Sanford Center, annexation discussed in Monday’s council meeting

The Bemidji City Council rejected a measure for a third-party review of the Sanford Center during their meeting Monday.

According to an announcement from Mayor Jorge Prince, the cost of the study would have been $47,000.

The only firm that submitted a bid was CSL, the firm that conducted the initial feasibility study for the Sanford Center.

Prince said he voted against the measure to hire CSL for the independent review partially because three council members voted against paying VenuWorks’ bills.

In his announcement, Prince said he didn’t want to vote for the measure if “a significant portion of the council…. is questioning our current arrangement with VenuWorks.”

City Manager Nate Mathews said in a Wednesday interview that professional services, such as accounting and legal fees, aren’t subject to the same competitive bid process required in municipal construction projects.

During the Sanford Center listening session last month, the Bemidji Alliance requested the city undertake a third-party review of the Sanford Center’s financial operations before any further exploration on a hospitality tax.

The council did vote to move forward with the orderly annexation request with Northern Township.

Mathews said the agreement would involve 61 parcels, from city limits out to Ruttger’s Lodge on Bemidji Ave. N., and eventually onto Birchmont Beach Rd. NE.

Beltrami County’s Highway Department was awarded a MnDOT grant for their planned 2024 project on Birchmont Beach Rd. NE, and in prior discussions, the city plans to install water and sewer mains while the road is under construction.

The motion made during Monday’s meeting is a formality for the discussions between Northern Township and the City of Bemidji to proceed with orderly annexation.

The last orderly annexation agreement with Northern Township was a 10-year, three-phased process that was complete in 2020.

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