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Zumbro dredging short on funds

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Olmsted County turned another page in the 10-year Lake Zumbro dredging project saga as the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved filing a formal application for $3 million in project funding.

The dredging was originally planned as a $7 million project with $3.5 million in matching state funds. The state awarded 2012 bonding funds of $3 million and 2014 bonding funds of $500,000.

Tuesday's application approval was for the $3 million portion of the funding. Matching funds are provided by the Lake Zumbro Improvement District, $1,617,000; Rochester Public Utilities, $1,166,667; and Olmsted Count,y $216,333.

Other local contributions will come into play when an application is prepared for the remaining $500,000 in state funding, said John Helmers, county environmental resources director.

Helmers and county staff noted the project is currently underfunded and not likely to reach its $7 million goal.

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"The funding did not rise to the level of the full $7 million project that was originally anticipated. Right now, the projected project cost is $6 million plus some administrative charges," Helmers said.

A private group, Lake Zumbro Forever, has promised to fill the gap in funding, said Tom Canan, senior assistant county attorney. Wabasha County has also committed to fund $100,000.

The project still has several steps left before dredging begins. The bulk of the work is scheduled for 2017.

The commissioners voted 5-1 to approve the application; Commissioner Jim Bier voted against the action and commissioner Ken Brown was absent from the meeting.

Bier and Commission Member Sheila Kiscaden voiced some frustration after the vote, citing a history of misleading or partial information related to the project's status and background.

"Commissioner Bier and I are in agreement that the information flow on this project has consistently been confusing and not very helpful," Kiscaden said.

Also at the meeting:

Gage East housing:The county board approved an agreement that will place two full-time case managers at the Gage East Apartments , a soon-to-open supportive housing option for families and children who previously have been homeless.

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The agreement signed provides the caseworkers via a contract with Family Service Rochester, and Center City Housing Corp., owner of the building, will provide telephone and other equipment necessary to provide services on site.

The agreement made sense, to join case management on site with a housing option, said Jodi Wentland, county Child and Family Services director.

"We are anticipating that many of the youth and families we serve will also need housing, so for us, it's shifting our resources and providing that partnership with Center City Housing," Wentland said.

The $11 million, 55-unit housing complex is set to open next summer.

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