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Committee explores art project at wastewater plant

A biker passes the city of Bemidji’s wastewater treatment facility Tuesday afternoon. Plans are in the works to create a public art project there to beautify the area. John Hageman, Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI —The city’s wastewater treatment facility is running more efficiently thanks to recently completed additions to the plant.

The only problem, according to its co-superintendent Mike Forbes, is how it looks.

“The net effect is, yes we can treat solids better, but we ended with up with this huge flat, gray, concrete wall that looks like a throwback to Eastern Bloc Cold War,” Forbes said. “It’s really pretty unattractive.”

Forbes went to the Bemidji City Council meeting Monday requesting support and funding for a public art project at the plant. The council approved allocating $2,000 out of the city’s contingency fund to start the proposal request process.

It’s unclear at this point, however, what the art project will entail. But Forbes shared with the council ideas from treat plants across the country that include murals and statues outside the plant.

Forbes said he met with Sandy Kaul, who sits on several local arts committees, and formed an informal committee to explore the possibility of a project at the plant.

“The committee feels that since Bemidji is the first city on the Mississippi, we owe it to the whole project to keep it along some kind of broad environmental or water-based theme,” Forbes said. He said they envision the project at the plant to be part of a larger community art space connecting the Sanford Center to downtown Bemidji. 

Forbes told the council that the plant is the first thing people will see when riding down the bike trail from downtown.

 “This could really look a lot nicer,” he said.

Forbes said Tuesday they will start exploring other revenue sources to raise $25,000, the maximum amount the committee expects to need for the wastewater project. That could include money from local foundations or potentially state Legacy grants.

Paving project

The city council also approved Monday night a construction bid to repave part of the wastewater plant.

The council unanimously voted to award a $100,701.61 construction bid to Bemidji Bituminous Inc. City engineer Craig Gray said he expected the project to be completed by Aug. 1. 

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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