The City of Bemidji has been growing and changing for many years now. In November of 2004 the City entered into a long-term annexation agreement with our township neighbors (Northern and Bemidji townships) to create three phases of City annexation from 2010 to 2020. Our third and final phase of the annexation plan occurred with Northern Township this year, and so the City Council warmly welcomed over 700 residents into the City of Bemidji last month. The purpose of orderly annexation as stated in the City and Township Joint Resolution of 2004 was to hold joint cooperative planning regarding growth and development, and to best protect and serve the public health, safety and the general welfare of the public.

Since 2004, our City annexation and planning relationship with Bemidji Township ended; however, our relationship with Northern Township grew stronger roots and remains a key local government partnership. This is important because as rural areas urbanize, honest discussions between the City and townships will help us both plan how to best provide public services.

In Bemidji, increased residential and commercial development has been robust and we are seeing strong growth in both our City tax base and population. However, this growth places new pressures on open land, water, roadways, public safety, among many things, and to jointly discuss these issues with township leaders as development continues helps everyone. Topics such as: smart land use and zoning decisions; responsive and professional police and fire protection; responsible roadway design, construction and management; Minnesota building and fire code understanding and enforcement; safe rental property; attention to water, wetlands, forests and natural habitats that make Bemidji special; excellent and accessible parks, recreation, library services … all these are fundamental public considerations that the Bemidji City Council and staff manage as we see our city grow both residentially and commercially.

New website and Facebook page

To help improve public access to City information and our services, we recently updated our City website. I encourage you to check it out: www.ci.bemidji.mn.us. We intended this new site to be more user-friendly for mobile devices. In addition, please note that we have created an official City Facebook page as a way to get good information out in the social media world. For those of you that use social media, please find us and be our friend on the City’s Facebook page: Bemidji Minnesota City Hall.

PFAS and Legislative update

On our website (under the “News” section) we have new information regarding the Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) drinking water issue our city is facing, best summarized by a new Minnesota Department of Health website link and a new PFAS fact/summary sheet. To address this issue, we are currently pursuing legislation to secure $8.1 million in state bonding funds to construct a new PFAS water Treatment Plant, as well as legislation to create a new half-percent sales tax, subject to a local referendum, for three public infrastructure projects: PFAS plant; Waste Water Treatment Plant expansion and upgrade; and Sanford Center capital needs.

The month of March is turning into an extremely busy month regarding these pieces of legislation, and we would like to thank Sen. Justin Eichorn and Rep. John Persell for championing these projects on behalf of the City. During the remainder of this short Legislative Session, the City Council and I will be busy in St. Paul doing project presentations with the various House and Senate legislators and committee members that are reviewing our legislation. We have summary documents about our legislative initiatives on our City website as well for those interested in learning more. Please do not hesitate to contact me or the City Council if you have specific questions or would like to discuss further.

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