A big thank you to the Bemidji Jaycees yet again for the hard work making Bemidji such a festive place during the holidays. The banners, lights and First City of Lights Night We Light Festival is such a fantastic part of our community and we appreciate this work you do for us.

This year Old Man Winter has clearly not been shy to arrive … and the joys of winter and snow are back. Personally speaking, winter is my favorite season. I know this sounds crazy, but I would rather be in the middle of a snowy woods on a pair of skis or the ice jigging than worry about the SPF factor of my sunscreen while sweating in the heat. We live in such a beautiful part of Minnesota with a ton of wonderful things to do in the winter, from cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice skating, downhill skiing, sledding, tubing, you name it.

I’d like to encourage you to check out some of the ways our city Parks and Recreation Department can help you have some fun, get outdoors, and stay fit this winter. We are rolling out a recreation program called Minnesota Fit. Some activities we will be offering include snowshoeing, skating, broomball and indoor rock climbing. Rental snowshoes and skates will be available for an additional cost, or just bring your own. Pay one price and participate in all of the fun things winter has to offer. Each week we will be fitness challenges at the activities along with prizes and snacks. This is a great way to get to know members of your community while getting in shape at the same time and explore all the beautiful things Bemidji has to offer. For more information check out our city website at www.ci.bemidji.mn.us

Also, our Parks and Recreation Department this week started to flood the outdoor rinks, and we hope to have them open as soon as possible. Every year our goal (weather dependent, of course) is to have our rinks open for skating before the school holiday break, and this year with the cold temps holding it is looking promising for the rinks to be open shortly. For our trail users, as a reminder, yes we do remove snow from our trails in Bemidji (though not all city sidewalks) to keep those corridors open for use. However the state’s Paul Bunyan Trail that runs through town (through the Rail Corridor and then the South Shore) is part of the state snowmobile trail system so we do not remove the snow on that trail.

Speaking of snow removal, our Street Department has been busy this snow season with significant snow plowing events. On behalf of our crews, we ask you to please pay attention to the street signs. In large part the street parking regulations in Bemidji have been developed over time to allow for an efficient snow removal process. In downtown parking lots, if you see piles of snow remaining after an event, please help us out and try not to park near areas where it looks like our someone would be coming back to further cleanup snow piles, or clean up snow that was missed because a car was parked there.

Finally, a general notice that on Monday, Dec. 16, the City Council will be adopting the 2020 city budget and tax levy. Our budgeting process in Bemidji is lengthy and typically starts in April. It involves many conversations with department heads and work sessions with the City Council to review identified priorities and specific department service delivery needs. A preliminary budget and levy is always established in September of each year, and a final budget and levy in December.

As a way to help our taxpayers understand the city’s various revenues, expenses, funds, departments and initiatives, we work hard to provide helpful information on our city website. Under our Finance Department tab you can find Annual Budget Reports, Summary Financial Reports, Annual Audits, and also the Truth in Taxation presentation which summarizes the current proposed budget and tax levy for the year ahead. A lot of great information for those of you who are eager to learn more about the City’s municipal finance and planning work. I dare say it’s fun information to read (I’m biased) but will admit it is not as fun as skiing, ice skating or snowshoeing.

Nate Mathews is the city manager for Bemidji. He can be reached at Nate.Mathews@ci.bemidji.mn.us.