CITY OF BEMIDJI MEETINGS MONDAY
Monday night (December 2nd), elected officials from the city of Bemidji, as well as Northern and Bemidji Townships, are scheduled to meet at 5:30 pm at Bemidji Town Hall, 148 Carr Lake Road SE. According to Bemidji City Clerk Kay Murphy, they'll discuss matters related to the Greater Bemidji Area's Orderly Annexation and Joint Powers Agreements.
At 7 Monday night (December 2nd) there is a Bemidji City Council regular meeting at City Hall. Among the items on the council's agenda, the official "Truth in Taxation" public hearing on the city's proposed 2014 budget and tax levy. Materials provided for council members ahead of that meeting by City Finance Director Ron Eischens show next year's proposed budget is about 7.6% lower than this year, and next year's proposed property tax revenue is about .2 % lower than this year.
BUSY WEEK IN BEMIDJI
Bemidji area residents have a number of opportunities to learn about jobs and public services today (October 24th).
The state legislature's "select committee on living wage jobs" holds a public hearing on Minnesota's minimum wage at 1 this afternoon at Bemidji City Hall. State Representatives Ryan WInkler, Roger Erickson and John Persell are scheduled to attend. At 3 this afternoon, a number of Bemidji area companies are opening their doors to job-seekers interested in higher-paying positions in the manufacturing sector. For details on the "Statewide Tour of Manufacturing," go to www.dreamitdoit.com. At 4:30 this afternoon, Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle is hosting a town hall event in Bemidji State University's Beaux Arts Ballroom. He wants to hear what Bemidji area residents think about the impact of transportation on their quality of life and the region's economic vitality.
BEMIDJI DDA CHANGES NAME
Bemidji's Downtown Development Authority is officially changing its name to the Bemidji Downtown Alliance. The name change was announced at a social this morning at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation's office. President Ken Cobb says the new name will better reflect the group's wide range of activities, including planning for downtown events, enhancing downtown amenities, and promoting the area's economic vitality and quality of life.
BLUE OX MARATHON DEEMED A SUCCESS
Organizers are calling this past weekend's Blue Ox Marathon a success. Planning Committee Volunteer Coordinator Mark Peske said over 200 community members helped with the event, and they doubled the number of runners expected to participate. On race morning, Peske said one man chose Bemidji to complete his quest to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.
APPARENT DUCK-HUNTING FATALITY
The Hubbard County Sheriff's Office says a Nevis man died over the weekend in an apparent duck hunting-related mishap. Deputies were called shortly before 5 pm Saturday, and found 23 yr. old Adam Poole dead from a gunshot to the head. His hunting partner said they were in a boat on a river between 3rd and 4th Crow Wing Lakes when they both stood up to take a shot at waterfowl. The friend says he lost his balance and his shotgun went off. An autopsy will be conducted by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office. Sheriff Cory Aukes says foul play is not suspected, but the investigation is not wrapped up yet.
FORMER BHS SITE FOR SALE
A "for sale" sign has gone up at the corner of Bemidji Avenue and 15th Street in Bemidji, on about 11 acres of now-vacant land where the old Bemidji High School once stood. The land belongs to the BSU Foundation, and lists bsualumni.org as a contact for prospective buyers. The land is often brought up in discussions about commercial and residential development, particularly when student housing is a concern. When the Minnesota Design Team visited Bemidji last year, the outside experts mentioned the parcel as an opportunity for mixed-use development, perhaps with first-floor shops and upper-level apartments. Bemidji Youth Football used the land for their activities last year, but according to their website, they now primarily use the BHS ball fields.
BELTRAMI SHERIFF SEEKS STABBING INFORMATION
The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office is looking for the public's help in finding a suspect in a weekend stabbing. Sheriff Phil Hodapp says deputies were called to meet up with a vehicle taking 18-year-old Jace Ugrich of Bovey to the hospital. Authorities say Ugrich was at a large party on property on Hensel Drive NE owned by a fraternity when someone stabbed him in the back as he tried to break up a fight between two men. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office at 333-9111.
