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Group donates $45K for Sanford Center expenses

BEMIDJI - A check for $45,000 was presented to the city of Bemidji Wednesday to go toward the operating deficits at the Sanford Center.

The check was presented by the Bemidji Regional Event Center Operating Fund, an eight-person committee formed in 2008 to seek financial support from those who would not be directly taxed to cover the operating deficits.

Steve Johnson, committee member, said 117 initially pledged their support, including both non-city and city residents.

The BRECOF sought pledges of $100 for five years, planning to turn the money over to the city at the end of the fifth year.

Most have paid their pledge for four years now, with some completing donations by paying ahead of time.

Knowing that the now-named Sanford Center is generating deficits, the BRECOF decided to donate a portion of the funds early.

"(The city was) very gracious," Johnson said. "They thanked us many times."

About 100 of the initial 117 have fulfilled the pledged or are up to date. Johnson said he expects another $8,500 to $9,000 will come in by the end of the pledge drive.

"At the conclusion of the total five-year pledge drive, the moneys collected will be totally and completely turned over to the city of Bemidji for the deficits in the operating costs of running the Sanford Center," stated a press release.

Johnson acknowledged that it is not enough to cover the costs of Sanford Center's operation, which lost $378,315.20 in 2011 before accounting for the city's $417,138 subsidy, but said people wanted to help out.

"It's the best we can do," he said.

BRECOF committee members are Steve and Kathy Johnson, Tom and Sandy Richard, Ken and Deanna Nichols, and Dallas and Joyce Way.

The volunteer committee did not use pledge money for the group's expenses.

The press release also recognized the six banks that collected pledges: First National Bank Bemidji, Security Bank USA, RiverWood Bank, Citizens State Bank Midwest, Bank Forward and Deerwood Bank.