Bemidji News

Beltrami County back to drawing board for jail project site


The Beltrami County Board is back to the drawing board for the new jail project.

Last week, the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board placed a 6-month moratorium on new jails in residential zones, eliminating a number of previously identified sites, including the Wiebolt property.

Throughout June, the board heard a number of comments objecting to the proposed site on Jefferson Ave. including at a public hearing, with the JPB writing a legal memo to the county on June 28.

Commissioner John Carlson made the motion to withdraw the purchase offer and the $10,000 good faith holding and authorize County Administrator Tom Barry to pursue other sites within other zones.

“It is not uncommon for controversial projects like this to take several twists and turns as they come to fruition,” said Barry.

“The County Board was already in the process of considering other locations based on the feedback it received at the June 20 public hearing. I think they have shown that they were listening and eager to look for a compromise. The actions of the GBAJPB just helped to spur that along,” Barry said.

State law requires county jails to be constructed within the city limits of the county seat.

Residents will be asked this November to approve a local option sales tax to finance the $80M project. Many County Board Members see sales tax as the preferred funding option because 50% of sales tax revenue comes from visitors and non-residents.

“Sales tax collections do not apply to food and clothing either, so it is a more sensitive funding source for families with lower incomes who spend more on those staple purchases,” said Commissioner John Carlson.

Tune into Chatabout today to learn more about the jail project from Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs.