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City Council voices support for dental center, approves maintenance projects

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council tackled a lengthy agenda Monday, voting on subjects ranging from maintaining infrastructure to supporting private initiatives.

Receiving full support from the council was a resolution to provide a certificate of support to officials at the Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji. The NDAC has filed an application for financial assistance with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development program for a parking lot expansion project.

To do so, the NDAC is required to provide evidence to the USDA of significant community support for the project.

With assistance from the USDA for the project, the additional organizational assets can be used on a project to expand the NDAC building, officials said. According to documents, the building’s expansion can lead to a 20 percent increase in patient encounters annually.

Northern Dental Access Center provides basic dental care for a large swath of northern Minnesota patients who are enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs, such as Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. The NDAC had 23,000 patient encounters in 2017, officials said.

Roofs and roads

A pair of maintenance projects related to city structures and streets also were approved by the council Monday.

The first was awarding a bid for repairs to the Sanford Center’s roof. The upper level of the Sanford Center roof was damaged last year because of strong winds during a storm.

The council approved a recommended bid from Berglund Heating, Sheet Metal and Roofing for the repairs, as well as an additional set of work for mechanical roof reinforcements. The total cost of the bid for the repairs comes to $111,240 and the reinforcements come to $4,547.

Following the storm, an insurance claim was submitted to the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which was approved. The insurance will cover all of the costs except a $5,000 deductible and the reinforcements.

The other project receiving approval was to select a quote for alley paving. City documents state that numerous alleys located west of Bemidji Avenue, north of 15th Street Northwest and south of Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest are to be paved this summer, along with a snowplow turn around area at the end of Woodland Avenue Southwest.

According to City Engineer Craig Gray, since 2015, about 3 miles of alleys in the program have been paved. This year’s work will add 1.4 miles to the total and after the project, there will be between 2.5 and 3 miles of gravel alleys remaining. The city hopes to complete the paving by the end of 2020.

The quote approved Monday was to Northern Paving Inc. for $87,000. The project will be funded with $30,000 that was budgeted for the capital improvement plan, $30,000 of storm water maintenance funds and $27,000 from the construction reserve fund.

Delta Dental

Another recommendation the council approved Monday was in regard to a state loan to Delta Dental for the company’s new building project in Bemidji.

Delta Dental is planning to create a minimum of 165 jobs and construct a building in the city, with the expansion expected to cost $15 million to $16 million.

Delta Dental of Minnesota is located in Minneapolis and is the largest regional provider of dental benefits to small businesses as well as larger companies, according to documents. Nationwide, Delta Dental serves more than 4 million members.

The project was awarded a $1 million loan from the state through the Minnesota Investment Fund, and that loan will be administered by the city of Bemidji. The state controls $900,000 of the loan, but because of the project’s impact, will forgive the amount upon completion of construction.

The city had discretion on the remaining $100,000, with the authority to either forgive the amount or have the company repay the amount to the city. With the latter, the city could then use the $100,000 for its revolving loans to other projects.

The approval was made in a 6-1 vote with Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and council members Nancy Erickson, Ron Johnson, Dave Larson, Richard Lehmann and Michael Meehlhause in favor and Roger Hellquist against.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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