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Welcome sign mulled by council

BEMIDJI - The city here is resurrecting a long-simmering discussion about whether the community should install a Welcome to Bemidji sign.

The often large, decorative signs are fairly common at entrances to regional centers throughout Minnesota, yet Bemidji does not have one.

The city thought such a sign could be incorporated into the Paul Bunyan Trail bridge spanning state Highway 197.

But the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would not incorporate it into the design of the bridge, according to John Chattin, Bemidji city manager.

The Bemidji City Council this week discussed the potential for such a sign again as it considered a request from the Bemidji Lions Club.

The Lions had requested the city's permission to add four 18-inch-wide signs with the Lions International logo to the posts under the city's population signs located along U.S. highways 2 and 71.

Mel Milender, president of the Bemidji Lions Club, said in a letter to the council that MnDOT allows for the addition of such signs with city approval.

"Lions logos are considered a symbol of community pride and service throughout the world," he wrote. "The logo at the entrance to the city signifies that Lions are active and serving in (your) community."

The council, while considering the request, was supportive but questioned whether other nonprofit groups should be given the same opportunity.

"I know Lions do a lot of wonderful things but we've got a lot of organizations that do a lot of wonderful things for Bemidji," said Kevin Waldhausen, city councilor.

Councilor Roger Hellquist agreed, saying that it sounded like a "simple request" but that it should be explored further.

The council, after a failed motion to allow the signage, voted unanimously to table the discussion until more information could be received from MnDOT. The council wants to know the number of signs that could be affixed to the posts and the types of groups that would be allowed to include their logos.

Councilor Ron Johnson noted several people in recent months have approached him in support of a Welcome to Bemidji sign. He wondered if local nonprofits would support that project.

"I agree with Ron," said Councilor Greg Negard. "We really should have a Welcome to Bemidji sign."