Shamrock Shuffle winners

While Carnegie library was in the spotlight during the Bemidji City Council meeting on Monday, there also was a mini awards presentation held moments before the meeting outside of the council chambers.

Mayor Dave Larson recognized the top-place finishers in the city’s third annual Shamrock Shuffle, held Saturday, March 17 in downtown Bemidji.

I happened to have a camera with me so I snapped a group shot of the winners (or some of them, not all could attend) with the mayor.

While talked to Marcia Larson, parks and recreation director, and Samantha Parker, events coordinator, they said there were about 200 people who registered on the day of the race. We reported in last year’s event that more than 140 total took part in the race.

It’s amazing what nice temperatures can do.

Anyhow, here’s the group shot of the top-place winners:

Pictured are, left to right; Matthew Wolf, second place in Men’s 10K with time of 40:33; Eric Opheim, third place Men’s 10K, 41:15;Paul Kruger, first place Men’s 10K, 39:35; Larson; Jasmine Carlson, first place Women’s 10K, 43:13; Sam Carlson, first place Men’s 5K, 18:03; Jenna Truedson, first place Women’s 5K, 19:49; and Kim Truedson, second place Women’s 5K, 20:37.

Not pictured are Lexi Erickson, third place Women’s 5K, 21:48; Andrea Nelson, second place Women’s 10K, 46:28; Kelsey Lene, third place Women’s 10K, 48:59; Anthony Morrow, second place Men’s 5K, 18:20; and Jack Juberian, third place Men’s 5K, 21:43.

The full results can be found online here.

A little note about that Lake Irving boat launch

My article in Tuesday’s paper stated that the revised Bemidji’s master parks plan now having the “South Lake Irving boat launch” remain in place and not be phased out in the future as originally proposed.

Well, that’s still true, but apparently it’s not actually the South Lake Irving boat launch. It is the North Lake Irving boat launch.

A Bemidji city councilor told me this yesterday.

The planners referred to it as the South Lake Irving boat launch in the report and I didn’t know any better. The boat launch is on the north side of the lake down near the end of Irvine Avenue.

So, just in case anyone was confused…

City to meet with VenuWorks tomorrow

This is one-part old news and one-part preview story. The Bemidji City Council will have its face-to-face meeting with VenuWorks representatives in a work session Tuesday evening (note: tonight’s work session will focus on the parks plan).

VenuWorks is the management firm that runs the Sanford Center, the city-owned events center. The meeting was set after VW requested an additional $194,327, which the council reluctantly approved during a September work session.

That meeting, held Sept. 26, involved a lot of disappointed city councilors. Some were angry (mainly because none of the higher-ups at VW attended the work session).

But a lot of that anger just might be dissipating.

During the city council meeting last Monday (Oct. 3) at the end of the meeting, during the councilors’ reports, at least two councilors said that the pain of the extra funding request would not likely be as bad as they thought.

The request for the additional $194,000 is, technically, over and beyond the $350,000 allotted to the operation of the Sanford Center by the city for 2011. But, the councilors reported, the management firm intends to return a bulk of it.

It is a cash-flow situation, not a deficit situation, Councilor Ron Johnson said.

We’ll hear more tomorrow night.

Hunter’s special day

I’m on “Saturday duty” as we call it here at the paper, and today led to me a very special event in Blackduck.

Make-A-Wish of Minnesota granted a special wish for Hunter, 5, a Blackduck boy. Hunter was surprised this afternoon with an entire parade just for him. There were four-wheelers, members of the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, fire trucks, ambulances, trucks and more. Crowds greeted him at the beginning and end of the parade route.

While there will be a story and a photo in tomorrow’s Pioneer about the event, I wanted to share some more photos here (I always have some extras that don’t get published).

Smiles all around.

Ojibwe language project highlighted in national publication

In July 2009, Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle began working to spearhead a new Ojibwe language signage project, which encourages Bemidji businesses and organizations to add Ojibwe and English signage, thus promoting greater cultural awareness, understanding and respect.

