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Senate committee will hear pitch for regional bonding projects this week

WILLMAR — The Senate Capital Investment Committee will be in west central Minnesota this week to hear proposals for more than $22 million in bonding requests for the 2014 bonding bill.

Those projects include a proposal to extend the Glacial Lakes State Trail from New London to Sibley State Park and construction of a veterans nursing home in Montevideo.

Members of the committee will be in Kandiyohi County on Friday morning to get a first-hand look at the trail by New London as well as the Kandiyohi Area Transit facility in Willmar.

They will hear about several Montevideo projects the day before while at a stop in Marshall on Thursday.

“These tours are an important part of the bonding process,” said Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, who is chairman of the committee. “It is an opportunity for committee members to understand and evaluate each project fully in order to make funding decisions that will benefit the greatest number of Minnesotans,” he said.

The trail proposal includes a five-mile extension of the Glacial Lakes State Trail from New London to Sibley State Park. The tentative route is along Kandiyohi County Road 40 and U.S. Highway 71, with either a tunnel underneath or a bridge over the top of Highway 71.

Although it is separate from this bonding proposal, efforts are being made to purchase an additional 153 acres of land that would allow Sibley Park to expand. The parcel of land is located along Highway 71, which park officials say would make it easier to extend the biking and hiking trail to the park.

Funding for the trail expansion had been approved by the Legislature several years ago, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“This year we think is our best chance to have the funding and project approved by the Legislature,” said Gary Bullemer, assistant manager at Sibley State Park.

Last year the Legislature approved a bill that gives the park authority to expand its boundaries, which is one of the first steps in acquiring new property.

If the land acquisition is accomplished and bonding funds for the trail are approved this year, it would meet a “two-fold goal to improve the park and enhance the trail,” said Bullemer. “It’s just the perfect match.”

While at a quick stop at the KAT facilities in Willmar, the committee will hear a request for funding to expand bus and storage facilities, said Transit Director Tiffany Collins. Currently one of the KAT buses is stored outside because of a lack of garage space.

“We are out of space here,” said Collins, adding that construction is being eyed for sometime in the next couple years.

In Montevideo, the city has pledged $2 million to build a veterans nursing home and is requesting $9 million in bonding funds to design, construct, furnish and equip the home, said Sen. Lyle Koenen, who represents District 17 and supports the project.

“The Montevideo Veterans Home is a well-thought-out project and I can’t think of a more deserving population who will benefit,” said Koenen, in a news release.

Committee members will also hear about a $3.5 million request by the city of Montevideo to complete the third and final leg of a more than $10 million upgrade to the city’s original 1969 levee.

The city has completed the first two phases of the project. Costs for the levee upgrade exceeded the original federal appropriation of $7 million, and the city is now seeking state help to complete the work.

On Wednesday while in Mankato, the committee will hear a $10 million request from the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority for environmental studies, design and rehabilitation of the railroad track that runs from Norwood Young America to Hanley Falls.

Subsequent regional tours will be carried out every other week throughout October and November, with the final tour wrapping up in the first week of December.

Staff Writer Tom Cherveny contributed to this story.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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