Apr 11, 2023 | By: Mary Balstad

Bemidji Reviews City Hall and Fire Station Building Proposals, Funding

After being presented with plans for a new city hall and fire station, the Bemidji City Council was able to provide feedback at a work session with Wold Architects and Engineers on Monday.

The current issues with city hall came about after last year’s spring flooding. The fire station is faced with deteriorating conditions and lack of space, among other issues.

First presented with six options, a committee that included some councilors voiced their support for one plan that would have a phased construction for the buildings. This plan would look to avoid disruption of city affairs while construction is ongoing. The cost is about $26 million based on 2024 prices. If the council were to hold off, the price estimates would increase by 5-8% per year.

But with this price tag, councilors wondered about how to fund the project. Options discussed at the committee meeting include state bonding, grants and city bonding. If they city were to look at funding the project entirely through city bonding, the cost could potentially cause levy prices to increase by roughly 25%, according to City Finance Director Ron Eischens.

“All of that takes time and effort,” said Eischens when talking about possible funding. “Before you can go there, you kind of need direction as to what are we going to do, what do we want to do … now it’s going to get down to the tough decision as to what can we afford to do and based on that, what are we going to do?”

No formal action was taken at the meeting. Discussion around the project is expected to continue between the council and Wold.

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