Shoppers and visitors soon began noticing “boozhoo” written on doorways, welcoming customers in Ojibwe. Employees were wishing their guests “miigwech” as they leave.

The initiative quickly passed its initial goal of 20 businesses and has 135 involved now today.

Last week, the initiative was featured in the Daily Yonder, a national publication about rural issues. You can read the article here. It is a good read, if you have a few minutes this morning. It chronicles the history of the effort and its positive effects.

In an email sent yesterday informing his contacts about the article, Meuers noted that it was a very nice article, but noted a few needed corrections, including that it did not mention Houle, “who has been been my partner in this effort since Day One.”  Also, two dates listed in the article are incorrect: The project began in July ’09 and Meuers has lived here 30 years.

Still, it is nice to see Bemidji volunteers getting some national recognition for their hard work.

The Carnegie Library: putting one rumor to rest…

As most people have heard by now, the Bemidji City Council earlier this month voted 6-1 to plan for a future Library Park without the presence of Bemidji’s Carnegie Library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since the vote occurred, those who want to keep the 102-year-old structure have been speaking out against the council’s actions. Supporters who want to preserve the building certainly have the right to their opinions – and the argument that we should maintain and preserve historic structures whenever possible is valid.

But to those who are saying that the city would lose revenue if the building were demolished is simply not true. The city does not make any money from the building. The Carnegie is occupied by Bemidji Community Art Center, but the BCAC does not pay rent to the city. They do pay the utility bills. But no rent.

Just thought I would toss that out there.

Worldwide Day of Play

There is an array of family-friendly events occurring throughout town today.

As a mom of young kids, I love when there are activities in town geared at younger ages as well. Of course, I’m less than thrilled when those happen to fall on Saturdays that I work, but that’s all part of the deal.

Anyhow, here are some shots of events happening now at the waterfront. They will continue until 3 p.m. today.

And what a gorgeous day to be outside…

More on the rental debate…

I was not able in today’s paper to delve into everything that was said during the public hearing last night on the rental ordinance.

Ten people spoke during the hearing, which lasted just over 30 minutes.

The council did vote 6-0 (Councilor Greg Negard was absent) to accept the revisions as presented, but no vote was taken that indicated whether the council as a whole supports the ordinance. A final vote is expected Oct. 3.

However, later, at the tail end of the meeting, some councilors did make statements addressing the proposed ordinance.

Councilor Rita Albrecht said she tended to agree with those who spoke out against the proposed fee schedule.

The annual rental registration fee schedule, as proposed, is as follows:

– One-unit rental, $100.

– Duplex, $125.

– Buildings with 3-12 units, $150.

– 13-24 units, $200.

– 25 units and up, $300.

Several commenters during the public hearing said the fee schedule is not fair, that the one-unit rental fee is disproportionately higher than the larger rental complexes. Buildings with 25 units would be charged $300, which means each unit at most would be charged $12 each.

Resident Nellie Withoff during the hearing argued that the larger complexes are likely to have more problems than single rental units.

Albrecht later agreed, saying that that some multi-family rental complexes have a high number of police calls.

She asked her fellow councilors if the city fully intended to follow the ordinance and shut down multi-family complexes completely if they are not compliant with the ordinance.

She also asked what the original intent was of the rental ordinance.

City Attorney Al Felix said, as he recalled, there were three points that councilors wanted to address:

– Bad conduct by tenants.

– Unregistered vehicles at rental properties.

– A goal of moving the city from a three-year annual permitting cycle to an annual cycle.

City Manager John Chattin added that, also, councilors had wanted to discourage the conversation of single-family homes to rentals and to encourage the conversion of rentals to single-family homes.

He said the rental ordinance is the council’s “first step” in enacting recommendations from the city’s Quality Neighborhood Initiative.

After the rental ordinance is complete, Chattin said, he believes the city next will address permit parking in neighborhoods and applying the same building codes in the proposed rental ordinance to owner-occupied homes throughout the city limits.

“I think it does meet the original intent of what the council wanted to see done,” he said.

