Bonding dollars can make a huge difference in small, rural communities like Austin and Albert Lea. As a member of the Senate Bonding Committee, I know that there are between 3 and 4 times as many requests as the state can fund. Having said that, I do hope committee members will consider the merits of these two city’s important projects when we put together the final bill next spring.
We started off the second day of our Southeast tour by traveling through beautiful bluff country to the quaint little village of Lanesboro in Fillmore County. In the heart of this small town sits the Lanesboro Stone Dam on the popular Root River. This dam was built in 1868 using a now obsolete method of un-mortared limestone – one of only six structures like it in the U.S.
We began our morning visiting a rail grade separation project in the town of Prairie Island. This $14.7 million project would create an overpass over Sturgeon Lake Road. These sorts of projects are featuring heavily in this bonding year. As the number of trains crossing the state has increased dramatically since the North Dakota oil boom, expect to hear a lot more about railroad crossing grades and the safety issues they present to local communities.
It was an honor to welcome the Senate Bonding Committee into Red Wing Tuesday morning. My hometown has been in the process of reimagining our river front for the past few years, and reconnecting our citizens to the water. We started the morning by taking a river boat tour on the Mississippi, and we were able to show committee members the many different aspects that make up the Red Wing River Town Renaissance project.
Last month the Senate Capital Investment Committee set out on the first of several three-day tours to learn more about some of the bonding requests we will be considering when session resumes next March. Bonding is one of the ways the state pays for upgrades to public infrastructure. The state borrows money by selling bonds at low interest rates with a promise to repay in full at a specific time, with a specific interest rate. Bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the state of Minnesota.
The Senate Bonding Tour continued with stops in Staples and Fergus Falls before arriving in Moorhead on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Stops during the three-day tour included visits to MSU-Moorhead, the North Country Food Bank in Crookston, Northland Community and Technical College, the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids and Itasca State Park. Here’s a summary of project proposals and their requested funds. Click here to see the entire tour summary on Google Sheets.
Access to dental care for Minnesotans is incredibly scarce in the northern part of our state for many of our residents. Minnesotans without dental insurance or financial means struggle to have access to dental care. The Northern Access Dental Center opened in 2009 in Bemidji to cater to this very population. The need was apparent immediately. In the first year the center served 2,200 people, and just four years later it was serving more than 12,000 patients annually.
It is always a pleasure to showcase the Northwoods to visitors, and hosting the Senate Bonding Tour in Grand Rapids and Bemidji is no exception. I am proud of what our communities have accomplished, but there are needs that must be met with public dollars if we are going to maintain our vitality as a region.
For many, the number one bonding priority is the creation of the long-overdue Northern Minnesota Veterans Home in Bemidji. Our region is home to over 31,000 veterans, who are geographically isolated from existing facilities and underserved. As a regional medical and economic center, Bemidji is a natural fit for this project. The entire community will benefit greatly from having these brave men and women who served stay close to their homes, instead of being forced to move to other parts of the state to find support.