BEMIDJI -- The City of Bemidji will hold a work session to consider the creation of a police advisory committee, but it won’t be held at the Sanford Center like previously planned.

At its June 22 meeting, the city’s Public Affairs Committee talked with Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin about the creation of a committee to discuss law enforcement policy and citizen inquiries. As part of the process, the Public Affairs Committee suggested holding a city work session on Aug. 10 at the Sanford Center to allow citizens to attend and comment on the subject.

However, at its meeting Monday evening, the council acknowledged that the Sanford Center had tentatively canceled its August events. With that in mind -- and the growing number of coronavirus cases in the community -- the council opted to still have the meeting, but hold it digitally like the city has been doing for the past several months.

Before the meeting, a questionnaire will be going out to citizens who will be able to answer and share their concerns, which can be submitted back to the city and addressed during the session. The meeting is still scheduled for Aug. 10.

Another point of action taken by the council Monday was approving a recommended committee to discuss improvements to State Highway 197, or Paul Bunyan Drive, between Gillett Drive and Bemidji Avenue. The project is the responsibility of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Headwaters Regional Development Commission is helming the discussion. However, those entities want the city’s involvement.

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As part of the process, the HRDC compiled a committee including business owners along the corridor and representatives from the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Bemidji Economic Development, the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, Bike Bemidji and the BSU student body. Additionally, the committee will include public safety officials, residents who live nearby, and city council members.

The latter two will be Wards 3 and 4 Council members Ron Johnson and Emelie Rivera. The entire process, according to city documents is expected to take 10 to 12 months.

This is the second year a discussion on the corridor has taken place. In 2019, MnDOT held a series of community meetings before ultimately submitting a proposal to reconstruct the road and add six roundabouts. However, the idea was rejected in a vote by the City Council. The conversation is being picked up again this year, though, because the service life of the road ends in 2025.

In other infrastructure-related news, the council also approved two sewer system projects Monday. One is the extension of a sanitary sewer line near the area where 22nd Street and 23rd Street cross Irvine Avenue. The $35,000 project will allow the city to abandon an older clay sanitary sewer main that has been known for maintenance issues.

The other project is to replace 160 feet of existing PVC sanitary sewer pipe. The existing pipe is sagging, which can cause water and solids to settle, resulting in back-ups at private structures.

The project will dig up and replace the pipe, as well as add a culvert under Arch Lane in southwest Bemidji near Lake Irving. The latter portion of the project is needed, as the area has also experienced storm water flooding.

The Arch Lane project will cost $45,000 and together both pieces of work come to $80,000. The city approved a staff recommendation to use $30,000 from the storm water utility fund and $50,000 from the sanitary sewer utility fund.