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Beltrami County Board: County bar closing ordinance gets final reading

The third and final reading of a Beltrami County provision prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages past 1 a.m. will be heard Tuesday.

Part of the County Board's 5 p.m. regular agenda, the matter should reach a head as commissioners will either adopt the 1 a.m. bar closing or drop the issue.

In December, the board voted to amend the county's liquor ordinance to prohibit establishments in the county and outside of municipalities from selling alcohol after 1 a.m., using a three-reading process.

Public testimony was taken Feb. 1, most of it against allowing bars to sell alcohol until 2 a.m., matching a new city of Bemidji ordinance allowing bars to sell alcohol until 2 a.m.

"It is expected that a 2 a.m. bar closing may result in additional county expenditures related to law enforcement staffing, jail operations and county social services," states a memo to commissioners.

The City Council failed last month in an attempt to overturn its ordinance, setting up the 2 a.m. bar close within city limits.

A County Board decision to adopt the ordinance amendment would apply to several bars close to the city, creating the potential of bar patrons leaving at 1 a.m. to continue drinking in the city.

A County Board decision to drop the matter will allow bars in the county to seek a state license for the 2 a.m. closing. Some bars, such as Funkley, already allow a 2 a.m closing as they are controlled by local city ordinances.

Also part of the regular meeting at the County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave. is the selection of architectural services for County Highway Department upgrades.

A county selection committee reviewed requests for qualifications from architectural firms and is recommending the board select Widseth Smith Nolting to conduct architectural/engineering services for the project at a cost of 6.5 percent of the total estimated project budget of $531,000.

WSN's fee proposal of $34,800 was the lowest of four firms submitting RFQs.

Commissioners will also consider filling an extension secretary position vacancy.

During the County Board's 3 p.m. work session, commissioners will continue discussions with Health and Human Services officials on the county's Beltrami Works pilot project. Commissioners received an update on the program at their Jan. 18 meeting and asked for more information on how to include more participants in the program that provides intensive case management to move people from welfare to work.

"Commissioners had several questions about the numbers of people served by this project in relation to county investment to date," states a memo from John Pugleasa, who is supervising Beltrami Works. "In addition, there were questions regarding the effectiveness of this project and how any outcomes or lessons learned will serve Beltrami County as it relates to the long-term goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty and dependence on public assistance."

In answer to the concerns, Health and Human Services will provide commissioners with results of the project, which began in 2009, and showing work with 74 people and that 23 students have completed workshops. Also, 14 graduates are currently employed or furthering their education.

The program seeks to clarify and address barriers to employment, such as generational poverty, unknown rules of employment, self awareness, undiagnosed health issues and complications accessing resources.

Commissioners will open the work session with a bid opening for 2011 forest development activities, receive an update on Hagali Rice State Game Refuge, discuss broadcasting County Board meetings over cable television at an estimated $48,450 and consider a recommendation to cancel a road project for County Road 301.

The board's consent agenda includes county bills and warrant payment listing, approval of a grant agreement for a Three Island Park parking lot, grant amendment for Narcotics and Gang Task Force agreement for 2010-11, and a resolution and grant to provide three control stations for law enforcement dispatch.

Commissioners will also approve a resolution to establish the distribution of gas tax funds, a highway easement for County Road 20, of a prosecution services agreement with the city of Bemidji. And approval to accept a Board of Water and Soil Resources enhancement grant for county subsurface sewage treatment systems program.

Commissioners will also receive monthly Health and Human Services reports and licensing.