PEDESTRIAN DEATH NEAR DOWNTOWN BEMIDJI
Bemidji Police say 54-year-old Andrew Willard Reed was hit by a car in the 800 block of Paul Bunyan Drive shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday, and died from a "significant head injury." Police chief Mike Mastin says the driver of the car that hit him stopped immediately to render aid and called authorities. The driver was also tested for impairment and there was no alcohol in his system. Mastin says the driver apparently couldn't see Reed because it was dark, and he was standing in the middle of the road wearing dark clothing.
CITY CLOSES ON LAND FOR HOTEL
Bemidji City Manager John Chattin says they closed late last week on the land deal for a hotel and restaurant to be attached to the Sanford Center. Developer Tripp Snyder's group handed over a check for about $756,000 to the city Friday morning. Chattin said Snyder hopes to have a groundbreaking ceremony sometime this month for the project. City leaders have long said that having a hotel connected to the Sanford Center would greatly improve Bemidji's marketability as a convention and conference site.
MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT DEVELOPMENTS
A couple of developments this week in that mediated settlement agreement between Bemidji Township and the city of Bemidji. Monday night, Northern Township board members voted 3 to 1 in favor of motion to "not recognize" the agreement. Northern's town board is party to the Joint Powers Agreement between the two townships and the city of Bemidji. Wednesday morning, there was a scheduling conference in Judge John Melbye's courtroom on the agreement. Jim Thomson of the Twin Cities law firm Kennedy and Graven, spoke for the city by phone, saying he believed the agreement could not be enacted after Northern's vote. Bemidji Township lawyer John Steffenhagen said he "vigorously disagreed," and hinted he might file motions moving the agreement forward. Judge Melbye said he would keep the case under his jurisdiction and would schedule another court date in about 30 days.
BELTRAMI COMMISSIONERS MOVE FORWARD ON ROAD PLAN
Beltrami County Commissioners approved three measures Tuesday evening that set an accelerated roadwork maintenance and improvement process into motion. The votes during the regular commission meeting included approval of drawing down about 6 months of reserve funds, or roughly $6.5 million, to put toward the most-needed county road repairs. Secondly, commissioners approved a $10 per vehicle wheelage tax beginning January 1, 2014. The revenue raised through the new tax will then be used to make payments on a $9.5 million bonding package. County commissioner Jim Lucachick voted "no" on all three measures. Commissioner Jack Frost was absent from Tuesday night's meeting. Beltrami County Highway Engineer Bruce Hasbargen will use his department's new road maintenance software to identify the most cost-effective and valuable projects to undertake.
WHITE EARTH HOLDS CONSTITUTION MEETINGS
The White Earth Nation is planning several meetings to educate people about the process of constitutional reform, and voting on a proposed new constitution, which is set to take place this fall. The community education sessions are scheduled for July 10 and 27 at the White Earth Community Center. The July 10 meeting is from 7 to 9 pm. There will be two sessions on the 27th, one from 2 to 4 pm and the other from 6 to 8 pm. Each session will include guided discussion about the constitution's provisions and themes, facilitated by Terry Janis, the Constitutional Reform Manager. The White Earth Nation received a Bush Foundation grant last December to support the constitutional reform process.
MORE MINNESOTA COMMUNITIES CONSIDER WHEELAGE TAX
Last week, Beltrami County commissioners held a public hearing on a possible $10 per vehicle wheelage tax, to help pay for county road maintenance projects. They're not alone. This year's state legislature made it possible for counties to collect such a tax, and officials in Mower and Rice counties have already approved one. Other counties, including Faribault, Olmstead, Hennepin and Otter Tail counties, are considering it. There could still be a change in the gas tax collected by the state. The “Minnesota Transportation Alliance” is proposing a gas tax that's based on pump prices, making it more like a sales tax. The group, the Taxpayers League” wants the state to do a better job of awarding road projects to the lowest bidder to reduce costs, rather than trying to raise more money through taxes. Beltrami County Commissioners haven't made a decision yet on a wheelage tax here.
