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City approves work at University Heights project

BEMIDJI — In addition to possible tax incentives, the University Heights development project will get another boost from the city in the form of new water and sewer mains.

The Bemidji City Council on Monday voted unanimously to approve a development agreement where it would reimburse Peterson Developers LLC to replace roughly 1,200 feet of water and sanitary sewer mains on the site of the University Heights project near the corner of 15th Street and Bemidji Avenue.  

The project, which proposes to build student housing and commercial space on the vacant lot once home to Bemidji High School, is planned to start construction in spring of 2015. The final sale between the BSU Foundation, which owns the property, and Peterson Developers LLC is not expected to go through until January but Peterson is hoping the new infrastructure is installed this year.

The clay tile sanitary sewer line that would be replaced is 73-years-old — City Attorney Al Felix called it “ancient” during the meeting — and the cast-iron water main is 58-years-old. The city will reimburse Peterson Developers for putting the main lines in, for a total of $132,000.  

The city won’t cover lines that branch off the water and sewer mains, City Engineer Craig Gray said.  

Construction on the lines would begin in September and finish by Nov. 1, a memo from Gray to the City Council said.

In an interview, Gray said the new lines will benefit not only University Heights but also some surrounding homes and businesses that are served by the lines to be replaced.

“For instance, the businesses over on the east side of Bemidji Avenue….even further east of that, it serves all of that neighborhood,” he said.  

Although Peterson will carry out most of the bidding process of selecting a construction contractor, the council will have final say over which contractor is approved, Gray said.

The project wasn’t included in the city’s capital improvement plan (a long-term blueprint for building infrastructure) so the money will have to come out of the city’s water and sewer reserve funds, the memo said.  

“Moving forward with the project may require deferral of future capital projects or larger utility rate increases,” it said.

The city will only reimburse Peterson Developers if Peterson actually closes with the BSU Foundation, it said.

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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