Thompson to claim absences excused, parks plan to reopen playgrounds and beaches

The Bemidji City Council met for their regular meeting Monday after some brief technical difficulties, which did not allow the previous access codes to work properly.

The council opted to table a motion to declare a vacancy for the councilor at large position.

Current at large councilor Jim “Doc” Thompson has been absent for the past four council meetings.

Thompson, who is in his early 90s, has indicated to staff via his wife that he would like to keep his seat.

City Attorney Al Felix said in the council meeting that Thompson plans to argue that his absences are excusable.

The past four council meetings have been held remotely, and Thompson, during regular council meetings before the pandemic, used an in-ear monitor to help him hear the meetings.

The council heard an update from Bemidji Parks and Recreation director Marcia Larson, and approved a plan to reopen the city’s playgrounds, beaches and the skatepark.

Larson said the the city’s recreational facilties will be available at the user’s own risk, for example, staff will not sanitize playgrounds or other park spaces.

The largest concern about reopening, Larson says, is congregating.

“Generally, when you’re in a beach area, people tend to come in groups and space themselves,” said Larson. “We have three beaches. South Shore is a large, spacious area and less concern about congregating there.”

Diamond Point Park, she said, is a little bit smaller and one of the most popular beaches. Cameron Park is another spacious beach.

Signs will be placed as playgrounds reopen, with users encouraged to practice hand washing and sanitizing.

The council, in other business,

  • Approved crosswalk art. The cost is about $500 per intersection to place blue fish in the crosswalks. The art will be installed on 4th and 5th Street intersections with Beltrami Avenue.
  • Held a public hearing on the MS4 Permit- Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program.
  • Approved a parking rate change from the Bemidji Downtown Alliance. The additional fee is related to fees for credit card transactions.
  • Approved a resolution that allowed restaurants to use sidewalks, parking stalls and other public rights of way for expanded outdoor patio dining. Patio dining will be open until 10 p.m.
  • Postponed indefinitely a measure rebating a portion of liquor license fees. The council plans to take it up again after the special Minnesota Legislature Session later this month, to see where CARES Act dollars, or other relief dollars from the state, may go to help municipalities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full city council packet: 6-1-20_CC_Packet

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