BEMIDJI TURNS DOWN ZORBAZ OFFER
Members of Bemidji's city council met as the Bemidji Economic Development Authority early Monday evening, to hear a proposal for a Zorbaz restaurant to be built in the city's south shore area. Dave Hengel, executive director for the group Greater Bemidji, accompanied Zorbaz owner Tom Hanson to explain the offer to purchase roughly an acre of city-owned land for about $350,000. Bemidji City Attorney Al Felix asked for clarification about how the proposal was negotiated without direct involvement by BEDA members. Hanson told the group his restaurant, which could be open within a year and a half, would likely generate up to $200,000 a year in sales tax, and up to $40,000 in property taxes. The discussion lasted a little over a half hour, then Hengel and Hanson were excused and the meeting was closed for further discussion and a vote, which was 6 to 1 rejecting the offer. City manager John Chattin said Zorbaz's request for a 5-year deferment in payment for the parcel appeared to be the biggest reason the proposal was rejected.
BEMIDJI TOWNSHIP BOARD RATIFIES MEDIATED SETTLEMENT
The Bemidji Township board voted unanimously in favor of ratifying the mediated settlement agreement with the city of Bemidji crafted during a marathon meeting late last month. The township's lawyer in the annexation lawsuit, John Steffenhagen, told the crowd of more than 50 people attending Tuesday night's regular Bemidji Township board meeting that their elected representatives did an excellent job of "standing their ground" in the mediation session. Township board chair Jan Heuer said they will work to assemble a petition for detachment that will be submitted to the state, but each recently-annexed property owner who wants to return to the township will be responsible for determining their eligibility and submitting the required paperwork to be included. Heuer and Steffenhagen said there will be a deadline to complete that, so the petition can be submitted to the state soon. Northern Township still needs to weigh in on the proposed changes to the orderly annexation agreement.
BEMIDJI COUNCIL VOTES AGAIN ON MEDIATED SETTLEMENT
After meeting behind closed doors for over an hour Monday night, Bemidji city council members voted 4 to 3 in favor of the mediated settlement agreement with Bemidji Township, the same agreement they rejected on a 5 to 2 vote at their June 3rd regular council meeting, but was approved in another closed meeting that lasted into the early morning hours of May 31st. The three "no" votes last night came from council members Ron Johnson, Nancy Erickson, and Roger Hellquist. The majority of "yes" votes means Bemidji Township will be allowed to leave the orderly annexation agreement. According to the original agreement, which dates back to 2004, any changes must be approved by all three local government units involved, so Northern Township will likely have a say in how the changes are implemented.
DISTRICT 31 SCHOOL YEAR ENDS
Today's the last day of classes for students in the Bemidji School District. Drivers are urged to be especially careful in school zones today. Five Bemidji teachers are retiring after more than 2 decades of service. Kimberly Coequyt-Hoff has taught for 35 years, Mary Boranian for 34 years, Ethel Hesch for 30 years, Nancy Aitken for 28 years, and Richard Kehoe for 22 years.
OVER $39,000 RAISED FOR NWTC SCHOLARSHIPS
Organizers of last month's “Night at the Races” say the event raised more than $39,000 for scholarships at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji. The 5th Annual "Night at the Races" in Bemidji State University's Beaux Art Ballroom was sponsored by Affinity Plus Credit Union, Bemidji Area Auto Dealers, First National Bank Bemidji, BSU Hockey Suite 19, and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting. Organizers have set the date for next year's event for May 2, 2014.
