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Bemidji to hire consultant: Will offer land valuations along the south shore

The Bemidji City Council will want to be equipped with the best information possible in preparation for making decisions regarding development along the south shore of Lake Bemidji, said City Attorney Al Felix on Monday.

Because of that, he urged the council to retain a consultant who would provide the city with estimates about the value of the land involved in the redevelopment.

Gary Battuello of Ramsland and Vigen out of Duluth, Minn., has capped his costs at $6,500 to provide valuation estimates to the city, according to council documents. His work is expected to be complete by May 23.

"I personally think this is a due diligence step you need to take," Felix said.

The council unanimously approved the agreement, agreeing to pay for Battuello's services out of the city's contingency funds.

City Manager John Chattin told the council that city staff is working on a funding plan for the south shore development that would not rely on increased property taxes.

That plan includes the sale of land for commercial and real estate purposes, but those estimates are based on staff projections, he explained.

"I don't think the council wants to rely on those estimates," Chattin said, noting that city staff members are not trained appraisers.

While Battuello will not provide estimates, he will offer valuation estimates, Chattin said.

Mayor Richard Lehmann stressed the importance of having reliable numbers as the council considers the redevelopment of the south shore.

"It's in our best interest to move forward on this," he said.

Felix said that city staff is trying to provide the city with the best information possible as councilors consider the risks and benefits of the project.

"We think, as staff, that it's very important to get this kind of information," he said, noting that the City Council in April approved a contract with Stefanie Galey of Faegre & Benson, a Minneapolis law firm, in which she would provide advice and proposals on the use of tax-increment financing for redevelopment purposes.

Battuello previously worked with the city on evaluating land anticipated to be part of the Paul Bunyan State Trail corridor.