Pedestal in the Plaza: City to raise Babe to prevent water damage

The Bemidji City Council generally consented to raise Babe the Blue Ox as the preferred choice to fix a drainage issue at Paul Bunyan Plaza.

The work would be done by Jensen Conservation, the same group that repaired Paul and Babe earlier this spring, and would cost around $150,000.

Jensen would use a monolithic lift and build a platform for Babe to rest on, protecting his hooves from standing water.

In the repair work earlier this year, Babe’s hooves decayed and with the opened concrete, a family of mice was able to move into his nose, creating more damage.

Civil Engineer Brian Grund says of the two long-term fixes, the other being a full rework of the plaza, raising Babe would help protect the City’s investment.

Grund noted that the current design forces water to run through Babe’s legs.

The plaza was completely reworked in 2015, with a change of the plans that included green spaces as well as other features like boulders and stumps but the idea was rejected by the community.

Parks Director Marcia Larson speculated that additional green spaces in the plaza may have prevented some drainage issues, but the drainage issues seen in the plaza now were not anticipated six years ago.

Work could begin as soon as next month, according to a letter from Jensen Conservation. Larson said this option may have to be completed next year due to a lack of time.

Funding could come from liquor proceeds, or possibly through community and group fundraising.

The council also discussed a possible return to masking and remote meetings.

Ward 4’s Emelie Rivera added these items to the work session agenda.

City Attorney Al Felix said that while the open meeting laws were amended to allow flexibility outside of an emergency, remote meetings are limited to three a year.

Felix also noted that a city-wide mask ordinance would take three months, and a resolution to require masks inside city buildings would need to pass by unanimous vote.


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