REGIONAL TRAFFIC SAFETY CONFERENCE IN BEMIDJI
The 4th Annual Northwest Minnesota "Towards Zero Deaths" workshop brought about 100 participants to Bemidji's Hampton Inn to talk about traffic safety. MnDot District 2 engineer Craig Collison said lane-edge rumble strips, which first appeared on Highway 371, have saved countless lives. Collison says the agency does get some complaints from nearby property owners about the noise tires make when vehicles drift onto the strips, but he says that annoyance is certainly less than a fatal or serious injury crash would be. Workshop participants also heard about the latest information technology, including so-called “screaming cones,” orange construction zone cones that sound a piercing alarm when they're hit by a vehicle, alerting nearby construction workers that they may be in danger of getting hit.
BEMIDJI SECURES LEGACY FUNDING
Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht says she learned this week that State Representative John Persell managed to secure $750,000 in Legacy funding for improvements at the Paul Bunyan and Library Park area. Several months ago, Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson applied for a bigger chunk of Legacy funding, but said the state was flooded with requests and Bemidji received no funding at that time. Albrecht says she talked with Persell later about the possibility of being added as a "line item" to the funding bill, but didn't expect it to happen. Plans to renovate both the Paul Bunyan Park area, and into the Nymore Park area, carry a price tag of close to $3 million. The funding received this year will likely focus on trail and lake connections, as well as parking lot and plaza upgrades near the famous Paul and Babe statues.
LEGISLATURE PASSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL
After hours of debate, Minnesota's state senate passed same-sex marriage legislation Monday afternoon on a 37-30 vote. State Senators Rod Skoe of Clearbrook and Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids voted "yes," State Senator Leroy Stumpf of Plummer voted "no." The measure passed the House last week, with State Representatives John Persell of Bemidji and Roger Erickson of Baudette voting "yes." Representatives Deb Kiel of Crookston and Steve Green of Fosston voted "no." Governor Dayton will sign the bill into law today on the steps of the state capitol.
FATAL WORK ACCIDENT IN HUBBARD COUNTY
An employee at the Potlatch Lumber Mill in northern Hubbard County fell to his death Saturday afternoon. Authorities responding to a call to the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office found that 23 yr. old Mitchell Harthan of Grand Rapids had been doing maintenance work at least 40 feet in the air when part of the catwalk he was standing on fell. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The incident is under investigation by the sheriff's office and OSHA.
BEMIDJI COUNCIL WON'T PURSUE 3RD LIQUOR STORE
Bemidji city council members discussed the possibility of a third municipal liquor store during a work session Monday night. President of Pace Development, John Meyers, was there to answer questions about his offer to lease space in a remodeled Marketplace Food store to the city, but the conversation never got that far. Mayor Rita Albrecht said the council's first decision should be whether to consider a third store at all. Discussion revolved around higher operating costs if opening a third store, and how to capture shoppers who visit only Bemidji's west side. In the end, the vote was 3 to 3, so the measure to pursue the idea of a third municipal liquor store failed.
BEMIDJI POLICE ALCOHOL CHECKS
Results are in from a recent series of alcohol compliance checks Bemidji police conducted at area liquor stores and bars. Chief Mike Mastin says they did over 100 checks at 38 local businesses between March 13th and April 11th. Mastin says 93% of the businesses passed their checks by refusing to sell alcohol to the volunteer underaged buyers. The chief says they may do similar checks in the future, and will let the public know when those are planned.
BEMIDJI TOWN HALL MEETING WITH LAWMAKERS
Two hours of discussion with state lawmakers at Bemidji City Hall included some passionate comments about a proposed hospitality tax to help cover costs for operating the Sanford Center. Some business owners spoke out against the tax, saying it was unfair to ask businesses and taxpayers to "bail out" the city-owned event center. State Representative John Persell and State Senator Tom Saxhaug, who are sponsoring the bill that would authorize Bemidji to collect the tax, attended the Saturday afternoon town hall meeting, as did State Senator Rod Skoe, who is a tax committee chair. Lawmakers pointed out that hospitality tax revenue collected from visitors to Bemidji would ultimately relieve some of the property tax local residents have to pay.
