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Commissioners vote to advertise land for sale

Interest expressed by developers has prompted the Beltrami County Board to advertise for sale 40 acres of county-owned land on Middle School Road Northwest.

The land includes about 16 acres in the old Beltrami County Fairgrounds south of the Target complex, as well as acreage on the west side of the road leased by Bemidji Youth League Baseball and Bemidji Youth Soccer. BYLB also subleases playing space to the Bemidji School District's Summer Baseball Association.

State statute requires the county for three weeks to advertise for bids from prospective developers. The deadline for submitting bids is 2 p.m. June 7. The County Board will open proposals at its 5 p.m. meeting June 7.

"It doesn't mean we've taken any direction," said Commissioner Jim Lucachick. "It's a technicality and a transparency."

The proposals must include terms of purchase, property use, development schedule, closing date, contact information and signature of the person submitting the proposal.

The County Board can reject any or all proposals.

Richard Moore, director of the county's Natural Resource Management, said about four dozen parcels of county-owned property are currently up for sale.

County Administrator Tony Murphy said the old Fairgrounds acreage on the east side of Middle School Road south of Target was for sale last year. The board rejected the one bid received for the property. Now, there is interest in land on both sides of the road, including the ball fields.

Bruce Dahlin, president of BYLB, said the organization and the county signed a 30-year lease in 1987. The lease stipulates that for $1 per year, the baseball and soccer organizations can use their fields and facilities, which were developed by members' volunteer labor.

"If we are asked to relocate, we have a replacement contract," Dahlin said. "We have to be given land, and our facilities have to be duplicated, at least."

Lynn Eaton, president of Bemidji Youth Soccer, said his organization has a similar leasing arrangement with the county.

"It'll be a big challenge to replicate all those buildings," he said. "The soccer fields in Bemidji are known to be the best in northwest Minnesota. That's an expectation, (if relocated) that we'll have the best fields. We don't want to be in some swamp that doesn't drain. We don't want stumps coming up."

He said the location of the fields across the road from the Bemidji Middle School is ideal because students can walk over to practice or play. The SummerKids program, which meets at Bemidji Middle School, also uses the fields. Eaton said he expects about 400 children to use the soccer fields this summer.

"For the inconvenience (of relocation) there should be some betterment," Eaton said.

Dahlin also expressed disappointment in the potential loss of the prime location. However, he said Murphy has been in contact with him since developer interest arose, and they are working well together. Dahlin said he has been assured youth baseball, soccer and softball will have homes.

Dahlin also noted the construction underway to the west of the ball fields. He said the county is cutting a new road there and putting in curb and gutter, a project unrelated to potential sale and development of the acreage.