Hillside Avenue SW will remain closed: Motion to approve ordinance fails in a 6-1 City Council vote

BEMIDJI--The future of Hillside Avenue Southwest was decided Monday as the Bemidji City Council rejected an ordinance that would have reopened the vacated street.


BEMIDJI-The future of Hillside Avenue Southwest was decided Monday as the Bemidji City Council rejected an ordinance that would have reopened the vacated street.

The ordinance, which was up for third and final reading, would have repealed a separate ordinance which passed in May. The original ordinance vacated a portion of Hillside Avenue Southwest, effectively closing the road to traffic.

Because of objections to the closure from citizens, though, the matter was brought back to the council in the form of another ordinance.

Second reading of the ordinance took place at the council's previous meeting on July 20. During that time, residents, both for and against the closure of Hillside made their arguments to the council.

At Monday's meeting, the motion to approve the ordinance failed in a 6-1 vote with Council Members Michael Meehlhause, Roger Hellquist, Ron Johnson, Reed Olson, Nancy Erickson and Dave Larson voting against and Mayor Rita Albrecht voting in favor. Because the ordinance failed on final reading, the original ordinance approved in May will stand and Hillside Avenue Southwest will remain closed.


Two subjects not originally scheduled for Monday's meeting also received council action after being added to the agenda.

The first was for a legal settlement that was reached during a closed session prior to the council meeting. City Manager Nate Mathews said attorneys representing Bemidji are having legal conversations with contractors and subcontractors regarding lingering facility construction at the Sanford Center.

During the meeting, the council was asked to authorize a settlement reached with Custom Drywall in the amount of $23,000.

"We came to a settlement with them on the overflow scuppers," Mathews said. "It was a repair we did ourselves and we submitted those costs to the contractor and we met at a price acceptable."

Mathews added the city is still in the process of talks with other contractors, and said the hope is to have them completed in the next couple of months.

The council approved the authorization.

The second item, to authorize travel for Albrecht for a meeting in Iowa, was originally scheduled for the consent agenda. However, Erickson requested it be added to the regular agenda for further discussion.

Erickson said she had concerns both about the travel budget being used for the expenses and the value to the taxpayer in Albrecht going to the meeting.


The meeting Albrecht will be attending is the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. Albrecht said the meeting is to help the group-made up of mayors from municipalities-work better on behalf of the river and its development. A motion was made and carried to approve the authorization.

Another agenda item for the council Monday was a report from Dave Hengel, the executive director of Greater Bemidji.

In his report, Hengel thanked the city for helping to make the Mayflower building project successful. Hengel said the building is now fully occupied, and has become a public use building for entrepreneurs.

Hengel also touted business opportunities such as the Launchpad meetup for entrepreneurs as well as tools for companies including mentoring, educational programs and information on financial resources.

Also included in the report were trends Hengel said the city should be aware of. Those trends included population changes, focusing on millennials, ensuring quality of life investments and creating a balance between Bemidji being a regional center for Minnesota without changing the environment.

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