Councilor Kevin Waldhausen served on the rental committee these past three months.

“I believe we came together and brought forth an ordinance we could live with,” he said, noting that not everyone agreed on all points.

He noted that the ordinance can always be revised in the future if it does not work as intended.

“But I believe we need to move on with this,” he said.

Councilor Roger Hellquist, who also served on the committee, appeared to agree, saying the proposed rental ordinance is the culmination of a long process.

Further, he said, the city in naming committee members represented a cross-section of Bemidji rental properties. One landlord oversees large complexes, one provides housing to low-income renters, and one was a single-unit landlord.

“This process went as well as it could. There was give and take on all sides,” Hellquist said. “I think it’s a living document. We’re not marrying this thing. It’s going to be changed from year to year. It’s going to have an annual review. This is where we’re starting from.”

Changes with the police and fire reports

Close readers of the Pioneer may notice tomorrow some changes in the daily police and fire report, both in print and online. I believe they are for the good. Time will tell.

Since their inception, newspapers have documented the police calls of their respective coverage area. While the procedure for obtaining and publishing reports differs at every newspaper, the objective remains the same: inform the public about the types and amount of crime happening in the area.

Here at the Pioneer, the system of obtaining the information has worked out well, albeit required some legwork on both the reporter’s and law enforcement personnel’s time.

The Records department at the Law Enforcement Center emails me every morning a list of the incident calls from the day before for both the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office.

With a highlighter, I mark the calls the Pioneer would like to note, such as property damage, party complaints, peace disturbances, etc. These do not have details listed in print, but are noted with a time, date and address.

I also note the calls that I want more information on, such as thefts, assaults, burglaries, personal-injury accidents, etc. I email these lists of numbers back to the SO and PD, whose employees then need to look up every call and then review and print out that report. This takes quite a bit of time. I try to allow workers a few hours to do this; they do have many other job duties to tend to other than my media needs.

Later, I drive downtown, review the expanded reports and make notes longhand on those I want to print.

Well, no more.

This week, both agencies have been undergoing training of a newly implemented software program. I was told earlier this week that it would mean that I would no longer need to go downtown to pick up reports.

Honestly, I was a more than a little concerned. Speaking as a member of the media, the changes that I have experienced with police departments when they get technology upgrades are not usually good. It, in my experience, has meant making available to the public less information. At one newspaper I worked at about six years ago, I went from receiving full, detailed paragraphs of each incident (even for calls as minor as a traffic ticket) to getting just a type of call, time, date and location.

Today, though, I came to work and shortly after arriving, found an email with a six-page attachment containing the new blotters.

I am very pleasantly surprised. Each call is detailed with a synopsis of the incident. Even those which we, before, did not request more information on has an accompanying explanation, even if it is just a few words long.

Yes, the new system might save me a trip downtown (I still have to get fire reports) so I am happy about that too, but, more so, I think the new system appears to making more information for the public’s consumption. And, in my experience, that rarely happens with law enforcement agencies.

Of course, I write this after just one day’s work. I am optimistic. My only concern at this point is that the synopsis will be left off some of the reports. There were two today that did not have a synopsis that I would have wanted information on,

But, again, it is just the first day. And, overall, I am liking the new system.


On a related note, did anyone see what the Chicago Police Department is doing? (Read more here.)

How do you like living in the city limits?

There are three days left to complete the City of Bemidji’s Resident Survey, which city employees and officials will examine to gauge residents’ opinions about city living.

The survey, which I completed in 3.5 minutes, is online here. The city hopes to get many more responses by the end of this week, and it only takes about five minutes. So if you have the time, let your opinions be heard.

The survey will be available through Friday. You have three days to complete it.


On another note, I am back at work (obviously). I took much of the summer off, as you may or may not have noticed.

I stated again Monday, and I have an ever-expanding list of potential story ideas. But if there is anything out there that I might not be aware of, or perhaps something we missed this summer, let me know. I can’t guarantee I can get to it, but I’d love the heads up.

– Bethany