BELTRAMI COMMISSION PREVIEWS POWER LINE PLAN
Minnesota Power Environmental Siting and Permitting Supervisor Jim Atkinson briefed Beltrami County Commissioners on their plan to build one of the biggest electrical transmission lines in the Upper Midwest, likely including some land here. The "Great Northern Transmission Line" is to bring hydroelectric power from Manitoba to the company's distribution sites in the Duluth area. Atkinson says they hope to have it operational by June of 2020. He says the line will control costs due to increased demand and expected increases in the cost of coal-based power. Atkinson says the county could expect to see revenue of about $70,000 a mile for lines passing through the area.
TOWNSHIP DAY IN MINNESOTA
Today is "Township Day" in Minnesota, when townships set their levy for next year, and many townships hold officer elections. Township annual meetings are required statewide. There are more than three dozen townships in Beltrami County. Northern Township clerk Mary Israelson says they hold their election during the fall general election, so tonight they'll hold just their annual meeting at 7 pm. Townships that are holding elections today won't hold their annual meeting until 8 pm. Each township hall site must post their election hours and annual meeting time.
WATERFRONT PARK OPTIONS TO BE DISCUSSED
Bemidji's Parks and Trails Commission will try to prioritize possible improvements for Paul Bunyan Park, along Lake Bemidji's waterfront, during their meeting next week. Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson says there are some improvements that could be made this year, even though the city did not receive Legacy Grant funding for the project. Larson says the city does have some sales tax revenue to put toward improvements this year.
CITY PARKING LOT CHANGES
Bemidji's city council approved some parking changes to a downtown lot along Minnesota Avenue. "Lot 7" will be posted for "no parking" between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m., from November 1 to April 1. City Public Works Director Craig Gray says it will take a few weeks to have the new signs made, delivered and installed. The change was prompted by complaints from some downtown businesses that city lots weren't getting cleared of snow quickly enough.
NEW CITY OF BEMIDJI WEBSITE LINKS
The city of Bemidji has added two new features to their website this week. City Public Works Director Craig Gray says a link allowing citizens to directly email the Street Department, notifying them about potholes, will allow crews to find and repair them more quickly. In addition, City Clerk Kay Murphy says a tab near the top of the website's homepage titled "Feedback" is an easy way to respond to city surveys and leave comments about a variety of city services and issues.
MANAGERS LEAVING BEMIDJI'S SANFORD CENTER
Two managers are leaving Bemidji's Sanford Center. Executive Director Curtis Webb says the event center's business manager, and food and beverage services manager, are leaving. Webb says, with the hockey season winding down, they'll cover the food and beverage services duties with existing staff, but may open a job search for the director's position later this year. They're accepting applications now for the business manager position.
BEMIDJI WARMING HOUSE OFFERS CONCESSIONS
Bemidji's Parks and Recreation Department is now offering hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn and snacks in the City Park Warming House while they're open for skaters. The new concession hours are 3:30 to 8:30 pm school days, 1 to 8:30 pm weekends. City park has outdoor hockey and pleasure skating rinks. The Park and Rec Department is also planning ahead for summer recreation programs and they're looking for input and suggestions. You can find a link to a short survey on the city's website or through the Bemidji Park and Recreation Department's Facebook page. By taking the survey, you can get $5 off a future rec program registration fee.
BEMIDJI COUNCIL CHOOSES NEW WARD 4 REPRESENTATIVE
Bemidji city council members interviewed four candidates to fill the vacant Ward 4 council seat, and unanimously chose Reed Olson. Olson is co-owner of the Wild Hare Bistro in downtown Bemidji, and has served on the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission. He told council members during his interview that the JPC gave him experience weighing requests based on current ordinances. He said, although many Bemidji businesses are opposed to a proposed hospitality tax, he could see the benefit to the overall community and would likely vote in favor of it. Bemidji city clerk Kay Murphy said Olson will be sworn in at the council's February 4th meeting. The Ward 4 seat was vacated when Rita Albrecht was sworn in as Bemidji's mayor earlier this month.
