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REGIONAL ROUNDUP - U.S. 14 upgrade dropped from plan

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Posted: Friday, November 7, 2003 12:00 am

Upgrading U.S. 14 between Dodge Center and Owatonna is off the state's 10-year work plan.

Brian Jergenson, Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman, said the department ran out of money. It had planned to update its environmental impact statement for the project but also dropped that because it didn't make sense to do it now and have to redo it later, he said.

City and county governments and businesses in the area have been pushing to have the highway be four lanes from Rochester to New Ulm. In this region, the only section without the four lanes is west of Dodge Center to Owatonna.

The lack of money isn't due to state budget cuts, Jergenson said. Instead, other projects are using the MnDOT's money.

The department has accelerated rebuilding U.S. 52 and U.S. 63 in Rochester, spending the federal money it has and will get in future years, he said. And it wants to push to improve U.S. 52 in Oronoco. In Northfield, it is planning the third phase of a three-phase project to upgrade Minnesota Highway 3.

In news related to the DOT, the department announced it is finishing several projects in this region.

The widening of Minnesota Highway 48 to four lanes between 20th Street in Red Wing to Goodhue County Road 4 will be mostly completed and re-opened to traffic in mid-November. Some final work will be finished next year.

The new Minnesota Highway 43 bridge at Rushford is open and connects both sides of the Rush River with pedestrian and bike access.

A rebuilt part of Minnesota Highway 16 from Hokah to Minnesota Highway 26 reopened to traffic last week.

-- John Weiss

Council denies permit for power plant

PRESTON -- The Preston City Council on Monday turned down a request for a building permit for a controversial tire-burning power plant being proposed for the outskirts of the town.

The request from Heartland Energy and Recycling was submitted late Monday and given to the council that evening, City Administrator Fred Nagle said.

The council vote was 2-2, with Mayor David Pechulis not voting. He said he hadn't had time to look at the permit. The matter could come up again at Monday's meeting, Nagle said.

A few weeks ago, the council voted to try to intervene in a lawsuit by area residents who want to force the Pollution Control Agency to do a full environmental impact statement on the $50 million 20-megawatt project that would burn millions of tires annually. The first hearing on that suit will be Dec. 2 in Olmsted District Court in Rochester.

The city has been told by its attorney that it can't hold back on the building permit because of the lawsuit, he said. The suit is by Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection against the PCA and does not involve Preston.

-- John Weiss

New administrator in charge at Lanesboro

LANESBORO -- Bobbie Torgerson became Lanesboro's new city administrator Sept. 24.

She replaces Barbara Hoyhtya, who resigned to take a similar position in Canby, Minn.

Torgerson said she grew up in Mabel, attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she graduated with degrees in accounting and economics and had courses in political science.

She was working as controller at Spring Valley Care Center and Estates when she heard about the Lanesboro job opening.

The priorities for Lanesboro are to keep growing and bring in new families, she said. The town also is looking at cooperating with Preston for its police protection, she said.

-- John Weiss

Out and About:

The Pollution Control Agency tentatively has decided to approve extending the permit for Preston's sewage plant. Anyone wanting to comment on the decision has until Nov. 26 and should contact Jaramie Logelin, PCA, 525 Lake Ave., Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802.

James Riddle of Winona has been appointed to a Minnesota Department of Agriculture task force on organic produce because of his expertise on certification. Michael Lorentz of Cannon Falls was appointed for his expertise in meat processing. The task force makes recommendations about policies, practices and programs for the organic farming industry.

Regional Roundup appears Fridays in the Post-Bulletin. If you have comments or news items, call John Weiss, regional reporter, 285-7749.

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