AUSTIN EDITION - Mower bid for U of M center fails

Albert Lea, Mankato and Rochester to get extension offices

By Janet Kubat Willette

The University of Minnesota Extension Service unveiled its list of new regional centers on Monday.

Mower County wasn't on it.


"We had 100 communities that submitted proposals," said University of Minnesota Extension dean and director Charles Casey.

"We obviously only had 18 we could select. It's very hard to fit one hundred communities into 18. We looked at our criteria …; geographic distribution, technology support …; all of those criteria and made some difficult decisions."

Centers will be in Rochester, Albert Lea and Mankato.

For almost a century the University of Minnesota Extension Service has maintained offices in all 87 counties in the state, offering a variety of programs ranging from festival-management training to 4-H, and master- gardener training to soybean aphid education. But reduced federal and state funding led extension officials to reorganize services in hopes of saving money.

Ann Walter, an extension community youth development educator based in Austin, said she was disappointed that Mower County wasn't selected for a regional office, but added that the community will continue to be served.

"It really doesn't mean a lot (will be) different," Walter said. "The regional centers are going to service Mower County even though they're not located in Mower County."

Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said the county board will discuss the issue during today's board meeting.

"The information we got really did not tell us how the final decision was made," Oscarson said. "We just don't understand why Albert Lea was selected."


He expects the county board to file an appeal or write a letter to the University of Minnesota expressing disappointment in not being selected.

Casey didn't comment on appeals, saying only "we are talking to some communities."

He said that more than 18 communities would have made good regional centers, but that funding allowed for only that number.

Specific locations of the centers have yet to be determined, but David Carl, provost at the U of M-Rochester, is hopeful Rochester's center will be on the University Center Rochester campus, which last year finished a $9 million technology upgrade.

Extension service employees now must decide whether to pursue jobs at the new locations. Employees should find out by early September whether or not they receive positions.

No layoffs are planned until June 2004. The regional centers will open in January.

Agri News is a weekly agricultural newspaper published by the Post-Bulletin Company, LLC.

What To Read Next
Get Local