Sean Dowse.jpg

Sean Dowse

Deep within Gov. Tim Walz's proposed $2.03 billion bonding budget for the 2020 legislative session are several items that should make Southeast Minnesota folks happy. 

There are also several bonding request items that are missing that cities were hoping to see. Of course, with the legislative session just starting, there's plenty of time for items ignored by the governor to make the House or Senate bonding bill, just as there is time for items the governor wants to fund to get left off the Legislature's versions. 

What Walz Likes In SE MN

Around Southeast Minnesota, several requests from local governments made Walz's budget list. Those include $9.728 million to complete the $29.974 million renovation of a former high school into the Chatfield Center for the Arts. The governor's budget would give Chatfield the full amount of funding it requested for its project. 

Two other cities in the region made the governor's list, but did not receive full funding for their requests under his budget proposal. 

In Lake City, the city had requested $3.368 million in bonding funds for a series of connected projects that include a 280-foot breakwater near Ohuta Beach to protect the beach from erosion; a parking lot restructuring at Roschen Park, plus a breakwater and boat ramp at the site; restoration and stabilization of the Lake Pepin shoreline; and a new parking lot and other infrastructure improvements at the Lake City Sportsman's Club. About $665,000 of the funds requested by the city did not make the governor's budget proposal. 

The total cost of all the Lake City projects combined is roughly $6.6 million, meaning the governor's budget, if accepted, would cover about 41 percent of the total cost. 

In Red Wing, the city's requests for three projects all made the governor's budget list, but one did not make the full funding request by the city. The city's request for $2 million for the Upper Harbor-Bay Point renewal fully made the governor's list as did the $900,000 for Mississippi Blufflands State Trail engineering and construction. However, a requested $2.1 million for reconstruction of Old West Main Street was held down to only $1 million on the governor's list. 

"Including our riverfront renewal project in the bonding bill is great news for the city of Red Wing and the entire region," Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse said in a statement released by the city. "Continuing upgrading our riverfront, improving trail access, and rebuilding critical infrastructure are important."

What Walz Passed Over

Missing completely from the governor's budget are two wastewater projects in Southeast Minnesota where city's are looking to improve their infrastructure. A $7.5 million request for improvements to Austin's wastewater treatment facility was left out of the governor's list, as was another $6.75 million in Austin for the Cedar River Watershed District and for site improvements at the Ramsey Scientific and Natural Area. 

The biggest item overlooked outside of Rochester in Southeast Minnesota was the $20.384 million requested by the city of Oronoco to construct a regional wastewater treatment facility. 

Oronoco Mayor Ryland Eichhorst said getting snubbed by the governor's list doesn't have him worried. 

"We met with both House and Senate Capital Investment Committee bonding bill tours of Southeast Minnesota this past fall," Eichhorst said. "So there is continued awareness of Oronoco’s project and need for funding."

Eichhorst said the city's requests haven't made the governor's budget list over the past two or three years — whether talking about Gov. Walz or former Gov. Mark Dayton — yet the city has received funding on the last two bonding bills totaling $3 million for the preliminary work done on it's wastewater project.

Eichhorst said he's a "glass-half-full, optimistic person." And while a conversation with the governor's office to talk with one of his policy advisers last fall did not pay off, the mayor is hopeful the ground work the city has laid with the House and Senate appropriations committees will help Oronoco realize its goal of a wastewater treatment plant.

"We'll get the funding we need to go forward," Eichhorst said.

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