BEMIDJI -- Another election has been added to the 2020 cycle for Bemidji, as the council on Monday declared a vacancy in the at-large seat.
The move followed the resignation of Jim Thompson from the position, who announced he was leaving the at-large seat earlier this month in a letter to the city. Thompson, 87, sent the letter from his room at Sanford Health's Neilson Place nursing home, citing his health as a reason for leaving.
"Although it is my desire to continue to serve the Bemidji community as a city council member, due to health circumstances, as well as restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am no longer able to fulfill my duties," Thompson wrote. "I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to serve the community throughout my tenure to date."
Thompson was elected to the seat in 2018, defeating Don Heinonen 2,217-2,182. This was his second time on the council, as he also served from 2010-2014.
"I've served with him in the past and I enjoyed very much sharing the table with him," said Ward 5 Council member Nancy Erickson. "He had a unique perspective on things that the rest of us may not have thought about, and his history with the city was valuable to the council."
When a council member resigns, the city is required to both declare a vacancy and order a special election for the seat. The council did that Monday by approving a resolution, setting a filing period for the seat from July 28-Aug. 11.
The special election will be held the same day as the general election, Nov. 3. If more than two individuals file, and no candidate earns more than 50% in the contest, a second special election with the top two finishers will follow on Feb. 9, 2021.
This will be the second special election for the city this year, as the Bemidji Ward 2 seat is also vacant and a contest will be held on Aug. 11. Seats normally up this election cycle include Wards 1, 3 and 5, as well as the mayoral position.
During the meeting, the council also moved forward on a sewer system project recommended by the Public Works Department, approving a bid from Visu-Sewer in the amount of $149,496 for the work.
The plan is to put 3,680 lineal feet of PVC piping into existing clay lines, where they will then be expanded, essentially replacing the older infrastructure. Public Works Director Craig Gray said this method is done every two years for pipes that cannot be dug up and replaced. Gray also said there's about 10 to 15 miles left of this kind of replacing to do.
Another topic before the council was based on an inquiry from a resident who was recently annexed into Bemidji from Northern Township. The question was whether it would be possible to allow rifle hunting inside the city limits on rural properties.
The council chose to move the conversation to a work session where representatives from law enforcement and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources can weigh in.