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League of Minnesota Cities praises Bemidji for joint planning initiatives

Bemidji has been named a "City of Excellence" by the League of Minnesota Cities.

The LMC honored Bemidji as one of four cities of excellence Thursday night during its annual conference.

Bemidji was recognized for its work in developing the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board. The GBJPB was formed to develop one set of zoning and subdivision ordinances for the city of Bemidji, Northern Township and Bemidji Township.

In the first phase of the plan, the city and both townships developed a plan for orderly annexation. In the second phase, the city and townships the city and townships developed one land use plan, a transportation plan, and one set of zoning and subdivision regulations.

The city and township boards approved the above plan, and this spring the GBJPB and Joint Planning Commission began holding regular meetings.

"It's gone very smoothly," said Curt Oakes, the Bemidji city planner. "We have excellent members."

Oakes said the members of both the joint board and the joint planning commission have experience in planning.

"They're really doing a great job," he said.

The joint planning board is composed of eight members - four from the city and two from each of the townships.

The Joint Planning Commission is composed of 12 members - six from the city and three from each of the townships.

Each year four cities are selected as cities of excellence by the LMC. Thirty-two entries were received from Minnesota cities, according to a press release from the LMC. Bemidji, Elko New Market, St. Cloud and St. Paul were selected as award recipients.

Elko New Market was honored in the under 5,000 population category for its endeavors in consolidating the cities of Elko and New Market.

Bemidji won in the population category of 5,000 to 19,999 for its joint planning initiatives.

Winning in the 20,000 population and up category was the city of St. Paul for opening the Rondo Community Outreach Library, which houses a library and three floors of mixed-income housing.

Also winning an award was the city of St. Cloud, which was honored in a special topic category: fostering senior-friendly communities. St. Cloud's Whitney Senior Center, open since 1977, recently was expanded to offer its programs to an underserved area of the city and to assist those with limited finances or mobility that would have prohibited them from using the center. The result was Whitney Without Walls, an initiative that had the center partnering with other centers and senior apartment complexes to offer programs and services throughout St. Cloud.

The City of Excellence awards honor cities that improve the quality of city services, develop an innovative way to solve an old problem, discover a new way to save city money without compromising service, or use creative involvement of city staff and residents in making a decision.

GBJPB members

Ken Howe, chair

Roger Hellquist

Jim Humeniuk

Ron Johnson

Richard Lehmann

Becky Livermore

Barb Meuers

Mel Milender

Nate Riggenberg

Planning Commission

Clark Chambers

Jess Frenzel

Mike Kamnikar

Laurie Kramka

Nicki Lemmer

Steve Newby

Janice Moberg

Greg Negard

Richard Slinkman

Greg Smith

Paula Swenson

Heather Vernlund