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CITY GOVERNMENT: New parking lot planned on South Shore

BEMIDJI -- The walk to Lake Bemidji's South Shore will be made a little shorter later this summer, as a new parking lot is planned for the area.

At a meeting Monday, the Bemidji City Council approved the design of a 17-space parking lot to be paved just north of where Central Avenue Northeast connects with Lake Shore Drive. The lot will connect with a path leading to the South Shore Park, which the city restored and opened in 2017.

During the meeting, the council was presented with four options for a paved area near the park. Three of the options were paved loops where cars could enter and exit for drop-offs and pick-ups, while the fourth was a full parking lot.

Assistant City Engineer Samuel Anderson said Monday there will still be some room for drop-offs with regular vehicles and buses, such as those used by Paul Bunyan Transit. However, busses, such as those used by schools, will have to use the Sanford Center parking lot or temporarily park on Lake Shore Drive.

With Monday's approval, the project will go into the engineering phase before going out for bids. The city has contracted with Freeberg and Grund of Bemidji for the engineering, bidding and construction management of the project at a cost of $13,200. The estimated cost of construction is $160,000, with work expected to start after the Fourth of July.

Carnegie Library update

Another project brought before the council's attention was the restoration effort of the historic Carnegie Library building along Bemidji Avenue North. The project to structurally restore the interior and exterior of the building, along with utility work, is about halfway completed, the council learned Monday, with a completion date of July 3.

The project was approved last summer at a cost of $2.2 million. The Friends of the Carnegie Library group began fundraising and grant-writing in 2012 and by last summer had raised about $2 million, resulting in a shortfall of roughly $211,000, which was covered by the city.

When the City Council approved that last year, the Friends of the Carnegie committed to continuing their fundraising efforts to cover the shortfall and pay back the city. Friends of the Carnegie representative Catherine Marchand said Monday $42,000 had been raised.

When the city approved the Carnegie renovation, $86,000 was included in the project budget to cover potential change orders during construction, which to date have totaled about $75,000. If change orders go over the $86,000 total, the Friends of the Carnegie group would be responsible to cover that amount. And moving ahead, more change orders are possible for the renovation, such as work related to the chimney, officials said.

In addition, in February, the City Council also approved an additional $112,000 to the project in renovation work to the building's lower level, which will become rentable office space once finished. Gray said the work to the lower level for offices is not connected to the amount the Friends of the Carnegie are responsible for.

In other news

A detailed report of Bemidji's water supply and usage was also adopted by the council Monday. The water supply plan is a requirement for a permit the city is seeking from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to drill a new water well and connect it to the system.

The city is preparing for a $2.15 million project to add another water well, as it operates two near the Bemidji Regional Airport. Over the past several years, three of the city's other wells have been shut down in response to the discovery of chemicals formerly found in fire fighting foams.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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