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Bemidji Walmart entrance changes approved

BEMIDJI - The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board put the stamp of approval on changes to the main entrance and parking lot to the Bemidji Walmart Wednesday night.

Planning board members are hopeful that the changes, which will include re-doing the curbs at the curved driveway off of State Highway 197, will result in better traffic flow. Police consider the parking lot one of the most problematic areas in the city.

Drivers will be met with stop signs leaving the parking lot and at the end of the aisles, but not going into the lot. The entrance will be re-painted and three lanes - a turn lane going right and left and one going straight - will be at the end of the curved driveway going into the lot. "Good signage is going to be key there," board member and Bemidji City Councilor Nancy Erickson said.

Senior planner Andrew Mack said the company plans on starting the project in the spring and finishing up by August. The entryway will stay open during construction, Mack said.

Along with changing the entryway, Walmart plans to change the signage on the exterior of the building.

LGU contributions

The board tabled a discussion on how much each of the three local government units contributes to the planning board.

After the first phase of annexation in April, planning board staff was asked to look at how much the city of Bemidji, as well as Bemidji and Northern townships were contributing to the JPB.

In the initial agreement, Bemidji Township contributed 20 percent, Northern 30 percent and the city of Bemidji 50 percent. The airport recently began contributing, bringing each LGU's contribution down a percentage point each.

The current dedication of funds totals $174,000.

Being that both townships' population, land area and tax capacity decreased after annexation, they could potentially contribute slightly less to the joint planning board. The Joint Powers Agreement allows population, amount of land and tax capacity to be considered when determining each government's contributions to the JPB. Brian Merschman, a Bemidji Township supervisor cited the need for more information before the town board makes a decision on contribution levels.

Planning Administrator Mayana Rice said the JPB will mail out the quarterly bills to the LGUs as usual based off of the current contributions.

Officers named

The planning board's officers for the year were elected during Wednesday night's meeting.

Pete Fredrickson, who sits on the Bemidji Town Board, will be the planning board chair, Erickson was elected vice chair, and Northern Township supervisor and current planning board chair Clark Chambers was named treasurer.

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, Bemidji Township Chair Jan Heuer and an undetermined representative from Northern Township will sit on the personnel committee.