Governor’s bonding proposal covers several city needs

Published 7:30 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said a number of initiatives the city has touted were included in Gov. Tim Walz’s $1.27 billion bonding bill unveiled Tuesday.

In the bill, Walz recommends $100 million for the Local Road Improvement Program.

“Funding for this program will leverage non-state dollars to create rural road safety projects and fund the local share of trunk highway improvements,” a press release states. “Past projects funded include adding sidewalk and pedestrian ramps, widening and repaving of roadways and replacing culverts.”

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Adams noted the Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved supporting $875,500 in additional Local Road Improvement Program funding for the scheduled 2020 Bridge Avenue reconstruction project. He said unless additional dollars for the program are approved, the project would likely not see additional state funding, resulting in increased costs for local taxpayers.

He added additional funding will not guarantee funding as the process unfurls, noting that will likely be based on where Bridge Avenue work ranks on a priority list.

Adams noted the city had a record number of water main breaks last year, showing there are needed road repair projects yet to take place.

The capital investment bill budget provides $67 million for low-interest loans and grants to help cities and other local governments construct wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects, ranging from replacing aging infrastructure to upgrading treatment facilities to meet regulations.

Adams said the city has watched such proposed legislation as it prepares for possibly tens of millions of dollars in needed improvements to its Wastewater Treatment Plant. He expressed concern that without state assistance, project costs could be shifted onto food manufacturers.

Walz also wants $100 million in additional funding for the Local Bridge Replacement Program.

Walz’s plan directs $150 million to preserving affordable housing and creating new homes.

“This recommendation will create a full range of housing choices, including supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, senior housing, family housing and new homeownership opportunities,” the release states. “To accomplish this, Gov. Walz supports $120 million in housing infrastructure bonds, which will leverage additional private development funds and preserve federal dollars for rental assistance.”

Adams said the city has tapped into non-bonding and bonding dollars for affordable and workforce housing. The city is seeking legislation to expand workforce credits for workforce and marketplace housing.

“We’ve got a lot of potential great things that will be added for our local toolbox,” he said. 

Walz said an additional $30 million in general obligation bonds would preserve 3,000 units of publicly owned housing across the state for poor Minnesotans.

Adams said the city has “a critical need” for housing.

Some of the other bonding requests include:

$117.7 million in funding for asset preservation for state campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester. Walz recommends $4.3 million to renovate A.B. Anderson Hall on the Duluth campus to modernize 35,000 square feet of teaching space and update mechanical and life safety systems.

$109 million for the Department of Natural Resources to take care of buildings, water and wastewater systems, roads and bridges, trails and water access sites in state parks and to make buildings and trails Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.

$20 million for asset protection for the Department of Corrections to continue addressing a $600 million deferred maintenance backlog.

$10 million for the Safe Routes to School grant program for school districts.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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