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Work begins at old BHS site

With the demolition of two buildings at the old Bemidji High School just a few months away, crews began preparation work this week at the site.

Hazardous material abatement began Monday in preparation for the demolition of the A Building and auditorium, said Bill Hansen, principal project manager and owner of Hansen Construction Consulting in Hackensack. He said abatement is expected to be finished in May and demolition is set to begin that month.

The Bemidji State University Foundation bought about 12 acres of the old BHS property last summer from the Bemidji School District for $575,000. The purchase included the A Building and auditorium, a vacant site where the B Building once stood and a stone maintenance building.

The foundation purchased the property and is paying for the abatement and demolition with the plan that BSU will reimburse it for these costs.

BSU, which plans to use the property for future expansion, is seeking $2 million from the state Legislature this session for the reimbursement.

"Both the House and the Senate have recommended it in their bonding bills," said Bill Maki, BSU vice president for finance and administration.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system included BSU's $2 million request in its bonding list for this legislative session, ranking it No. 28 of 37 requests.

"The university is lobbying hard for this funding as are our students," Maki said.

BSU made the same request during the 2007 legislative session, but it failed when Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the Legislature's bonding bill last spring.

"We were so close to getting it last time," Maki said. "Hopefully we can get that last step this time."

Plans for the future

After the two buildings are cleared at the old BHS property, the university plans to seed it with grass in September, Maki said. He noted that demolition of the buildings is scheduled to begin the last week of May with the goal of it being completed by the first week of July.

Maki said the stone maintenance facility, which the school district is currently leasing, will remain at the site at this time. After the school district moves into the new maintenance facility it plans to build this year on the new BHS campus, he said the university plans to use the stone building for storage and maintenance.

BSU plans to use the old BHS property for future academic expansion, according to BSU's 40-year master facilities plan. Maki said plans include some buildings and green space.

"We don't have a firm timeline at this point," he said, noting that BSU sought the property for future expansion because the university is landlocked.

Maki said BSU has planned its facilities requests for the next 10 years to the Legislature. At this time, he said these requests relate to the renovation of buildings on the main campus and don't include plans at the old BHS property.

"We update our master facilities plan generally every five years," Maki said. "It was just updated in 2007."