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Proposal would put region's state agencies under one roof

By Lenora Chu

lchu@postbulletin.com

ST. PAUL -- Southeastern Minnesota legislators introduced a number of bills in House committees Monday for consideration in the bonding bill, which will be patched together later this week.

Newest on the list is a proposal for a new regional office building in Rochester to house the region's state agencies under one roof.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Dave Bishop and co-authored with several other area legislators, presents an alternative to remodeling and expanding the Department of Natural Resources' current building. Instead, it calls for the "co-location" of DNR offices and other state agencies within the new building.

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"Rochester is the obvious hub of a large southeastern Minnesota area for state agencies," Bishop, a Rochester Republican, told the Environmental Finance Committee.

The building would be adjacent to the DNR building off County Road 9 in southeast Rochester. Proximity to the Olmsted Waste to Energy Facility would provide "direct access to a cheap source of heat," according to Bishop.

In the face of a worsening state budget deficit, Bishop asked for $700,000 for planning purposes, rather than the $70 million estimated for cost of construction.

"The proper amount is $70 million, but we need a placeholder," he said. "The $700,000 is offered for the purpose of pre-design." The Senate bonding bill passed last week appropriated $700,000 for the same project.

Bishop presented a list of agencies whose leases will expire within the next 11⁄2; years, citing Department of Administration figures comparing build-and-own with lease situations.

"At $12 a square foot, the state should own its own office buildings," said Bishop, noting that most of the state agencies in Rochester are currently paying up to $17.50 per square foot. "There is easily 50,000 square feet of space that is being leased right now" that could be considered for location with DNR offices, he said.

The bill now goes to the House Capital Investment Committee for review.

Bishop said later that if this proposal were adopted, the old DNR building would likely be destroyed.

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