BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council is once again full with seven members, thanks to the addition of Daniel Jourdain.

On Monday, the 35-year-old employment specialist with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe took the oath of office to become the at-large Council member, representing each of the city's five wards. The swearing-in ceremony comes after Jourdain defeated Dave Larson in a February special election.

Larson, a former Council member himself and a semi-retired architect, and Jourdain, were the top finishers in a special election held in November that featured four candidates. The other two were Linda Lemmer, a retired rehabilitation counselor, and Roger Schmidt, a retired educator.

At-Large Councilor Dan Jourdain listens to hand drummers after taking the oath of office Monday night in the Bemidji City Council Chambers at City Hall.  (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
At-Large Councilor Dan Jourdain listens to hand drummers after taking the oath of office Monday night in the Bemidji City Council Chambers at City Hall. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Because no candidate in that race earned 50% of the vote, the runoff between Jourdain and Larson was scheduled. In the February race, Jourdain earned 524 votes to Larson's 410.

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Jourdain will now hold the seat for just under two years, with the term finishing at the end of 2022. His predecessor, Jim Thompson, won the at-large seat in 2018, but resigned in June 2020 because of health reasons.

Thompson's resignation was one of two in 2020, the other taking place in January when Mike Beard vacated the Ward 2 seat, also citing health concerns. In another special election, Josh Peterson won the seat on the Council, and like Jourdain, will hold the seat through 2022.

Housing development agreement

Jourdain's first night as a Council member included two meetings, with the governing body convening for its regular session, and then reconvening to act as the city's Economic Development Authority. In the latter, the city approved an agreement with a housing developer.

Bemidji resident Mitch Rautio, through his company Puddle Duck Properties, is looking to develop land for more than 30 single family homes and two multi-family complexes with six units each. To do so, Rautio approached the city for assistance through a tax increment financing, or TIF district.

Such districts are tools for Minnesota cities, allowing taxes generated by new real estate to go toward the development of new property. In this case, the developer will fund the project and be reimbursed with taxes from the district.

The land selected by Rautio, which amounts to about 48 acres, is bordered by Rako Street Southwest, Lakeview Drive, 18th Street and Washington Avenue. The development has been titled Mountain View Meadows.

Street renewal options

During the Council's regular meeting, one of the agenda items looked at Monday was the 2021 edition of the Street Renewal Program. On an annual basis, the city will select sections of road for reconstruction, with the streets often clustered in a specific section of the city.

This year, the roads selected for reconstruction include:

  • Fern Street, from Power Drive Northwest to U.S. Highway 71.
  • Ash Avenue, from Paul Bunyan Drive to 23rd Street Northwest.
  • 26th Street Northwest, from a dead end west of Delton Avenue to Bemidji Avenue.

The engineer's cost estimate for the project was $1.53 million and on Monday, Public Works Director Craig Gray informed the Council that the low base bid is $1.47 million from Reierson Construction.

However, Gray recommended the Council take no action Monday, and wait until March 15, for Reierson Construction to address some concerns staff has. In a presentation, Gray cited unnecessary project delays, issues with contractor insurance and resident concerns regarding boulevard restorations with Reierson.

One of the major issues noted during this discussion was an incident during a road project in May 2019. In the process of excavating an area in Nymore for road work, a Reierson Construction crew broke a water main.

As a result, more than a dozen homes were impacted, with some having severe water damage. In the time since, the situation has become a legal issue involving homeowners, the city and the company.

"I think the fact that we are having this discussion now is appropriate," Mayor Jorge Prince said. "To me, what's most concerning is the value that our citizens ultimately received. As we know, ultimately, the lowest dollar bid is not always the best value, especially for those residents that have had issues, particularly our Nymore residents."

Additionally, Prince said, "it's also appropriate to allow Reierson an opportunity to respond and to address us."

Following Prince's comments, the Council opted to table the discussion until its March 15 meeting.