Bemidji City Council moves forward with lobbyist hire

The Bemidji City Council will likely not address the legislature requesting a new sales tax this session.

During their work session last night, they extensively discussed hiring a lobbyist.

The funding for the hire would likely come from the council’s contingency fund, and all council members agreed that they need someone in St. Paul to advocate on their behalf.

The city is requesting $8 million in bonding dollars, or half of the cost, for a needed water treatment plant in order to remove the PFCs, or perflourochemicals, from the city’s water.

PFCs are attributed to various products, such as Teflon and Scotchguard, largely created by Minnesota manufacturer 3M.

In the city of Bemidji’s case, a firefighting foam formerly used at the Bemidji Regional Airport contains the PFCs. The city’s well field is also located at the airport.

The council will take the advice of the lobbyist to decide whether to pursue taxes this legislative session, but will likely pursue them in the future. Mayor of Bemidji Rita Albrecht expressed that it was more important to pursue bonding dollars this session.

City Manager Nate Mathews said he will put together a proposal as the next step in hiring a lobbyist.

In the event that the legislature allows the council to pursue a new tax, whether this session or in a future one, the question would be placed in a referendum for the people of Bemidji to vote on.

Pat Welle, an economist that sits on the Sanford Center Board of Directors, said that many factors contribute to the Sanford Center’s falling revenues, but spoke in favor of a hospitality tax on food and beverage to help pay for the Sanford Center’s needs.

The council adjourned their public meeting and closed it for a discussion on multiple lawsuits, according to City Attorney Al Felix.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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