Liquor store fund uses discussed during council work session

The Bemidji City Council held a lengthy discussion on how to best use the city’s liquor store profits during their work session Monday.

Right now, there are over $400,000 in unrestricted, undesignated funds.

The council came to a general consensus for staff to return a vote for the council on installing solar panels on top of the Tourist Information Center.

Several council members voiced their opposition to being in the liquor store business, such as Ward 2’s Josh Peterson, Ward 1’s Audrey Thayer and Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince.

Some discussion on possibly using liquor store profits for human service-oriented programs was discussed, but Assistant City Attorney Katie Nolting reminded the council that the city does not have human service mandates.

Nolting said the funds can be used for projects and initiatives that benefit all, such as the city’s parks or offsetting the property tax levy, but could not be directed to any certain groups.

The city also has around $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan funding that can be used for various projects.

Upcoming projects that were not budgeted for in 2022 include $150,000 to fix Paul Bunyan Park plaza’s drainage issue, grant matches for Cameron Park’s lift station and a soil clean up project at the Rail Corridor site, as well as more work at the Tourist Information Center, with a full remodel expected to be around $415,000.

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