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Bemidji City Council to discuss Visit Bemidji board changes, annexation

The Bemidji City Council will host a special work session tonight to discuss reducing the number of board directors for the city’s Visitor and Convention Bureau, Visit Bemidji, as well as updating their Marketing and Promotional Agreement.

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BEMIDJI -- During a special work session tonight, the Bemidji City Council will discuss reducing the number of board directors for the city’s visitor and convention bureau, Visit Bemidji, as well as updating their marketing and promotional agreement.

In a letter to the council, City Manager Nathan Mathews stated that Bemidji Innkeepers made a request to reduce the Visit Bemidji Board from 14 members down to 11 at its December 2020 meeting.

This comes after the council approved expanding the board from nine to 14 members in 2016.

Mathews wrote that the council initially expanded the board “to broaden community input and participation with Bemidji’s tourism and visitor marketing.”

Ward 3 councilmember Ron Johnson had gathered information on board structures from Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud and Mankato during this first proposal, stating that the construction of the Sanford Center would make Bemidji a destination competing with those four cities.

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Therefore, more board directors would’ve addressed any key members who may have been absent rather than changing the make-up of the board.

There was some concern regarding the board being too large, though additional members were soon added. However, the marketing and promotional agreement was never amended to reflect these changes.

The agreement details the city’s 3% lodging tax rate used to market the city as a tourism hotspot and references the nine-person board back from 2014.

The previous revision to the Visit Bemidji agreement was made in 2002.

Also on the docket is a discussion on possible annexation to extend water and sewer services further north into Northern Township.

Over the last year, both government units have been approached by Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge, which wants to connect to the water and sewer services provided by the city. Additionally, there has been interest expressed to connect the water services to Lake Bemidji State Park.

Following a joint session between the council and Northern Township board on Tuesday, Jan. 4, the city wanted a bit more time to collect information and poll residents in the Ruttger’s area regarding their thoughts on joining the city.

Township board members Chris Lahn and Curt Blumhagen reported on the overwhelmingly negative responses from a number of constituents toward more annexation at this meeting.

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Wanting to hear from all 65 households who would be directly affected by the extension, the city agreed to discuss this further and ensure that constituents have a full understanding of the proposed project.

After a meeting between the city and township in November, estimates were produced for construction costs and related work.

The total estimated cost for extending services to Ruttger's would be $4.09 million.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m., tonight, Jan. 10, at City Hall.

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