Rifle hunting within city limits discussed during meeting

The Bemidji City Council considered an item regarding rifle hunting within city limits during their meeting Monday.

One newly annexed resident, who was hunting on the Northern Township land before it was brought into the city earlier this year, posed the question, and his representative, Ward 3 Council member Ron Johnson doubts he’ll be the only one.

The council did not take any action on this and will next discuss it at a work session, as City Attorney Al Felix says this is an unusual issue with not a lot of legal precedence for municipalities, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will likely need to weigh in.

The city charter does not allow the discharge of firearms within city limits.

The council also held a discussion on league play for the Bemidji Softball Association.

The city has, as many other Minnesota cities have, followed the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and MDH has classified softball as a “medium risk” sport, and games are not recommended at this time.

Team practice may proceed, so long as it is not organized through Parks and Recreation.

City Attorney Al Felix emphasized that “not recommended” has generally meant “not permitted,” especially as far as the city’s liability is concerned.

Staff will draft a letter on behalf of the council to Gov. Tim Walz, urging the administration to allow softball games to proceed.

Other items on the council agenda:

  • Accepted Jim “Doc” Thompson’s resignation as the council’s at-large member. All four council members present expressed their gratitude for Doc’s service to the Bemidji community over the decades (Ward 4’s Emilie Rivera was not present, and now there are two vacancies on the council).
  • Declared the at-large seat vacant and directed City Clerk Michelle Miller to order a special election. The filing period will be in August for that seat, and the special election will be held in November.
  • Approved about a $150,000 bid to Visu-Sewer for slip lining the city’s clay sewer pipes. City Engineer Craig Gray said this project is done every other year in narrow alleyways and backyards of houses and businesses, and this year, they’re lining about 3,600 feet of clay sanitary sewer pipe with flexible PVC. The city has about 30 miles of clay pipe left to line. The PVC is inflated and hardened to become a new in-place PVC pipe. Funding comes from the Sanitary Sewer Capital Improvement Plan.
  • Ward 3’s Johnson removed “Bills Submitted by VenuWorks” from the consent agenda, and during discussion, questioned why the city was paying $10,000 per month to a management company that is managing a closed building, the Sanford Center. City staff may pursue a discussion with VenuWorks to see if the city can pay a reduced rate while the Event Center is closed.
  • For staff comments, City Manager Nate Mathews emphasized that the Minnesota Legislature is back for a special session, and the city’s request for bonding dollars to pay for the water treatment plant has different versions in the House and Senate, with the House having $4 million more bonding dollars dedicated to the project than the Senate’s bonding bill. Mathews stressed that businesses and others should contact the Bemidji area’s state senator, Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) to ensure Bemidji gets those bonding dollars. Eichorn’s legislative phone number is 651-296-7079.

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