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The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce will host a meeting for the business community tonight to discuss the events center project. The meeting is intended for businesses and will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Paul Bunyan Telephone Multi Media Center. Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce President Mike Smith sent an e-mail on Tuesday urging participation. "It's time for the Bemidji business community to come together and keep this moving forward to the next step," the e-mail said. Smith said the business community has until Monday to "get this project back on track."
A discussion on a proposed increase to the city's gas and electric fees culminated with a face-off between two Bemidji City Council members. Councilors Nancy Erickson and Onen Markeson ex-changed words Monday as they argued whether increasing fees was a way to raise taxes without raising the city's tax levy. Markeson argued that raising fees was the same as raising taxes without considering the low-income population.
The Headwaters Regional Development Commission plans to terminate its contract with the city of Bemidji regarding its work as the events center project coordinator. HRDC Executive Director Cliff Tweedale sent an e-mail stating his intentions to Mayor Richard Lehmann and City Manager John Chattin on Thursday. "Right now, my sentiment is that this project is best housed with the city," Tweedale said in a Friday interview. The City Council voted 6-1 on July 16 to hire the HRDC as the events center project coordinator. Councilor Roger Hellquist cast the dissenting vote.
Cliff Tweedale, the executive director of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, said it is time for the Bemidji City Council to decide whether it truly wants to pursue the events center project. "Up to this point, everybody has been reasonably cautious, he said.
While there certainly is work that soon needs to be finished on the events center, Rep. Frank Moe said Thursday that officials involved in the planning process took their time considering the proposal. "We're not rushing the whole project," said Moe, DFL-Bemidji. "The project has been done thoughtfully and deliberately." The city of Bemidji and Bemidji State University must now sit down and come to an agreement on a potential lease, Moe said. Moe said he would like to have a signed lease agreement in hand by Dec.
Riley James Colley, 18, of Bemidji, pleaded guilty July 31 to an amended charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a gross misdemeanor. Colley originally faced a serious felony charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion. He was sentenced for the fifth-degree charge Monday by Judge Paul Benshoof in Beltrami County District Court. He was sentenced to one year in jail with 305 days stayed for two years and ordered to pay a $250 fine. Restitution was reserved.
Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard on Wednesday was unable to present a signed lease, but he did agree to begin negotiations with the city. Quistgaard met with the Bemidji City Council during a work session Wednesday night to discuss the potential of having BSU hockey serve as the anchor tenant of the proposed events center.
The Bemidji City Council on Wednesday considered retaining Brian Schoenborn as a consultant on the events center. But about 10 minutes later, the council meeting was over. During the Schoenborn discussion, Councilor Roger Hellquist pointed out that the agenda for Wednesday's City Council work session was limited strictly to the conversation with Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard. Hellquist then made a motion to adjourn, Councilor Barb Meuers seconded the motion and the council voted unanimously to adjourn.
The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board had requested that its three member entities contribute a total of $4,000 in seed money. But City Attorney Alan Felix recommended that the JPB's Joint Powers Agreement first be revised before any monetary contribution is made. The City Council discussed the JPB request during Monday's meeting. No action was taken. The JPB was formed to develop one set of zoning and subdivision ordinances for the city of Bemidji, Northern Township and Bemidji Township.
Basics -- What is the proposal? The Bemidji City Council supports construction of a facility that would include an events center/hockey arena, a convention center and a second sheet of ice. The City Council supports three phases of construction, and is now only considering the first phase of the project, which is the $50 million events center/arena. -- Where would the events center/arena be located? The building would be located east of Irvine Avenue and south of Third Street adjacent to the railroad corridor. Parking would be constructed in four lots along the rail line.