Legislators hear Riverland bonding request

Published 9:41 am Thursday, August 27, 2015

A bonding request made by Riverland Community College is important for the economic health of southern Minnesota, school administrators told state legislators Wednesday afternoon at Riverland.

“In southern Minnesota unemployment is really low,” said Matt Bissonette, Riverland dean of academic affairs. “It’s vitally important for the college and our workforce that people are coming to school here.”

As part of a tour with the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee, Riverland students, staff, faculty and administration, community members and business partners, legislators heard details about the project that the bonding dollars would support.

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College officials are requesting $7.43 million that would go toward renovating outdated space to relocate truck driving and collision programs from Austin to Albert Lea and integrates those programs into shared spaces with auto service and diesel programs.

The adjacent, vacant Gateway Building is planned for demolition if the project is approved. The project includes 8,734 square feet of new construction to increase the amount of space available for programs.

The programs benefiting from the project are designed to serve underrepresented populations, including veterans and those returning to the workforce, according to the college. The project will benefit local businesses and industries who employ graduates of the various trade and industrial programs.

“In funding our capital request we can concentrate programs here and provide a more modern facility for industrial technology programs,” said Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun.

He specifically mentioned a synthesis between the auto repair, truck driving, machining and repair programs at Riverland.

School administration said the trip was important for the school’s bonding request.

“This really gives the legislators an idea just how important this project is to the college and to the industries we try to support,” Bissonette said.

A decision at the state level on the bonding request will likely be made by May. Deliberations on the bonding request will begin in March. The project will be considered along with other bonding requests across the state, according to Paul Torkelson, R-St. James.

“We’re gathering information from many different sources,” Torkelson said. “We’re looking at how close to being ready and pertinent these projects are.”

He said there are currently $3.2 billion in bonding requests from across the state and that needs to be reduced by approximately 75 percent.

“We want to make sure we have an up-to-date facility and equipment,” Torkelson said.

Bissonette gave a description of what the project will accomplish for the school, including increased space for the school’s truck driving and diesel program.

School officials said space that is currently not accessible would be opened up if the project was completed.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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