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BREC features added back in

Bemidji City Councilor Roger Hellquist, acknowledging that it was an unusual position for him to be in, argued in favor of additions at the site of the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

"If we don't do it now, it will cost at least twice as much to do it later," he said Monday during the regular City Council meeting.

Hellquist and four other city councilors voted in favor of adding back into the BREC budget additional street lights, trees and electrical outlets.

The additions were approved at a not-to-exceed cost of $241,400.

Voting in favor were Hellquist and Councilors Jerry Downs, Ron Johnson, Kevin Waldhausen and Mayor Richard Lehmann. Opposed were Councilors Barb Meuers and Greg Negard.

"If we could get by without it before, why can't we get by without it now?" Meuers said.

The features were initially nixed from the budget for the south shore redevelopment while the council was making cuts to save cost.

Since the project is now running under budget, City Manager John Chattin recommended that the features be re-included.

The additions - including street lights, electrical receptacles, trees, trenching and wire, and a control system - were all deleted west of the Central Avenue extension.

"The reality is, we do want street lights there," Chattin said.

The Planned Unit Development for the south shore is expected to be presented for consideration to the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission next week and Joint Planning Board next month.

Both Chattin and Waldhausen noted that Mel Milender, the planning administrator for the joint planning office, has suggested that the JPB might require the installation of those street lights anyway.

"They wouldn't want any streets constructed out there unless they were lit," Chattin said.

Eighteen street lights are now set to be added to the development plan.

Meuers stated that the additional street lights could add to light pollution in the city and near the lakeshore.

Lehmann said that the street lights would enhance accessibility to new businesses and also improve safety in the area.

Downs suggested that the city wait and actually bid the additions and see their final costs.

Chattin expects the final costs to be lower than the $241,400 approved, but said the city could not wait to add the features back into plans.

Excavation for the street is expected in five to six weeks, he noted. All the work needed to be done in preparation for the lights and trees would have to be done during that time or else the city would need to go back and bore into those areas later.

"That really will drive your costs way up," he said.