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Second CSL study OK'd

The city will hire a consultant after all.

The Bemidji City Council on Monday voted unanimously to move forward toward retaining Wayzata-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure for two components of events center planning.

CSL was retained at a cost of $30,000 to perform a second analysis of the proposed Bemidji events center. The study will essentially be an update of the 2006 feasibility study.

CSL will also likely be hired to serve as a consultant in lease negotiations between the city and Bemidji State University. The cost would not exceed $15,000.

The second service was not completely approved as Councilor Roger Hellquist had proposed that the city compare CSL's proposed $15,000 cost with two firms that could provide similar services.

"All it takes is a phone call," Hellquist said.

Councilor Nancy Erickson, noting that the city has a time factor to consider, proposed a motion that would allow City Manager John Chattin to retain CSL for both services, if the lease negotiation fee was comparable -- $5,000 either direction - to similar firms. The motion passed unanimously.

"I'd like to get these folks started on this," Erickson said.

A second feasibility study will take into account the event center's new proposed location along the southeast shore of Lake Bemidji, Mayor Richard Lehmann said.

CSL will analyze the market, utilization levels, financial operations and economic impact related to the proposed events center, according to information from CSL. Including the study is a review of the data collected in the 2006 CSL study. Potential users will again be contacted and a financial operating analysis will be developed.

CSL also proposed that it would work with the city and university to develop the terms of a potential lease agreement in which BSU hockey would serve as the anchor tenant of the events center.

BSU would likely pay one-half of the proposed $15,000 cost for CSL's help in negotiations, Lehmann said.

"(BSU officials) did feel CSL would be a good company to do this," he said.

Erickson said it would be beneficial to have a company that has worked on the Bemidji events center project previously.

"They have all the knowledge," she said.

Councilor Ron Johnson was concerned that the study would not be useful without first having the details of the lease figured out.

"Seems like the study would be better after we know what we're doing," he said.

Lehmann said the city's negations committee - composed of himself, Erickson and Councilor Jerry Downs - and BSU officials felt that a second study would help direct them. If the study can help determine specifics about operation and maintenance and potential revenue, the committees can better discuss a potential arrangement, he explained.

"We have to work on knowing what it is we're going to be leasing," he said.

CSL said it would take about 10 weeks to complete the scope of the work required in the study, which would carry over into 2008. A timeline for lease negotiations is undetermined.

It was not the first time the city had discussed hiring a consultant who could work on lease negotiations. The Headwaters Regional Development Commission, the project coordinator of the events center, had previously suggested that the city consider retaining St. Cloud attorney Brian Schoenborn, who has experience working with similar sports arenas. No action was taken on that proposal.