BELTRAMI COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AWARD "DEVELOPMENT FUND" GRANTS
Beltrami County Commissioners whittled down a list of grant requests from a dozen groups and projects totaling more than $365,000, to awards for 8 projects totaling about $140,000. That included $25,000 for the Chief Bemidji Statue Project, which fulfills their total fundraising goal of $124,000. Sandy Kaul with the Chief Bemidji Statue Project committee says they can now commission Washington-state artist Gareth Curtis to begin work on the bronze statue. County commissioners did not fund four applications, from Evergreen Youth and Family Services, the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, the Headwaters Science Center, and the Bemidji Public Library's book festival, saying they did not meet the grant guideline of promoting agriculture, industrial development, or tourism in Beltrami County.
SANFORD BEMIDJI RESTRICTS VISITORS
Sanford Bemidji Medical Center is restricting visitors because of the spread of influenza. Only spouses and significant others, parents, grandparents, and siblings of patients will be allowed to visit, and patients may only have two visitors at a time. Anyone with symptoms of illness, including cough, stuffy nose, sore throat, fever or body aches should not visit Sanford Bemidji patients at this time.
SANFORD BEMIDJI CONFIRMS FLU
Sanford Bemidji says their doctors have confirmed 25 cases of Influenza A so far this flu season, with over half, 13 cases, coming in just this past week. They note that this has been an early start to the influenza season in Minnesota. Spokespersons for the regional health care center are encouraging flu vaccinations for those who haven't had one yet. They are also asking people with any sign of illness to refrain from visiting patients at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.
AUTHORITIES STILL SEEKING ROBBERY LEADS
Authorities are still looking for leads in that New Years Eve robbery at the AmericInn Motel in Blackduck. They're hoping that the Crimestoppers website and phone number will help – it allows tipsters to remain anonymous, and offers a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. You can call Crimestoppers toll-free at (800) 222-TIPS, or go to their website, crimestoppersmn.org. You can also text in your tip. Text TIP674 plus a message to CRIMES (274637). The robbery happened shortly before 7:30 pm December 31st. The suspect was wearing a light-grey hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, and a bright orange mask. Authorities say he was armed with a black pistol.
PAUL BUNYAN MALL SOLD
New Years Eve brought new owners for Bemidji's Paul Bunyan Mall. Mall manager Susan Goudge says Ohio-based DDR Corporation sold the mall to New Jersey-based Lexington Realty International on Monday. Goudge says current staff members at the mall are eagerly looking forward to a bright future for the retail center. Lexington Realty bought Brainerd's Westgate Mall in the fall of 2011, and within days announced plans to bring in two major additions, Big Lots and Dunham Sports. Lexington Realty President Alan Retkinski tells us his company had been looking at the Bemidji mall property for about six months, and they've already been in discussions with many potential new tenants for the facility. Retkinski says they find small markets "charming,” saying the customers are a pleasure to deal with. Retkinski and other representatives from Lexington Realty will be in Bemidji for a ribbon-cutting event January 14th.
BELTRAMI COUNTY COMMISSIONERS RATIFY CONTRACTS
Beltrami county commissioners made some personnel decisions during their work session and regular meeting on Tuesday. They formally accepted Kay Mack's resignation as the county's auditor-treasurer. Mack has accepted the county administrator job. Commissioners appointed deputy auditor-treasurer Jodee Treat to assume Mack's former job, which is an elected position. That means Treat will have to run for re-election in about two years. Commissioners also ratified tentative employee contracts with two union groups and salaries for non-union county employees, approving a 1% salary increase for next year, and a $50 increase in the county's contribution toward flex benefits.
