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Several area projects in bonding proposal

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Several central Minnesota infrastructure projects — including $6.5 million for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport to construct an extension of water and sanitary sewer service — were among those listed in an $850 million bonding proposal announced Tuesday in the Minnesota House.

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The airport project had been identified as a priority by District 10 lawmakers, Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, and Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. The money for the airport project would also replace one mile of the existing sewer line.

The proposal for bonding also included $3 million for the Central Lakes College Staples Campus renovation and $2.75 million for expansion of the Cuyuna Lakes Trail. Radinovich is the chief author of the trail legislation.

The bonding proposal would fund statewide infrastructure projects in higher education, transportation, housing, economic development, clean water and wastewater systems. Bonding, also known as capital investment, is long-term borrowing for infrastructure projects. In addition to the $850 million in bonding, a separate bill that would make $125 million in cash investments through the use of one-time budget surplus funds is also moving through the process.

Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, who was in Nisswa on business Tuesday, expressed concern with the current level of state spending. He said the state wouldn’t have to bond a single dollar if the $3.5 billion increase for the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) had been reduced to an increase of $2.5 billion in this current biennium. That department, which he pointed out includes welfare payments, grew from $26 billion to $29.5 billion in this biennium. He said he’d favor reducing the DHS budget and using that money instead of borrowing in a bonding bill.

“That’s what I would do as a business guy,” Anderson said.

Radinovich predicted the total amount proposed for bonding would be accepted by the four caucuses in the House and Senate, basing that prediction on informal agreements at the close of the last session.

“I’m confident. ... Hoping it gets done, Radinovich said.

Also in the current bonding proposal is $325,000 for a new food service building, two multi-purpose buildings and relocation and reconstruction of the livestock and shelter and show arena at the Aitkin County Fairgrounds. Radinovich, who is the main author of legislation for the fairgrounds improvement, said state health officials said the fair wouldn’t be able to use the current food service building without improvements. The first-term lawmaker said in a statement that investments in trails will boost the area’s tourism industry, while repairs to colleges will give students greater economic opportunity.

Although the $850 million bonding bill appears to be one that can pass, Ward, vice chair of the House Capital Investment Committee and chief author of last year’s bonding that was signed into law, would like to see a larger one.

“The interest rates are still down,” Ward said. “We still have a very, very good bond rating. ... Contracts are coming in competitively and we can put a lot of people to work.

“I still think a larger bill would be appropriate,” Ward said.

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said the dollar figure for the bonding bill “seems to be in line.” He said he would watch to see that it provided funding for transportation needs and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

A news release from Radinovich and Ward outlined other projects included in the bonding proposals:

• $30 million for MnSCU Higher Education Asset Preservation and Repair, which would provide funding for Central Lakes College to replace the roof on the Library/Fine Arts building and replace air handlers, HVAC distribution and controls for the business and industry area.

• $20 million in a Wastewater Infrastructure Fund, with $110,000 likely going to the North Long Lake Sewer Project.

• The bill contains $2 million in fish hatchery improvements, with approximately $100,000 in improvements for Brainerd.

• The proposal includes $12 million in Department of Natural Resources Asset Preservation funding with approximately $200,000 for Mille Lacs water access sites rehabilitation.

• $3 million in Department of Human Services Asset Preservation with an estimated $750,000 for the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.

• $831,350 in state matching funds for EPA Capitalization Grants for Cuyuna.

• The House bonding bill contains $21.75 million for statewide bridge repair and replacement and another $18 million for local road improvements. The proposal also includes $100 million for affordable housing rehabilitation.

Ward has also introduced legislation for the Baxter Isle Drive Extension, Brainerd Veterans Nursing Home, and Pequot Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Spray Irrigation Replacement.

Ward and Radinovich said they would continue to push for local projects as the legislation moves through the process.

The bill will need bipartisan support, as bonding bills require a two-thirds majority to pass.

The full $850 million bonding bill can be found here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/a14-1037.pdf.

The $125 million general fund bill can be found here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/a14-1038.pdf.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews.

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889
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