Babe the Blue Ox to stand taller

The larger-than-life Babe the Blue Ox statue that keeps his pal Paul Bunyan company along a scenic drive in Bemidji is getting a little lift in the coming weeks.

Since the plaza was reconstructed in 2015, Blue's hooves have been damaged by water.

"The lowest part of the plaza is the base of the Babe sculpture, where it becomes trapped. The freezing and thawing of this water during the spring is detrimental," states a report from the May 16 meeting of Bemidji City Council.

The project, estimated to cost upwards of $250,000, will raise the ox statue by about 15 inches and reroute water runoff at the site.

Folks can watch the construction project in real time via webcams on the Visit Bemidji site.



Ban on cannabis sales rejected

The Alexandria City Council rejected a proposed temporary ban on sales of cannabis products and instead will develop its own regulations for the newly legalized intoxicants.

At a recent meeting, the council considered a proposal by City Attorney Tom Jacobson for a temporary moratorium on cannabis sales. If sales begin in an unregulated fashion, Jacobson wrote in a memo to the council, it could be difficult to impose regulations later.

In particular, Jacobson wrote, if cannabis businesses are established now and the city later wanted to restrict them through zoning, it could raise legal challenges.

The council decided against that route, according to City Administrator Martin Schultz, and instead instructed the city staff to develop regulations on cannabis sales.



New arts council starts work

A newly created arts council hopes to kick off its work by giving the city something it lacks: a sign welcoming visitors to Melrose.

The Melrose Area Arts Council is launching a fundraising drive, said Mary Loecken, who is leading the effort. The group has presented the city concepts for the sign, estimated to cost around $50,000. They're hoping to get a grant through the state's Arts and Cultural Heritage fund to cover 75% of the cost, but must raise 25% of the money locally.

"We chose a welcome sign for our first [project], because we thought it would be pretty well received by everybody and not controversial," Loecken said. "People repeatedly have come up to me and said, 'We need it in Melrose.' "

The group's long-term goals include efforts at revitalizing downtown through murals and a pocket park that would include a performing stage.

"We're a handful of old retired nurses, just trying to look and see where we can rededicate ourselves," Loecken said. "There's so much enthusiasm — it just needs someone to spearhead it and put out a vision."