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 — It was only a matter of hours before the Jaycees Water Carnival was up and running again after the July 2 storm last year. One year later, they’re back — but with some new equipment. The storm, which produced straight-line winds in excess of 80 mph and knocked down thousands of trees in the area, also damaged the equipment and shelter at the Bemidji Jaycees Annual Water Carnival. The storm approached in the middle of Paul Bunyan’s 75th birthday celebration, said Michelle Gonzales, this year’s carnival chairwoman. Workers and attendees took shelter nearby.
BEMIDJI — Bemidji city councilors Monday rejected a proposal from the Zorbaz on the Lake restaurant to buy south shore land. Zorbaz founder Tom Hanson came before the Bemidji Economic Development Authority to make the land offer and discuss his business model. Councilors, who make up the BEDA, voted 6-1 to reject the offer, with at-large councilor Jim Thompson voting in favor of the proposal.
BEMIDJI — John Persell considers himself an optimist. The Bemidji state representative is hopeful that the Carnegie Library restoration project will receive at least some of the $800,000 in state bonding next year that was recently requested by the city of Bemidji. But he also acknowledged some realities. "I think we stand a reasonable chance of being successful" in bonding for local projects next year, said Persell, a DFLer who was elected in 2008.
BEMIDJI — A public hearing regarding a revolving loan fund request will be on the Bemidji City Council agenda Monday night. The loan to the developers of the Country Inn and Suites connected to the Sanford Center constitutes a business subsidy under city policy because of the amount and the fact that its interest rate is below commercial market rates. That policy triggers a public hearing, according to a memo from city attorney Al Felix. The $400,000 proposed gap financing loan would be to construct the connection between the Sanford Center and the hotel.
The co-founders of the Rail River Folk School can rattle off a number of accomplishments reached in their first few years of operation. From holding more classes in gardening and carpentry to becoming somewhat of a cultural center for artists and musicians, they’ve progressed from their official opening in 2010. But when asked about those accomplishments, Rochell Carpenter has another one in mind. “You mean other than just existing?” she said with a laugh. The school, which opened in 2010, isn’t a school in the traditional sense.
BEMIDJI — A regional pizza restaurant chain appears to be making another run at buying land on the south shore of Lake Bemidji. Zorbaz on the Lake founder Tom Hanson is scheduled to present the Bemidji Economic Development Authority with a proposal Monday night, according to the meeting agenda. A portion of the meeting is scheduled to be closed for city councilors to discuss negotiations for the city-owned land.
BEMIDJI — Helga Township is asking that a lawsuit filed against it by a Bemidji nonprofit be dismissed. Kenneth Bayliss, a St. Cloud-based attorney, filed a response in Hubbard County District Court on behalf of Helga Township on Wednesday. That response denies the allegations that the township board used “arbitrary” findings of fact to reject the Restore House’s conditional use permit application.
BEMIDJI — The protest over the handful of acres of Red Lake Indian Reservation land is catching environmental activists’ eyes across the state. On Wednesday, about 30 people, who ranged from concerned citizens to nonprofit representatives, arrived in a coach bus at a campsite in rural Clearwater County. There, protesters have stayed for months in opposition to the four Enbridge Energy pipelines underground they say are there illegally.
BEMIDJI — Drivers may have noticed smoother traffic on State Highway 197 going through Bemidji recently. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has reprogrammed the traffic system along Bemidji Avenue/State Highway 197 for greater coordination between individual traffic lights. "So, that means that someone traveling along Bemidji Avenue is more likely to receive greens along their route, especially during peak times in the morning and afternoon, which keeps the mainline traffic moving as efficiently as possible," MnDOT public affairs coordinator TJ Melcher wrote in an email
BEMIDJI — Toasty Beaver’s Sports Bar and Grill closed for two days last week as a self-imposed sanction for its cooking grease ending up in the city’s stormwater drain. According to a letter from the bar’s attorney provided by city attorney Al Felix, the bar closed on June 17-18. It had already agreed to pay for the cleanup costs, which ended up being almost $16,000. Toasty Beaver’s will also perform frequent cleanup of the public area outside the bar, the letter said.