BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council on Monday, April 5, gave the Minnesota Department of Transportation the green light to reconstruct a section of U.S. Highway 71.
The city's approval was needed as a section of the project will take place within the city limits. MnDOT is planning to reconstruct an 8.5-mile stretch of road from State Highway 197 to Winter Sumac Road.
The project is scheduled for 2022 and the plan is to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Anne Street. Additionally, the project calls for reduced conflict intersections at Balsam Road, Blueberry Lane, Fern Street, Glidden Road, Lakewood Drive and Net Way.
Reduced conflict intersections eliminate left-turn options for motorists and instead allows for right turns and U-turns. Because of the city's jurisdiction with a section of Anne Street, a portion of the cost will be shared by Bemidji. MnDOT is estimating the city's share at $311,000.
A motion to approve the municipal consent for the project was approved in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Jorge Prince and council members Nancy Erickson, Ron Johnson, Daniel Jourdain, Emelie Rivera and Audrey Thayer in favor. Council member Josh Peterson voted against.
In his comments, Peterson noted the concerns he had heard from local businesses as a reason for voting no.
Another approval made by the council Monday was establishing a new committee to review the city's rental code and consider possible changes. The council had discussed the importance of doing so at its March 29 meeting.
The committee will include Erickson, Jourdain and Rivera, as well as City Manager Nate Mathews, Bemidji Rental Inspector Todd Bieto, Bemidji Police Sergeant Matt Bahl and a representative from the city legal department. Additionally, Cathy Guess and Mike Stodtman of the Headwaters Landlord Association will be included.
The council also approved a resolution allowing restaurants and bars in downtown Bemidji to use public right-of-way areas to serve guests. Additionally, the resolution will allow alcoholic beverages to be served outdoors.
The practice was first implemented in 2020, as a way to allow establishments to serve guests outside when indoor dining was closed to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution was approved in a 5-2 vote, with Johnson, Jourdain, Peterson, Prince and Rivera voting in favor. Voting against were Erickson and Thayer.