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Ward pushing for veterans home in area

Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, Thursday announced five bills he has introduced in the Minnesota House — among them a bill to name the bike and walking bridge over Excelsior Road in Baxter as the Terry McGaughey Memorial Bridge.

McGaughey, who died July 21, 2010, was a trail and recreation advocate who was credited as the primary force behind the establishment of the Paul Bunyan Trail. The Brainerd resident was honored for his work on behalf of the 110-mile during a period of about 25  years. The bill is H.F. 137.

“Terry’s done so much for the whole Paul Bunyan Trail,” Ward said.

Other bills Ward introduced included a bill that would provide Minnesota cities with another economic tool by providing a 15-year property tax exemption and provide schools funding (H.F. 138). This bill, Ward said, would extend the period during which property tax exemptions are granted for city lots sold for business development and growth from eight years to 15.

Ward introduced a bill (H.F. 156) that repeals the tax exemption now provided to seasonal property owners on paying for school operating levies.

Two bonding bills Ward introduced are H.F. 157 for a veterans home and H.F. 189 for the Cuyuna Trail. In a statement, Ward said both bonding bills will create local jobs and improve and enhance community assets. 

The veterans home bill, a $9 million bonding appropriation for a 100-bed facility, calls for the veterans home to be located at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center but Ward said he would be open to another Brainerd area location. He noted that a recent survey identified Little Falls, Brainerd and Crosby as high priority locations for the next veterans  home. No money has yet been authorized for the operation of such a home, but Ward said he wanted to be ready.

“If there’s no bill there then we’re not even on the radar,” Ward said.

The bonding bill for the Cuyuna Trail would cost about $1 million and would expand that trail system and lead to connections with other trails, according to Ward.

Ward said he also has introduced a few other bills to help specific concerns and needs of individual constituents.

Another Ward bill (H.F. 123) would call for stiffer penalties for drivers who  harm people by illegally passing on the right shoulder of the road. The bill, which would increase the penalty to a possible felony, is designed to prevent such tragedies as the 2010 death of Jack Larson, who was killed in Merrifield when a driver passed on the right shoulder.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.