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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BEMIDJI —Although gas prices soared to near-record levels this week, local tourism officials don’t expect it to hamper one of the area’s most vital industries. Denelle Hilliard, executive director of Visit Bemidji, said she didn’t expect tourism to be affected significantly by higher gas prices. She said many tourists that come here are coming from a 300-mile radius rather than other regions of the country.
BEMIDJI — Local officials fear the Bemidji Public Library would host fewer events under a funding proposal moving through the state Senate. Paul Ericsson, the Bemidji Public Library branch manager, said the Senate’s $1 million proposed appropriation to the state’s 12 regional library systems in 2014 and 2015 would hurt the local library.
BEMIDJI — This is, in fact, their first rodeo. Sanford Center staff have been working this week to prep the two-year-old arena for the Minnesota Rodeo Association finals this weekend. That includes laying down a mixture of clay and sand for the riders. Georgette Bloom, the center’s convention sales manager who brought the event to Bemidji, said they are using even more dirt than what was used for the bull riding event in March. "It needs to be deeper," Bloom said of the dirt.
BEMIDJI — The state Senate’s passage of the gay marriage bill Monday didn’t make marriage any less of a personal decision for Emily Papke-Larson and her partner Emily Powers. But, the Bemidji couple who have been together for the past five years, said they’re happy to have that option available to them and gay and lesbian couples across the state. “The trajectory of our relationship is more personal than what happens in the Legislature,” Papke-Larson said.
BEMIDJI —Toasty Beaver’s Sports Bar and Grill could still be assessed penalties for its cooking grease ending up in the city’s stormwater system. City attorney Al Felix said last week that city staff is still determining what penalties they may pursue. That could include a fine, or at the most severe, a revocation of the establishment’s liquor license. "Those are the things the city will have to consider," Felix said. Any action with the bar’s liquor license, however, would have to come from the city council, Felix said.
BEMIDJI —A spark or a hot muffler. That’s all it takes in these dry conditions to ignite a grass fire. On Friday, it was a spark caused by people cutting scrap metal on Lakeview Drive that started a grass fire, prompting a response from the Bemidji Fire Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Thursday night, a similar scene played out on Rodeo Drive in Northern Township.
BEMIDJI — Preliminary construction of townhomes northeast of the Sanford Center will start Friday after the developers closed on the land deal Thursday morning. B&B Enterprises LLC, operated by Bob Whelan and Brian Freeberg, plans on building 30 townhome-style units on the 6.5 acre plot of land on the south shore of Lake Bemidji.
BEMIDJI — A historic vote to legalize gay marriage passed the state House Thursday afternoon with two local DFL legislators — Reps. John Persell of Bemidji and Roger Erickson of Baudette —voting yes. Persell delivered a passionate speech on the House floor during the debate, ultimately asking his fellow members to support the bill. It had been unclear, at least publicly, how Persell would vote in days leading up to Thursday.
Lisa Carlson, director of planning regulation at Sanford Health Plan, talks Wednesday morning with about 50 business owners at the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University about upcoming changes to health insurance. Among the topics of discussion were President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, as well as Minnesota’s health care marketplace, dubbed MNSure, which will launch in October. John Hageman | Bemidji Pioneer
BEMIDJI — A new way to stay in shape will be coming to North Country Park this summer. The Bemidji City Council on Monday approved the purchase of more than $11,000 worth of outdoor exercise equipment for the park, located on 30th Street Northwest. That will include an elliptical machine, fitness bike, chest press, waist twister and a Thai Chi spinner —several rotary wheels designed to improve shoulder arm and elbow flexibility.