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Detailed events center proposal to be unveiled in early January

The public will have to wait a little longer before hearing the details of the events center proposal.

The project team had planned to present components of the plan to the public and the Bemidji City Council this week, but has decided to wait until the first part of January.

The target date had been mid- to late December as Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, said legislative finance committees begin prioritizing bonding requests after the holidays.

"I know that negotiations are ongoing and all parties are committed to getting this done," Moe said Monday.

Moe said he has told Alice Hausman, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, that meetings are ongoing and a finalized proposal is expected in early January.

"The later we go, the more challenging it will be," Moe said.

Uncertainties remain in three key elements of the events center proposal:

-- How to get revenues and costs to fit with the building proposed.

-- Development of a framework for a lease that works for both the city of Bemidji and Bemidji State University.

-- How to manage operations and maintenance costs without raising property taxes.

A public hearing and special council meeting were scheduled for this week, but were postponed until January, said Cliff Tweedale, executive director of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, the project coordinator.

The project team, which consists of representatives from HRDC, Leo A. Daly and Bemidji State University, as well as Bill Krueger from Conventions, Sports & Leisure, has made good progress toward all three key elements, Tweedale said.

But, time constraints due to the upcoming holidays are impacting the group's ability to finalize a plan, he said.

Another meeting of the lease negotiations committee will be held this week, Tweedale said.

BSU will then need to internally review the lease arrangement, and the city will also need time to internally review all three proposal components, he said.

Rita Albrecht, a development specialist with the HRDC, updated the City Council on the events center during Monday's council meeting.

Albrecht said the HRDC is considering the project to be a south shore redevelopment as much as an events center proposal. She told the council that the project team was considering all its options for additional funding for the development.

"We're looking in every corner," for additional funding sources to minimize the risk to taxpayers, Albrecht said.

The HRDC has met with the councilors individually and will do so again in the first week of January to discuss strategies for dealing with operation and maintenance, she said.