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Solving the south shore: City works to fund cleanup now that referendum ruled out

BEMIDJI — The pollution on Lake Bemidji’s south shore remains a thorn (or more accurately, a wood chip) in the city’s side — but some are hopeful that won’t always be the case. Now that a referendum to seek voter approval for a tax increase was ruled out at Monday’s City Council meeting, the city is looking to alternatives for funding options to make sure the project doesn’t lose momentum.

Mayor Rita Albrecht was in favor of tracking down grant money from the state of Minnesota, since in her view, the potential benefits to cleaning up extend to the whole region, not just Bemidji.

Over the course of March, the city will be going for a grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, or LCCMR. The deadline for proposals is March 28, so city staff will have to work fast.

“We’ll try and put a draft together by mid-month, and the submittal will be by the end of the month,” she said Tuesday.

Albrecht said she was confident the city could get a proposal in on time to LCCMR because the south shore area has undergone so much scrutiny already.

“We already have gathered lots and lots of data on that site,” she said.

Also on the table is a grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, but the timeline for that grant includes more breathing room.

During Monday’s meeting, council members Jim Thompson and Ron Johnson were for funding the cleanup more immediately through reallocating existing city funds.

Thompson said Tuesday that going into the city’s reserves would be relatively simple.

“We can borrow from the reserves, and it doesn’t involve any loan or any bonds or anything like that,” Thompson said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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