BEMIDJI -- After establishing a preliminary presence north of town last year, the Bemidji Fire Department is looking to find a more permanent building in the same area.

The Bemidji Fire Department released a request for proposals earlier this week, outlining the features it would like to have in a long-term station. One of the specifications is that the new space should be located within a mile of the existing northern station.

“The move to establish a station to the north was to kind of tip our toe in the water, so to speak,” Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews said. “It has proven to be a positive influence for that whole area.”

The Fire Department first opened its northern station in 2018, located just off of U.S. Highway 71 on Sumac Road. The department is renting the space from Crossroads Auto Glass under a two-year lease.

The new station, in theory, will have more amenities than the fire department has in its current facility in the auto shop. Some of the specifications include the need for three bays, a meeting room, a laundry room and so on. The request for proposals indicates the lease should be for a 15-20 year period, with the possibility for extension.

“There’s some good locations that would work,” Matthews said about the area where they’re looking for a new station.

Both the city of Bemidji and the Rural Fire Association pay for the cost of running the station. There is no set cost for the new building project yet. Rural Fire Association Russ Hiltz said they’ll wait for the proposals to come in and develop a budget after that.

Under the specifications listed in the request for proposals, the new building should be ready for the department no later than June 30, 2021, with a preference for sometime between July 1 and Nov. 1 of 2020.

The establishment of a station north of town brought a number of other changes. One is that it allowed more people to join the department since firefighters have to live within a certain distance of one of the stations. It also allowed property owners within a certain distance of the station to take advantage of lower insurance rates.

Between the city of Bemidji and the Rural Fire Association, the department includes 15 townships and three cities in the area. In total, it has a coverage area of more than 500 square miles.

The Fire Department has a total of four stations in the Bemidji area. In addition to the station north of town, they’re located downtown, in the Nymore neighborhood and near the Bemidji Regional Airport.