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Millions in Beltrami aid remains active in Congress

Millions of dollars in Beltrami County requests remain active in Congress, says County Administrator Tony Murphy.

About $18.6 million spread through eight Beltrami County priority projects needing federal funding are before Congress, he said, either in federal stimulus funding or the appropriations process.

"All but one probably have good chances," Murphy told commissioners last week.

The doubtful project is the county's top request -- $4.5 million for its jail energy efficiency project which is being requested through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

"Our No. 1 priority isn't in, but it is still in play," he said.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., worked to send all the county's priorities to various Senate committees to be included in bills to be considered, Murphy said.

Working with Klobuchar's staff has been David Turch & Associates, the county-hired lobbyist to guide Beltrami County's federal requests. Murphy said he met with Turch staff a week ago.

"At this point, they all look good," he said. A ninth priority, federal funding for a County Road 23 project, was added to the list, he said.

Several priorities involve road projects that are on the Chippewa National Forest, and in the purview of U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, as chairman of the U..S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks asked Murphy how much Turch & Associates had contributed to gaining positioning for the county's requests.

"They are mostly responsible," said Murphy. "Things are in play."

"So the contract with Turch is paying off," Fairbanks said.

Murphy recommended that a county delegation now go to Washington, D.C., at the end of this month to make a face-to-face contact on the projects with Klobuchar, Oberstar and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District.

It was decided that Commissioners Fairbanks and Joe Vene will accompany Murphy to Washington the last week in June, and will invite one or two Bemidji City Council members to accompany them.

"We need to visit with Amy and say thanks," Murphy said. He added that the city is now paying a portion of Turch's contract, and they may wish to meet with his staff and legislators on city projects.

Murphy said the county also needs to gain Peterson's support for establishing a direct federal-tribal link for welfare services with the Red Lake Band of Chippewa.

"It's really important," he said. The Minnesota Legislature this session provided $500,000 to aid in that transition from state to federal government in reimbursing child protection services, a move that would take Beltrami County out of the program.

"We need to put a face on Beltrami County's issues in Washington," said Vene.

"I'd just as soon get rid of all lobbyists," said County Board Chairman Jim Lucachick. "That would make things equal, but that is not going to happen."

Projects on the federal list include:

- Jail Energy Efficiency Project -- $4.5 million to replace mechanical and electrical systems in the 25-year-old jail, and other energy efficiency upgrades. The project is ready to bid.

- County Road 33 -- $2 million for Beltrami County for a $4 million project in cooperation with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The road is on the Chippewa National Forest and is part of the Great River Road system.

- Mobile data/computer aided dispatch -- $700,000 for hardware and software for a dispatch system compatible with various emergency responders in Beltrami County.

- County Road 39 -- $7 million for the federal forest highway on the Chippewa National Forest to replace 15 miles of roadway.

- Highway garage energy efficiency project -- $400,000 to make the 1976 building more energy efficient with insulation and upgraded energy systems.

- Domestic violence intervention -- $500,000 for a project to support an increased capacity by the Beltrami County's Sheriff's Office to ensure that the identified crimes of violence -- domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault -- are thoroughly investigated and those who commit such crimes are held accountable by assigning a full-time investigator.

- County Road 58 improvements -- $1 million for the road that gives southerly access to the Red Lake Reservation community of Ponemah. A local match of $200,000 would supplement a request of $800,000.

- County Road 22 -- $2.5 million for the federal forest highway in the Chippewa National Forest. It would pave 5 miles of gravel, connecting to a current county project to rebuild the portion of roadway from Twin Lakes.

The American Legion of Bemidji, Ralph Gracie Post 14 in conjunction with the Bemidji Elks Club 1052 will hold a Flag Day program at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14, at the Ralph Gracie Memorial Park, on Birchmont Drive, across from Bemidji State University's Deputy Hall.

Refreshments will be served at the club, following the ceremony.