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Plea made to let Walker, EDC use leftover money from hospital project

BACKUS - Cass County spent about $927,000 less than the state Legislature authorized for the county to remove buildings and old infrastructure from the Aw-Gwah-Ching property and to make new connections to Walker utilities for future use of the site.

The county had approval to spend up to $4,400,000 from Minnesota Department of Administration, but spent only $3,478,000 of that. There also was a Department of Employment and Economic Development grant for $1,890,000. The county spent about $1,885,000 of that.

Cass County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gail Leverson has written a letter to state Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, to ask the Legislature to allocate some of that remaining funding to the EDC and city of Walker for planning, public infrastructure and administration.

"We would like to use this funding to prepare the site for redevelopment and reuse consistent with the intent of the legislation," Leverson wrote. "This funding will greatly assist us in continued discussions with the healthcare organizations interested in locating at the site," she added.

After Essentia Health Services withdrew about a year ago as lead provider for a proposed critical access hospital and eventual nursing home and assisted living complex, Cass EDC and Walker representatives have continued to work with other area health care providers in the hope the hospital and care complex will be built.