State of the City address highlights city’s strengths, acknowledges challenges ahead

Mayor Jorge Prince delivered the State of the City Address during Tuesday’s regular Bemidji City Council meeting.

In this recap of 2022, Prince included the resolution that installed White Earth, Leech Lake, and Red Lake tribal flags last December, as well as highlighting the city’s strong financial position through higher tax collections from higher sales and increased property valuations over the past couple of years.

Prince recognized the accomplishments of numerous city departments, such as parks, public works, the JPB, the Sanford Center, fire, and police. Prince also noted the collaborative work done in the Ridgeway Apartments neighborhood.

Prince said among the challenges looking forward are some capital needs with City Hall and Fire Station 1.

In other business, the council approved using a portion of the remaining American Rescue Plan Dollars to address recruiting and retaining issues, especially around Bemidji Police and Fire.

The council approved spending $290,000 in one-time inflation adjustment payments to full and permanent part-time staff members and $15,000 for a wage study.

Bemidji Police Department has some of the highest call volumes for a rural community and some of the lowest wages in the region. Bemidji Fire has dozens of open volunteer paid-on-call firefighter positions but they require a significant time commitment between training and calls.

The council also approved $69,000 for some Sanford Center improvements in the main offices, namely replacing carpet and updating paint.

The council also held some further discussion about the rental ordinance amendments, which will be covered again in a future work session, and some discussion on City Manager Nate Mathews’ upcoming performance evaluation, but no formal action was taken on either item.

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