WILLMAR — Prairie Lakes Youth Programs and Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services are one step closer to receiving state bonding funds for building projects at both locations.

This week, Governor Tim Walz announced his funding recommendations for the 2020 state bonding bill. The governor's proposal includes almost $2.6 billion in projects located across the state. Funding sources include general obligation bonds, appropriation bonds, general fund cash and trunk highway bonds.

Included in Walz's proposal are Prairie Lakes Youth Programs and Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services, both located in Willmar. Walz is recommending Prairie Lakes receive $1,058,000, the full request, to add a new recreation area and academic space to its facility at the MinnWest Technology Campus.

Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services, which is currently building a new state-of-the-art hospital near the Willmar Civic Center, has also been recommended by the governor to be awarded its full request, $1,750,000 for a large motor activity and ancillary space to be added to the new facility.

Both facilities gave presentations to the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees in October.

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Prairie Lakes Youth Programs, a juvenile detention center owned and operated by Kandiyohi, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine, Lac qui Parle and Swift counties, has operated 28 years without an indoor gross motor recreation area and the bonding project would change that.

"It would be an open space our kids could get some activity in," said Principal Nick Clasemann. "This would allow them to have some activity time in the winter months."

The bonding project would also add much needed space to the school portion of the facility, including staff bathrooms and additional office space.

"We are super-thrilled," Clasemann said.

Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services is also requesting bonding funds for recreation purposes. According to the Department of Human Services budget request, the 4,100-square-foot addition will provide interior space for recreation and rehabilitation activities year-round at the facility. A playground and landscaping would also be part of the project.

“This will be an important addition to the new Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Hospital that will open this summer. Recreation and play are vital parts of any child’s physical, mental and emotional development. They’re also key to effective treatment for the children admitted to the hospital. This recreational space will help them to learn and practice coping skills that can decrease their symptoms and improve their overall well-being," said DHS Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson in a statement to the West Central Tribune.

In 2017, DHS received $7.53 million in bonding funds for the new hospital, which broke ground in June 2019. The new hospital will provide beds for 16 youth who need extensive mental health treatment.

Not on the list

A third local bonding request, this one from Kandiyohi County, did not fare as well. The governor recommended not funding the Kandiyohi County Road 55 Highway-Rail Grade Separation project. Instead of recommending funding for single projects, the governor is proposing $112 million for the Local Bridge Replacement Program and $110 million for the Rail Grade Separation Program.

The county had requested $3.9 million for the project, which would construct a bridge over two BNSF Railway tracks as well as construct and reconstruct approximately one mile of roadway to re-establish a local road network for County Roads 55, 5 and 15. The county is planning to provide $3.9 million in matching funds for the project, raised through the county's local option sales tax.

"It is an important link for this area," said Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Mel Odens.

While disappointed the governor is not recommending funding for the project, Odens said the county will continue to work to get funding for the project, either this year or in upcoming bonding bills.

"We're going to keep the pressure on, that this is important for our economy," Odens said.

Regional projects

Walz included other regional projects in his bonding proposals. He is recommending $20 million for the Flood Hazard Mitigation Grant Assistance Program which will assist cities including Montevideo with flood risk reduction projects and $5 million for community recreation improvements for the city of Litchfield.

Walz's proposal also includes $142.5 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement Funding for the Minnesota State college system. The funds are used for building repairs and replacement across the 54-college system. Ridgewater College lobbied the Capital Investment Committees for the funding, as the school has several roof projects that need to be done.

The next step for the 2020 bonding bill will be the state Legislature, which convenes in February. Both the Senate and the House will be working on bonding, with the hope they will agree on a bill by the end of the session in May. Gov. Walz will then have to decide whether to approve it.

The final bill may very well look very different from the governor's recommendations.