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Bemidji City Council approves LPTV agreements

BEMIDJI -- In order to have the ability to route state bonding money to the Lakeland Public Television building project, the Bemidji City Council gave the green light for city officials to make Widseth Smith Nolting Construction a consultant for the city on the project.

In a 6-0 vote Monday night, the council authorized city staff to negotiate an agreement with WSN and Northern Minnesota Public Television -- Lakeland's corporate name -- so the construction firm could act as a consultant not only to LPTV but the city, as well.

The land the new building will be constructed is south of the Sanford Center and is owned by the city, which will initially lease the building to Lakeland for $1.

As discussed by City Attorney Al Felix in his report on the project, Lakeland had previously worked with the city to obtain bonding money from state. Since the city itself was awarded $2.9 million in bonding money, not Lakeland, that makes it necessary for there to be agreements between the city and WSN similar to what was put in place for the Sanford Center construction, Felix said.

A lease and an overall usage agreement for the property already exist in draft form and are currently waiting on approval from the state, Felix said.

Lakeland is aiming to have bids out for construction as soon as possible and break ground this fall, Felix said. The bids could go out as soon as next week, he said. WSN has already prepared design documents and will effectively handle the bid process through the future agreement with the city, although the bids would be sponsored by the city in order to satisfy bonding requirements from the state. The building will be maintained by Lakeland.

Although city staff will devote time to the project, the city will not be directly contributing any funds toward it, Felix said.

Any change orders to the project will be approved or denied by the City Council, City Manager John Chattin said.

If the project were to go over budget, Lakeland would cover the additional cost, not the city, officials said.

City Council member Ron Johnson recused himself from voting. He is the design/promotion manager at LPTV.

In other business, the council heard updates on the following:

• There will be a joint meeting between city and county officials Thursday morning to discuss e-cigarettes.

• The Downtown Development Authority plans to rebrand itself the Bemidji Downtown Alliance and to narrow its focus to a smaller downtown area, ending its boundaries at the Mississippi River bridge, or the beginning of the isthmus.

• An archaeological dig at the Lake Bemidji waterfront unearthed suspected artificats. The discovery will slow the timeline for the construction of a new platform that will feature the planned new Chief Bemidji sculpture in the area. No human remains were found and the discovery is not expected to require a relocation for the platform.

• The apparent logging activities occurring along Hannah Avenue Northwest opposite Wal-Mart is due to a new Affinity Bank planned at that location.

• The four-way stop and Hannah Avenue Northwest and 30th Street Northwest is now in place and operational.

• An agenda item pertaining to an easement request from Otter Tail Power in anticipation of its planned transmission line upgrade was tabled to a future meeting.