BEMIDJI -- The 2014 financial audit was the first item on the agenda at a special work session Monday for the Bemidji City Council, but Paul and Babe again stole the show.

At the June 15 City Council meeting that featured multiple residents voicing concerns over the progress of the Paul Bunyan Park renovation project, the council voted to make adjustments to the design, most notably, removing boulders, a tree stump and a mound in front of the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues.

During Monday’s work session, Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson reported on the costs of those adjustments, citing some as necessary and others as optional.

The necessary costs moving forward are $17,500 for the removal of the items from the park plaza, $1,320 for electrical work to relocate light fixtures and $19,022 for subsoil corrections and plain concrete to be poured in the plaza, for a base total of $37,842.

The optional costs focused on whether the city would put in pavers in the plaza at an estimated cost of $100,125 or utilizing colored concrete, which would cost $27,360 for one color and $56,256 for two colors.

After the options were presented, Bemidji Finance Director Ron Eischens explained the city had three potential sources to fund the adjustments. One was to pay for the project this year and include the costs in next year's levee; the second was to utilize the city's undesignated general fund dollars not yet committed and the third option was to use park land dedication funds in the city's account.

Eischens added there is $161,000 in undesignated funds and that the park land dedication funds may not be available because of legal restrictions.

Before action was taken on the adjustments, however, council member Michael Meehlhause, who voted against the changes last week, made a motion to keep the renovation on track with the original design.

Seconding the motion was council member Reed Olson, who said, "All of us knew exactly what was in this plan or had time to know... I think this is reckless and irresponsible."

Meehlhause's motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote with Meehlhause, Olson and Mayor Rita Albrecht voting in favor and council members Nancy Erickson, Dave Larson, Ron Johnson and Roger Hellquist voting against.

Following Meehlhause's motion, the council then voted separately on each issue. On a 5-2 vote, a motion to approve the $17,500 removal of the boulders, stump and mound passed with Albrecht, Erickson, Larson, Johnson and Hellquist voting in favor and Meehlhause and Olson voting against.

That script was the same with the votes to relocate the light fixtures and the work for subsoil correction, as well as another 5-2 vote approving the one color concrete option at a cost of $27,360.

Larson also presented on three additional topics in regard to the park project -- the relocation of the “Nimi” statue, the need to relocate a bike rack and clarification on landscaping around Paul and Babe.

Larson recommended the council allow the Parks and Trails Commission to review the relocation of both the “Nimi” statue and the bike rack.

Before action was taken on those subjects, however, Meehlhause brought forward a motion to keep the “Nimi” statue where it is under the redesign.

"I'm of the opinion that we should keep it (the “Nimi” statue) where it's intended to be. It's hard to justify to me. There's no platform that was started to be worked on," Meehlhause said. "I think the notion that Paul and ‘Nimi’ are going to be staring each other down with some sort of tension is just wrong."

Meehlhause's motion to keep the “Nimi” statue in the same location failed in a 4-3 vote with Olson, Meehlhause and Albrecht voting in favor and Larson, Johnson, Erickson and Hellquist voting against.

That vote was followed by another motion to advance the “Nimi” statue relocation and the bicycle rack move to the Parks and Trails Commission, which was carried unanimously.

The council then discussed whether city staff should look into keeping plants in front of Paul and Babe or just use concrete. The consensus from the council was to continue with concrete.

Another motion was then made to approve using the undesignated funds to help cover the costs of the adjustments. In total, the changes will cost an estimated $65,202. The motion to approve use of the undesignated funds was approved in a 5-2 vote with Hellquist, Larson, Albrecht, Johnson and Erickson voting in favor and Olson and Meehlhause voting against.

In addition to work in front of Paul and Babe, the renovation also calls for parking lot improvements and includes landscaping to the south as well as land for a future all-inclusive playground.

The city's audit report, which was prepared by Miller McDonald Inc., provided for a shorter discussion Monday and no action was taken.

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