Job Growth, Jail Project Costs Discussed at Beltrami Co. Work Session
Greater Bemidji and the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office shared their annual reports Tuesday at the Beltrami County Board’s work session, giving updates on the work economy and the ongoing jail project respectively.
Greater Bemidji took the podium first to present their report. Showcasing the economic growth within Bemidji, Greater Bemidji Executive Director Dave Hengel touched on key initiatives toward the city and county’s continuous growth.
“You look at labor force alone in the last decade, our labor force has grown by 10%, and our jobs have grown by 14%,” said Hengel. “But if you look at actual numbers, our job growth, which was about 3,000 jobs in the last decade created and our labor force growth which was about 2,300, were higher than both Mankato and Duluth and almost equal to St. Cloud’s.”
With the initiatives of encouraging growth and promoting support for business, the next step in their plan focused on moving forward.
“Child care, housing, crime, things like that, typically are community development items. The fact is, the line between economic and community development is very fuzzy right now, because all those things I just mentioned have a major impact on our economy,” stated Hengel. “There’s clearly a sense of uncertainty still in the economy coming out of the pandemic, and uncertainty and economic growth typically don’t go well together. Who knows what it will look like in a year?”
Both groups giving updates talked about the highs and lows of their respective projects. The jail, however, received more concern with the numbers that were presented.
“We’re running at 45% staffing. We are currently are running at 27 staff corrections officers in the jail. We’ve just hired 2 more that started, I think, last week we got them,” said Jarrett Walton, Beltrami County Chief Deputy. “Our staffing levels kind of dictate how many inmates we can effectively supervise. We have to try and find that magic number where we’re able to run safely, but we’re also trying to minimize costs of housing people out of county.”
The jail project is projected to be over budget by the end of the year.
“In 2022, we’ve budgeted $120,300 for out-of-county housing. And as of right now, as of March 31, we’re at 43% or $51,136. Of that money, $48,000 and some change was actually for building the past year, December and November of 2021,” said Walton.
The board did question how those working on it can bring the number back down relative to what was reported in 2018. As of now, the main problem is lack of beds. No other plans were given.
The next scheduled meeting for the board is on May 3. The minutes and agendas of each Beltrami County board meeting can be found on the county website.