Albert Lea pulls together for the good of the lake

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Point of View by Peggy Bennett

What a great day for Albert Lea last Tuesday when $7.5 million in funding for the Fountain Lake dredging project was approved in St. Paul!

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

Fountain Lake is the centerpiece of beautiful Albert Lea. It is a key feature for our community both now and in the future. Keeping our lakes clean and usable is imperative, not just for our area, but also for the lakes and waterways to the south of us that are connected to this water system.

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The hard work that both our state representative and senator put into getting this funding approved is appreciated by all.  They are both due our thanks for their efforts in aiding Albert Lea in this endeavor. Their work has helped us get over the final hump to get this project underway.

Amid all the fanfare and celebration, however, it’s important that we remember all who have gone before us in this community venture. There are many people, part of an immense community team, who have worked incredibly hard for over a decade to make this project possible.

Just as reaping cannot happen without sowing, so the dredging funding could not have come through without the people who tilled, fertilized, and sowed through the years.  These behind the scenes people deserve a big thank you along with those who have reaped the final results.

I think of Brett Behnke and his watershed board members who have put so much time and effort into this project throughout the years. Then there are our city and county officials — past and present mayors, city and county administrators, councilors, commissioners and all their staff who have worked hard to help make this happen.

We can’t forget our former representatives, Republicans Dan Dorman and Rich Murray. Dorman was instrumental in securing the local sales tax that is so key to this venture. The sales tax was used to leverage more dollars for all the projects that needed to be done before the government agencies would allow the dredging to begin.

Murray worked resolutely to do a lot of behind-the-scenes legwork, building relationships with all the representatives and building momentum.

Then there is the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and the Albert Lea Lakes Foundation, all people who have helped build many relationships over the years.

In addition, Randy Kehr, Susie Petersen, Laura Lunde and Matt Benda put in a ton of hard work. The list could go on and on. (I wish I could name them all.) These are among the countless people who have worked behind the scenes to make this lake project happen.

While it’s very appropriate to be excited about the state funding for Fountain Lake and what it will help accomplish, the fact that we are mortgaging a bit of the future — our children’s future — must never be taken lightly.  State bonding money is not free money. It is borrowed money.

The state of Minnesota just passed a $1 billion bonding bill. This is larger than the entire Minnesota state budget in the 1970s. The bulk of this bonding money will be borrowed by the state — and then laid on the backs of our children to pay back. That should concern all of us.

What should not be forgotten, and probably the effort deserving the most recognition in all this, is the great demonstration of local interest by the people of this area. The fact that the local sales tax initiative passed by such a large majority is a huge testament to the way a community can come together for a common good. That expression of local interest and the willingness to pay up front is what paved the way for the state to commit some borrowed money.

I am so proud to belong to a community that comes together to work for a common cause and a common good as we have. I am proud that we have committed so much of our own money — not borrowed money, but money paid up front — to pay for this project. The people of Albert Lea and our surrounding communities are a unique, hard-working and caring people.

Thank you, all. What an amazing place in which to live!


Peggy Bennett is a member of the Freeborn County Republican Party and a candidate for House District 27A.