentation and addressed councilors by reading a prepared statement.

She questioned the council's priorities in considering more than $13 million to purchase land along the southeast shore of Lake Bemidji while also considering a privatization of the wastewater treatment plant.

Gorick, whose husband is an employee at the wastewater treatment plant, was referencing a City Council action last week authorizing requests for proposals to private firms that may have an interest in operating the facility instead of having a city-run facility.

According to City Manager John Chattin, the proposals would accomplish two things: First, the council wouldl be able to compare costs of having a private firm operate the plant versus current city expenditures of doing so; and second, the council would have proposals in hand if it does decide it is interested in retaining a private firm to operate the facility.

Gorick, however, told the council that cutting jobs, losing local employees, would hurt the community.

She urged councilors to consider two things: first, what it would possibly save by privatizing operations at the treatment plant; and second, how much business the community would lose if local employees lost their jobs.

"Fewer workers means less money spent in your community," she said.

Gorick also questioned the priorities of the Pioneer. The story about the south shore land deal ran on Page A1; the article that included information about the possibility of a privatized treatment plant ran on Page A12.

Mayor Richard Lehmann told Gorick that the council had authorized staff to seek out proposals, and that did not mean the council was going to actually privatize operations at the treatment plant.

"I realize these are considerations," Gorick said.

Lehmann also said the city never intended to lose employees.

"Current employees, they would maintain their jobs," he said.

But, the requests for proposal might tell the council if the treatment plant is operating as efficiently as it can, he explained.

Additionally, Lehmann said the council cannot control the placement of stories in the Pioneer.

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