BEMIDJI AREA'S ISO RATING IMPROVES
Bemidji's fire department recently had an ISO review...that's where a private organization rates the area's fire fighting and prevention capacity and gives that information to insurance companies, which they use to help them set premiums. Bemidji fire chief Dave Hoefer says we improved over the last ISO review, largely because of attention paid to areas on the edge of city water service. The ISO report looks at equipment, but also training that fire crews receive in a given area. Hoefer says some Bemidji area property owners could see improved insurance rates as early as April.
KELLIHER BANK ROBBED
Authorities are looking for the person who held up the First State Bank of Big Fork branch on Kelliher's Main Street Monday afternoon. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp describes the suspect as 6 feet tall, dressed in a one-piece hooded white Tyvek suit, and brandishing a shotgun. Hodapp says no one was hurt, but the suspect got away with, what he called, a large amount of cash. Officers from more than a dozen agencies are helping in the search. Anyone with information that could help authorities arrest the suspect is asked to call the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office.
BEMIDJI AVIATION LEADER KILLED IN PLANE CRASH
A plane crash Tuesday afternoon in a soybean field 50 miles southwest of Chicago killed the president of Bemidji Aviation. 74 yr. old Larry Diffley was the only person in the plane. NTSB personnel say the Hawker Beechcraft BE-58, registered to Bemidji Aviation, went down shortly before 3 pm yesterday. Bemidji Aviation is the Bemidji Regional Airport's “fixed-base operator,” and just recently negotiated a new contract with the airport, discussions Diffley that included Diffley's input. According to Bemidji Aviation's website, Diffley and Mark Shough took over the company in 1970. They operate cargo and passenger charters, and also provide maintenance, fuel and hangar services at the Bemidji airport.
BIG DAY FOR BEMIDJI AREA HABITAT FOR HUMANITY CHAPTER
The Bemidji Area Habitat for Humanity chapter gets their new wheels today. The non-profit won an on-line campaign in August sponsored by Toyota, called “100 Cars for Good.” They competed with several other non-profits on Day 86 of the contest, and garnered enough support to win a new Toyota Tundra, which they'll use to secure donations to their Habitat Restore. The Restore, in Bemidji's Industrial Park, sells donated building materials and furnishings to raise money for Habitat building projects. Habitat for Humanity executive director Geri Hickerson says the keys to the new vehicle will be handed over to them this afternoon.
BIG FIRE ON BEMIDJI AVENUE NORTH THANKSGIVING DAY
Dozens of firefighters from Bemidji, Cass Lake, and Blackduck spent a good part of their Thanksgiving Day battling a fire at the Birchwood Color Center building on Beltrami Avenue on the city's north side. The call came in shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, when passing motorists saw smoke pouring out of the roof. Bemidji Avenue was shut down from 29th Street to Ingelwood Street, to give emergency crews access and because of the thick smoke. Crews were able to finally contain the fire, but not before it did over $400,000 in damage to the building and its contents. No one was inside when the fire broke out. The cause hasn't been determined yet. The Beltrami County Emergency Management Office says they used their new Code Red system to alert nearby residents. They were offered temporary shelter.
BELTRAMI COUNTY ASSESSOR TO TAKE "PHASED" RETIREMENT
Beltrami county assessor Duane Ebbighausen told county commissioners Tuesday that a plan for him to take advantage of a “phased retirement option” is a win-win situation for both him and the county. He would work roughly 20 hours a week on average, at a cost savings to the county of about $45,000. County commissioners unanimously approved the plan during their regular meeting.
BEMIDJI'S SANFORD CENTER HAS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Bemidji's Sanford Center will have a new executive director right after the first of the year. The event center's interim director, David Ross, made the announcement to Bemidji city council members last night. Curtis Webb is currently general manager of the Ralston Arena in the Omaha area. He was unanimously approved by the Sanford Center Advisory Board earlier this month. Council members Greg Negard and Ron Johnson, who sit on that advisory board, spoke enthusiastically about him last night, and the city council's vote approving the VenuWorks appointment was unanimous. Webb starts his job in Bemidji January 2nd.