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Riverland, Stables projects included in House bonding proposal

The $825 million House bonding bill released Wednesday includes $10.1 million for Riverland Community College in Albert Lea, along with funding to connect the Stables area to the city.

Albert Lea bonding requests to develop Blazing Star Landing and for a bridge over Albert Lea Lake that would connect the Blazing Star Trail from Myre-Big Island State Park to Hayward were not included.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, who is a member of the House Capital Investment Committee, said the bonding proposal focuses heavily on water infrastructure, roads, bridges and asset preservation — what she described as “meat and potatoes.”

She said though the area didn’t get all of the projects it had requested, the bill does include some key projects.

“Minnesotans expect us to maintain public infrastructure, following the simple notion that we should take care of the property we own,” echoed House Capital Investment Committee Chairman Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, in a press release. “We are addressing the important needs of our cities and state, while respecting the taxpayers. This is a sound bill with good geographic balance and I look forward to bipartisan support.”

The release stated more than two-thirds of the funds are dedicated toward bricks-and-mortar projects. That includes nearly $364 million for asset preservation such as state-owned buildings, $120 million for road and transportation infrastructure and $153 million for water and conservation projects.

Urdahl said he is especially pleased the bill directs $120 million toward Public Facilities Authority programs, which ultimately benefit taxpayers by providing favorable terms for local water infrastructure projects.

The funding for Riverland Community College would relocate truck driving and collision programs from Austin to Albert Lea and integrate the programs into shared spaces with auto service and diesel programs. The college also hopes to demolish the Gateway Building and construct 7,482 square feet in additional space.

“I’m very excited about that,” Bennett said. “For our local college, that’s a huge deal. It really focuses on some of those trades — automotive in particular. Not only is this good for students, but it’s also good for our workforce needs in our area.”

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said he was pleased the Riverland and Stables projects were included in the bill, though he was disappointed the Blazing Star Landing and trail projects were not. Adams said the Blazing Star Trail project has been waiting for over a decade for the funds necessary to finish the project.

Regarding the Blazing Star Landing project, he said he was curious to review the rest of the House proposal to find out if there were other economic development-related projects.

The Senate has not yet released its bonding bill.

Bennett said she will continue to advocate for Albert Lea’s bonding requests the remainder of the session.