New rental code passed by the Bemidji City Council, repairs planned for water tower

The Bemidji City Council unanimously passed a new rental ordinance, approved repairs for a damaged water tower and began the discussion to hire a new city manager during its meeting on Monday.

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo

BEMIDJI — A new rental code was passed unanimously by the Bemidji City Council on Monday, during a meeting that also covered several engineering projects and began the discussion for hiring a new city manager.

After months of discussion and a handful of delays, the council approved the ordinance to update Bemidji’s rental code, something that was last done in 2011.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Mayor Jorge Prince. “It’s been a year and a half in the making. Thank you all for your patience, thank you to the council for going back and taking the extra time to put forward something that’s even better (than the previous drafts).”

The new rental code increases the city’s enforcement mechanisms and adjusts occupancy limits to align with safety requirements rather than familial ties. Plans are in place to review the code periodically to ensure that it’s working as intended.

Engineering projects

During its meeting, the council also approved a change order for Phase 2 of its project at the new water treatment plant. The change order includes a plan for treatment for dewatering after PFAS compounds were found.


In the original plans for this treatment the cost was estimated to be $1 million, but after working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources, an alternative was found to dilute the water.

This option is significantly cheaper, with an estimated cost of around $148,000.

“We’ve found a workaround,” said City Engineer Sam Anderson. “We’re not completely out of the woods yet, but we’re still optimistic everything will move forward.”

Phase 2 of the water treatment plant will increase the plant’s capacity by 3.6 million gallons a day. The total budget for the project is around $17.3 million and was approved in July 2022 .

The council also approved repairs to the water tower of First Street that was damaged in February after its riser column imploded.

The damage was caused by ice accumulation, which Anderson hopes to avoid in the future by converting the riser column to a “dry” model.

Water tower.jpg
The riser column of a water tower on First Street East in Bemidji experienced damage from a column implosion Feb. 28, 2023, while the city’s utility department was performing maintenance.
Courtesy / Samuel Lalone

“We think that this is a long-term solution, it would convert that water riser into what we call a dry riser,” Anderson explained.

This option would entail putting a smaller pipe inside the existing column, creating an air gap in between that would insulate the interior pipe. It is also cheaper than the alternative of replacing the entire column.


The cost for this repair, around $32,000, would be covered by the city’s insurance with the League of Minnesota Cities. The hope is for the water tower to be operational by this fall.

Search for a city manager

As one of its final topics of discussion, the city council began to consider a search for a new city manager, after the resignation of Nate Mathews in April.

City staff made the recommendation to hire a consulting firm to help with the search and hiring process, something the city has done in the past and that the council considered favorably. The cost of a consulting firm for this purpose typically ranges from $19,000 to $26,000.

“This would be my fourth search (for a city manager),” said Ward 3 Councilor Ron Johnson. “We’ve consulted all three times. I would be in favor of that.”

Two consulting firms were presented as options, Baker Tilly and DDA Human Resources Group, and the council asked that they be reached out to for further details before a decision is made.

A consulting firm would find candidates for the council to consider, and provide other aid in the hiring process. In the position’s vacancy, City Clerk Michelle Miller has been the acting city manager.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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