County, city discuss joint issues
BEMIDJI -- Although Bemidji City Hall and the Beltrami County Administration building are only three blocks away, the paths of those who occupy those buildings seemingly don't cross that often.
On Tuesday night, the governing bodies of the two entities met to discuss various issues that affect both of them.
Among those issues was preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in local lakes and rivers. But both sides seemed to agree another government body -- the state -- should take larger role than it has been.
"My frustration comes from the lack of the local input from the (Department of Natural Resources)," Councilor Roger Hellquist said. "The DNR needs to take an active role, and not with a little money, a lot of money on this."
The Bemidji City Council last month took no action on a request from the Friends of Lake Bemidji for $10,000 to do boat inspections at the water accesses.
"I don't have an issue with giving $10,000, that doesn't bother me," Hellquist said. "I want $10,000 that'll do some good."
Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene commended lake associations like the Friends of Lake Bemidji in their efforts to do inspections.
Beltrami County administrator Kay Mack said in the short-term, the county hopes to put pressure on the DNR to "step it up." She noted, however, that DNR officials sit on a committee that was recently formed to deal with AIS.
"But in the meantime, whatever we can do to shield our lakes, we're going to shield our lakes," she said.
To that end, Beltrami County Commissioners recently set aside $20,000 to hire a seasonal AIS coordinator, who would line up volunteers to inspect boats at water accesses.
"We do not believe we are the solution for AIS," Mack said. "We do not want the community to look at us as the be all and the end all. But we also feel that we can't just sit back and do nothing."
Whether the Bemidji Public Library will get an additional staff member it desires remains to be seen.
The outcome of library branch manager Paul Ericsson's request appears to depend on the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners, who will set a preliminary levy in September. Mack said it should be known around that time whether they will contribute the $21,261 necessary for the staffer.
During their preliminary budget discussions, the Bemidji City Council set aside $24,000 for the position contingent on support from the county.
"For me the question is, what is the level of service and the kind of library service that we in Bemidji and in the surrounding areas want to provide?" Mayor Rita Albrecht said. "And we want to provide the best level of service that we can afford."
• The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners approved during their regular meeting before meeting with the city council the purchase of an air conditioner chiller to be installed at the Beltrami County Jail. The unit will cost $85,000, to be drawn from the county's capital improvement fund, county administrator Kay Mack said.
• Approval of a $15,000 contract with the Region Five Development Commission. The group will provide lending services for the county, helping to secure loans for residents in the process of repairing or replacing on-site sewer systems.
Pioneer staff reporter Justin Glawe contributed to this report.