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Bonding passes House
Bill includes design funding for new clinical health building at Minnesota State Mankato.
Mark Fischenich, Mankato Free Press, 5-8-12
MANKATO — The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a $496 million bonding bill Monday that included design funding for a new clinical health building at Minnesota State University and for improvements at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
There was no money specifically appropriated for Mankato’s proposed expansion and renovation of the downtown civic center, although the city could compete for a piece of the $50 million the legislation sets aside for grants to local projects around the state.
The 99-32 vote followed several hours of debate and easily topped the 60 percent constitutional threshold for legislative borrowing by 18 votes. It heads next to the Senate. All Mankato-area representatives voted for the bill except Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, whose district includes Le Sueur County and part of Sibley County.
The bonding bill discussion immediately preceded the much-anticipated debate over a $975 million Vikings stadium, and Rep. Larry Howes — the sponsor of the bonding bill — said he knew his legislation was just the warm-up act.
“Right now I feel like the pre-game show of Monday Night Football,” said Howes, R-Walker.
But the bonding bill — if it passes the Senate, where it was tentatively scheduled to be heard today — could have a much bigger longterm impact on the southcentral Minnesota construction economy than the higher profile stadium debate.
Nearly $3.7 million is included for the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center for safety improvements at the Security Hospital and to design the renovations on the campus to make room for 200 additional beds for the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program. That could be the first piece of a multi-year improvement to the facility totaling more than $100 million.
Rep. Terry Morrow predicts approval for the construction funding — more than $36 million to complete the first phase — could come as soon as 2013. The Department of Human Services anticipates requesting an additional $53.4 million for the next phase in 2014 and $14 million more in 2016 to finish the work.
The ever-growing number of court- committed sex offenders is expected to exceed the capacity of the St. Peter facility and a sister facility in Moose Lake by the middle of 2014.
A major construction project would also be coming to Mankato in coming years under a provision in the bonding bill. More than $2 million provided for design work on the new MSU building would likely lead to $28 million in construction funding in the 2014 state bonding bill and another $6 million two years later to complete the project.
The building, slated to be constructed on the campus’s east side not far from the bell tower, would consolidate the university’s departments of nursing; dental hygiene; and speech, language and hearing.
The inclusion of the design money for those two projects, along with additional funding for colleges and universities statewide, persuaded local Democrats to support the bill despite the absence of any direct funding for Mankato’s planned $31 million civic center project.
Local officials had sought $14.5 million from the state with the remainder coming from the city’s local option sales tax. The project and similar civic center upgrades in Rochester and St. Cloud were supported by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, but the Republicancontrolled Legislature — looking to keep the bill’s size well below Dayton’s $775 million — ultimately left all three out.
The bill instead sets aside $50 million for the Department of Employment and Economic Development to grant to local projects through a competitive application process. There’s little in the bill to restrict who can apply for the money, however, meaning there are likely to be hundreds of millions of dollars in requests from local governments around the state for the $50 million.
The pot of money for local projects actually got $5 million smaller over the weekend, one of a number of changes as Dayton and legislative leaders made final adjustments.
At Dayton’s insistence, the funding for the University of Minnesota grew by $10 million to $64 million and the appropriation for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system fell by $13 million to $132 million.
A $19.5 million addition to the Camp Ripley Education Center, funded in the governor’s plan, was added to the bill as well.
The MnSCU money includes $13.3 million for classroom renovations and additions at South Central College’s Faribault campus, which Rep. Kathy Brynaert of Mankato said is a precursor to funding for SCC’s North Mankato campus in future legislative sessions.
Rep. Alice Hausman, a St. Paul Democrat who was chairwoman of the House bonding committee prior to the Republican takeover of the Legislature, encouraged fellow Democrats to vote for the bill. Hausman specifically mentioned the Regional Treatment Center funding but was especially praiseworthy of the money for college campuses, much of which goes to basic repairs of existing buildings.
To see the entire story, go to www.mankatofreepress.com.