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Bemidji City Council considers priorities for city

Of 22 issues generated by six members of the Bemidji City Council, they all agreed on maybe two as priorities for the city in the next 2-5 years.

The council met for a 4½-hour planning session Monday night in a work session with consultant Jim Brimeyer at Bemidji City Hall. Councilor Greg Negard was absent.

Brimeyer is the founder and former owner of The Brimeyer Group, an executive search firm based in Hopkins, Minn.

He also is the part-time administrator for Spring Park, Minn.

He previously has led similar planning sessions in Bemidji with the council, although has not done so in the last couple of years.

Brimeyer returned to Bemidji Monday as he led the City Council through a session that, ultimately, identified short-term goals for the city of Bemidji.

Councilors, along with City Manager John Chattin, reviewed a governing model, discussed leadership tools and considered strengths and weaknesses facing the city.

About an hour into the session, the council and Chattin brainstormed a list of 22 issues facing the city. They ranged from housing concerns to the potential loss of Local Government Aid funds.

Councilors and Chattin were then asked to rank eight of those issues in order of their importance, from their own perspective.

Only one or two issues garnered votes from all six present councilors.

Once scored, it was revealed that the council rated the completion of the south shore redevelopment as the top city concern. Two councilors rated it their top concern while two others rated it their second. But all councilors marked it as important.

The only other issue that garnered a tally from all councilors was annexation.

But it wasn't quite that clear.

Annexation was actually listed twice on the list of 22 issues. One mention called for carefully considering the process in moving forward with annexation. Another stated that the council should "aggressively" consider expanding annexation in the future.

Four councilors agreed that the aggressive annexation is a key goal. Two others voted for the more cautious annexation.

Chattin, whose votes were tallied separately from the council, voted for the south shore and for the slower, more deliberate approach to annexation.

Brimeyer suggested that any issue that did not receive votes from at least four councilors should be set aside.

But that didn't leave too many.

In fact, there were just five issues that garnered four votes:

- The completion of south shore redevelopment.

- Completing both phases of the Quality Neighborhood Initiative, which is expected to end with improved housing.

- The possible loss of LGA.

- Concerns related to the Bemidji Regional Event Center, including the operation and maintenance requirements and the need to promote and market the facility.

- To aggressively consider expanding annexation in the future.

Brimeyer said the tallies show that the council is not always on the same page.

"There's not a lot of consensus," he said.

He also noted, though, that some of the 22 issues listed were more long-term focused than 2-5 years, such as expanding sewer and water around Lake Bemidji.

Others, such as considering new city well fields, could be more staff-focused, he said.

"That's why we have a city engineer," said Councilor Kevin Waldhausen. "It's his job and his specialty."

Councilor Roger Hellquist said that might be true, but the council would be responsible for identifying funding sources.