The Fire Chief Project: A Minnesota clean-water plant decides that looks matter

The team in the Mississippi River town of Bemidji will seek funding for an art project on its property

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Why do fire chiefs and fire departments have public respect? In part because, usually, their headquarters look great.

They’ll have a meticulously maintained building. Often attractively landscaped with flowers and shrubbery. Maybe with an antique fire engine displayed behind glass, and an old fire bell out front. It bespeaks tradition, competence, quality.

Now the plant team in Bemidji, Minn., has hit upon the idea that their facility needs to look better, according to an article in the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper. The plant recently went through an upgrade that improved solids treatment efficiency, “but we ended with up with this huge, flat, gray, concrete wall that looks like a throwback to Eastern Bloc Cold War,” co-superintendent Mike Forbes told the city council.

The newspaper reported that Forbes asked the council for “support and funding for a public art project at the plant. The council approved allocating $2,000 out of the city’s contingency fund to start the proposal request process.”

Forbes shared ideas from clean-water plants across the country that embellish their sites with murals and statues outside the plant. The newspaper quoted Forbes as saying, “Since Bemidji is the first city on the Mississippi, we owe it to the whole project to keep it along some kind of broad environmental or water-based theme.”

The news story said Forbes hopes to raise a total of $25,000 for the project from local foundations or state grants. A nicer plant appearance can certainly further the two aims of The Fire Chief project:

  • Raise clean-water operators to the status of the fire chief.
  • Make kids grow up wanting to be clean-water operators.

What have you done or are you doing to beautify your plant? Send a note with your story to






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