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Local projects on governor’s bonding list

WILLMAR –– Two local projects were specifically identified in Gov. Dayton’s list of bonding recommendations, but more local projects could be included in overall agency bonding funds.

Dayton’s $986 million bonding bill contains $748,000 for a grant to Clara City for local road construction and water and sewer improvements to their new Hawk Creek business park.

The total project cost is $1.5 million.

Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said he’s pleased that Dayton included Clara City as a recipient of a matching grant, which can be leveraged with local funds and low interest rates to improve infrastructure improvements. Falk said it’s difficult for small towns to just rely on local property taxes to make an investment of that size.

Dayton’s bill also includes $4.3 million in funding that will allow the Willmar Department of Transportation to complete construction of facilities at their District 8 headquarters in Willmar.

Additional funds are needed because of the higher than expected costs for the project, which includes construction of a storage facility for snow removal equipment.

Jon Huseby, MnDOT District 8 engineer in Willmar, said $7.5 million was approved for the project in 2012 but when bids came in last year they were much higher than expected, in part because of contaminated soils and asbestos abatement from an underground storage fuel tank that was removed in the 1980s but still presented environmental issues.

That project alone cost $700,000.

Huseby said the competitive bidding climate, higher than expected construction costs and prevailing wages also resulted in a new cost estimate of $11.5 million.

Dayton included the additional funds in his proposal.

If the money is approved by the Legislature, construction could begin late this year or early 2015, said Huseby.

When state legislators were in Kandiyohi County last summer for capital investment tours, several local projects were showcased that didn’t make Dayton’s list but could still be funded with bonding money that’s dedicated to agencies.

For example, Dayton’s recommendation includes $5 million for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to dedicate to state parks and trails.

Local officials are hoping that will fund a proposed five-mile extension of the Glacial Lakes State Trail from New London to Sibley State Park.

During bonding tours last year, legislators were told that extending the trail could provide a critical recreational, educational and economic link between New London and Sibley State Park.

Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, said Wednesday she’s optimistic funding will be approved for the trail project.

Legislation has also been proposed for grant funding for a garage expansion at the Kandiyohi Area Transit facility in Willmar.

The bonding proposal also contains $40 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Higher Education Asset Preservation and Repair (HEAPR), which could potentially include funding for phase two of Ridgewater College’s central heating system — among the top priorities for MnSCU’s HEAPR list, Sawatzky said.

Dayton’s bonding bill contains $30 million for statewide bridge repair and replacement and another $10 million for local road improvements, $50 million for affordable housing infrastructure and rehabilitation and $70.7 million in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure investments.

 “While this is just the first step in the bonding process, this is a good start,” said Sawatzky. “Bonding is important both for economic growth and also for our quality of life and infrastructure.”

She said if Minnesotans want a strong public college system, “we have to ensure our colleges receive the critical updates they need.”

Likewise, she said expanding recreational trails will “improve our already great outdoor experiences and potentially draw more tourists to our region.”