Bemidji and Northern Township Discuss Water/Sewer District at Latest Meeting
The city of Bemidji and Northern Township finally met during a special session this week to discuss a topic that has been on the table for years: connecting the township to the city’s water and sewer line.
This meeting comes after the Bemidji city staff recommended not going with the current proposed memorandum of understanding drafted by the township. While the talk around connecting the line started with Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge’s outdated septic system on the north side of Lake Bemidji, the end goal would be to loop the entirety of the lake.
Northern Township does not want any more land to be annexed, and Bemidji does not want to permanently set its northern boundary. With these issues, the idea of connecting the line became more complex.
During the discussion, Councilor Lynn Eaton of Ward 5 brought up the concept of a water/sewer district. Some cities, like Alexandria, operate with one. While this idea did seem favorable to both sides, Bemidji city staff cautioned against jumping the gun.
“Is this just kicking the stone down the road?” questioned Bemidji City Engineer Sam Anderson when considering the long-term effects of a district. “What is the next big capture zone? I don’t know if that exists.”
Northern Township Chairman Jess Frenzel said the township is open to many possibilities. $5 million has already been secured through a federal grant program. While the township does have to put forth a 20% match for this grant, its board does have these larger details and financials figured out. The main issue with not having a solid answer from Bemidji is how the timeline would be affected.
“You guys want to see something happen, too. We want to take care of this [water/sewer],” said Frenzel. “We don’t want to lose it … We need to get something that’s going to work for the next two to five years.”
The Bemidji City Council aims to hear and possibly vote on estimates for outside legal counsel regarding a sewer/water district at their April 17th meeting. Bemidji City Attorney Katie Nolting recommended outside legal counsel for this situation.
Anderson also mentioned he’ll need to do more research on sewer/water districts before coming to consensus.
A sewer and water district is a special district designated to provide water services to a community. In this case, it would provide those services around Lake Bemidji. Other entities, like Beltrami County, would need to be in cooperation. The Minnesota state legislature would also need to approve it.