Letter: Time to act on highway funds

Minnesota's lack of investment in highways and bridges has become painfully clear and the time to act is now to improve the safety and quality of our transportation infrastructure. The state has a responsibility to maintain and improve our state ...

Minnesota's lack of investment in highways and bridges has become painfully clear and the time to act is now to improve the safety and quality of our transportation infrastructure. The state has a responsibility to maintain and improve our state highway system, including U.S. Highway 12. Unfortunately, state revenue has not kept up with the growing needs, shifting the burden to local property taxpayers.

For Kandiyohi County, the road and bridge levy was $2.4 million in 2004 and is now $3.84 million in 2008, a 60 percent increase. In addition, the county sold $3.7 million in local road bonds in 2005, which will have to be paid back with property tax dollars. With the need for agricultural products to get to market and a struggling rural economy, we simply can't afford to let our local highway infrastructure deteriorate and state aid from the highway trust fund is simply not adequate.

Fortunately, our local legislators recognize the need to support increased funding for our highways and transit statewide. Representatives Al Juhnke and Bud Heidgerken, along with Sen. Joe Gimse, all voted "yes" for the transportation funding passed last year and vetoed by the governor. These legislators understand that our part of the state needs a stronger investment in our roads and bridges and we can't put more of the burden on local property taxpayers. While the veto override attempt was not successful last year, another transportation funding bill is moving through the Legislature this year and we need all of our local legislators to work harder to make sure this bill becomes law.

Legislation introduced this year would provide an additional $19 million over the next 10 years for Kandiyohi County and an additional $2.5 million for the city of Willmar. The lack of action for too many years to increase transportation user fees is costing all of us real money as the cost of construction continues to increase. A "yes" vote on this bill will create jobs while improving the highways and bridges that workers and businesses rely on every day. Loyalty to constituents and the projects in this county needs to come before loyalty to political parties. This is the year to get the job done.

I could fill a page with what I'm thinking because of the revelations about the per diem payments our lawmakers have submitted.


Eight of our area lawmakers requested $12,000 to $18,000 for 2007, besides receiving salaries of up to $31,140. Their per diem limit for food, lodging, travel and personal expenses was increased in the House to $77 per day and in the Senate to $96. The final report isn't in yet but it is reported that our state legislators sought a $2.36 million reimbursement for their daily expenses.

And they don't have to submit any receipts. Many of us believe that should be a law. It's taxpayer money and we have a right to know. They claim they deserve it because they work so hard for us.

Reminds me of when I worked the graveyard shift at Vega Aircraft during the war with Japan. I recently found an old pay stub to learn I received $29 for one week. I had to walk several blocks in the dark to catch my ride with a peanut butter sandwich for lunch in my pocket. Many workers lived on cheese and crackers. No per diem. We worked hard for our country and because I had a brother who was lost behind enemy lines for many days; if he had been caught he would have been beheaded.

The world is different today. Our country is full of problems. We are trillions of dollars in debt. Flood, fire and hurricanes are devastating people's lives. So are the concerns of the taxpayers who can't pay their mortgages and are losing their homes and livelihood.

Crime is rampant. We live behind locked doors and aren't safe to walk alone at night. Illegal immigration, drugs and robberies are rampant. Living expenses are increasing constantly and many are worried about the future, feeling our legislators should show more concern and tighten their belts.

We elected you to make us and the country's future your first priority. Do you have a conscience? Another 8.5-cent tax on gas to build new roads and bridges? How many will be able to enjoy them if things don't change?

I am responding to the Feb. 2 letter from Floyd Olsen regarding the ski team and Neer Park. My folks, John and Alice Halvorson, gave the land in 1920 that is now Neer Park of New London. They could not think of a better memorial to Joe and Eliza Neer than to keep this land in perpetual use for rest and recreation.

For years the city maintained this land as their park with the help of the local citizens through annual cleanups and general maintenance. About 1940 the family moved out of this area and in our absence, maintenance began to deteriorate. When I returned to the New London area in 1985, we were appalled at the condition of Neer Park. We found it had turned into a junkyard and a weed patch. The roads had been allowed to be overcome with brush. Where were you at this time, Mr. Olsen?


Apparently, the ski club heard of the need to clean up the park and stepped forward. The ski club was looking for a place to practice skiing and have shows. They volunteered to re-establish and clean Neer Park. As a member of the Neer family, this help was gravely needed, and without their help the restoration of Neer Park would not have been accomplished.

Water skiing was not heard of at the time the land was deeded to the village, but I can say as Alice's son that she would be delighted by the work done by the ski club in the restoration of Neer Park.

I can also say that my mother was very pleased by the original water ski team and the shows they put on. At my mother's request I drove to New London from Park Rapids to see the shows.

She not only enjoyed the ski shows, she also hoped that eventually the playground equipment would be replaced. I can say that my mother would approve of the use of the park by the ski club. It is taken for granted that the city council has the power to grant permits as they see fit.

I attended a meeting recently, only to learn that the Minnesota Pollution Control has no standard or guidelines on the amount of pollutants in storm water. One has to wait until waters downstream have been environmentally destroyed enough to be listed as impaired. This takes years to do. Only then the MPCA will look into it.

This is like going to the doctor, but the doctor must wait for the autopsy report to write the prescription. Unbelievable.

Doug Ketcham's letter to the editor (Public Forum, Feb. 9) regarding the fly ash disposal from the rendering plant and a waste-to-energy facility in Redwood Falls is totally incorrect. Central Bi-Products Rendering has never had any discussions with Renville County regarding the disposal of any waste material in the Renville County landfill nor have we agreed to pay for the disposal of any such materials.

We do not intend to utilize the Renville County landfill any time in the foreseeable future. Any discussions regarding eminent domain for the Bartas' land is with Renville County and its supervisors and has absolutely nothing to do with Central Bi-Products Rendering.


The smoke-free legislation has to definitely qualify as one of the greatest pieces of legislation to impact the better health for all Minnesotans. We thank and commend our Legislature for supporting a bill that greatly reduces health care cost, creates more family-friendly restaurants and recreation. Personally it has allowed us to dine and go out in many places we previously didn't because of the smoke.

As a family with asthma and allergies who want a healthy lifestyle, the legislation has given us an opportunity to dine and socialize without inhaling secondhand smoke. Thank you not only from this family, but the health risk you have reduced for the majority! This includes workers and owners who now can enjoy their work without the known health risks of secondhand smoke. It also provides an incentive for those who are attempting to stop smoking!

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