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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: Warming up to some good news in a cold week

The first week of January sure did deliver with some highs and lows. The lows were in the  form of temperatures, as a winter deep freeze settled in for the Bemidji area.

So, let’s concentrate on the highs, the good news of the past week.

While it will be a different downtown Bemidji without Kelsey’s Jewelry, the legacy they leave shines bright as a diamond.

Michael and Pamela Kelsey and their business have been fixtures of Bemidji for 42 years. This past Saturday was the last official day of business.

“It’s better to go out of business and retire when business is going well and we have our health and feel good,” Michael Kelsey told Pioneer reporter Matthew Liedke. “Now that we’re closing, we are just really appreciative. It’s been really emotional, seeing people come in, giving us hugs and telling us how much they’ve appreciated us making symbols in their lives.”

While the Kelsey’s are appreciative of their customers, the community of Bemidji is appreciative toward them, as well. Local businesses such as Kelsey’s Jewelry are a cornerstone of a community. We wish them the best in retirement.

And speaking of retirement, Mike Bjerk never strayed too far from his career calling.

Bjerk volunteers eight hours a day (that’s retirement?) at Bemidji Middle School, helping teach students with their reading skills.

Bjerk was named the Lay Educator of the Year this past August by the Bemidji Education Association. But he isn’t out for accolades.

“I still love the kids,” Bjerk told Pioneer reporter Joe Bowen. “I just enjoy the job.”

Bjerk was a longtime teacher in East Grand Forks before retiring in 2004. A BSU graduate, he moved to the Bemidji area in 2012.

Bjerk is one of the many volunteers who help make Bemidji a great community. They give back their time and talents to help others, a true definition of community.

And that community is growing. Final numbers aren’t in yet, but it looks as if more than $45 million in new construction was done in Bemidji in 2016. While it doesn’t top the nearly $53 million in 2009 (think Sanford Center), the recent three-year trend is that construction and development here continue to grow. Much of the increase can be attributed to more housing projects, needed in an expanding city. The trick is making sure they are affordable for all. City officials told the Pioneer they see another busy construction year ahead for Bemidji. That means more jobs and more tax revenue, another positive sign.

When it comes to construction, the Red Lake School District is looking toward the future, too. Included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s new proposed bonding bill is $14 million for building improvements for the district. That would go toward six new classrooms, a larger cafeteria, renovated music and fine arts classrooms and updated mechanical systems at Red Lake’s elementary school and early childhood center, Pioneer reporter Joe Bowen wrote. Enrollment is increasing in the district, and more room is needed. While Dayton’s plan didn’t include other Red Lake district projects at the middle and high school building or in Ponemah, we hope the Legislature does what it didn’t do in 2016 and approve and allocate these funds for much-needed projects.