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Bemidji City Council opts to buy local

The council voted unanimously Monday night to spend an additional $345 on a 4-by-4 pickup truck in order to buy it locally.

The purchase of a new pickup truck for the Wastewater Treatment Facility was included on the consent agenda but Councilor Jerry Downs asked to have the item pulled.

Public Works Director/City Engineer Craig Gray had proposed, per city policy, that that city purchase a half-ton Dodge pickup truck from Burnsville Dodge for $21,853.

But Downs said the second-lowest bid from Dondelinger GM in Bemidji was a mere $345 more and he would rather spend the money and buy locally (there also was a third bid from Bob Lowth Ford for $23,428).

Downs at first figured that the cost of sending employees and back to just pick up the truck would make up most of the difference. But Gray said Burnsville Dodge, the state bidder on the truck, delivers the truck to Bemidji.

Gray did say the drive time would add an additional 250 miles to the truck, though.

"I would still support buying locally," Downs said.

Mayor Richard Lehmann said the council encountered a similar situation a few years ago and chose to go with the local bid.

"I will be willing to support going locally for the minimum difference that is there," he said.

Councilor Kevin Waldhausen noted that he does not get the best gas mileage with his Dodge and said the difference in gas mileage could make the difference.

"That could be a tipping factor," he said.

The council voted unanimously to purchase the truck form Dondelinger.

The council also voted unanimously to delay the purchase of a new street sweeper.

The sweeper would have cost $178,304, of which $30,000 would have been applied from the sale of an old street sweeper. Though, because of the decision to delay the new purchase, the old street sweeper will remain in Bemidji use for one more year.

Councilor Greg Negard objected to the cost.

"I do have some concerns," he said, noting that he talked with Gray about the request. "This street sweeper that we're potentially replacing is less than 10 years old. It has supposedly a lifespan of 10 years but there is no indication that it's had lots of problems or maintenance issues."

Negard favored spending about $45,000 to refurbish the sweeper to, hopefully, get another five years out of it.

Lehmann, though, said he would be surprised if that move was cost-effective.

"If you get 10 years out of them, you've done really well," he said. "I'll tell you what, when they wear out, they wear out."

Gray said he would much more favor spending a significantly less amount of money to have the sweeper last another year. The council voted to do just that, and to set aside the money that would have been spent this year for next year.

"Just because it's in the budget doesn't mean you have to spend it," Negard said. "Put it in the rainy day fund and use it next year. I'm just trying to get a little bit more life."

For what could have been the first time ever, city Finance Director Ron Eischens received a round of applause during the annual Truth-in-Taxation hearing.

Eischens' presentation led the meeting, which had a pretty full agenda. Unfortunately, he had some technical difficulties, so there was maybe a 2-3 minute delay. But once the PowerPoint presentation was up and running, the audience applauded.

But the audience was likely fairly pleased with the information presented during the hearing. The council has approved a 3 percent tax levy increase for 2011, or $111,382. But because the city's tax rate decreased from 42.36 to 42.3, the city portion of property taxes - assuming an individual's home does not increase in value - should remain right about the same or even slightly decrease.

"The tax base in the city grew enough to absorb the $110,000 levy increase so the impact to individual property owners is negligible," Eischens said.