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Guest Column: County must do what it can to assist businesses

Guest Column by Mike Lee

 

Hello, my name is Mike Lee, and I am running for re-election as your 5th District Freeborn County commissioner.

As we look into the future of our county, there are challenges ahead. We need to work on keeping our property taxes down. To do this we need to always make sure we are spending your tax dollars wisely and effectively as possible. When opportunities arise, we need to work with the city of Albert Lea and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency to help in bringing living-wage jobs to the area. But equally important is when the opportunities present themselves, we must do everything we can to assist our existing businesses in helping them grow and prosper.

Mike Lee

Over the past few years the county board has taken steps to help increase funding for our county road system. We have implemented a half-cent sales tax that goes for our county roads. We have put in place the wheelage tax to help fund road projects. We have applied and been successful in receiving federal dollars as was done for the Bridge Avenue project. But as we move forward in time this will not be enough. We are either going to need more funding from the state, look at ways we can extend the life of our roads through new technologies, or as a last resort, we will have to turn some of our paved roads back to gravel, which would be a last resort.

It was welcome news to hear that the state Legislature has included full funding for the final phase of the Blazing Star Trail to Hayward and the East Main project in Albert Lea. But there is more work to be done to make Albert Lea and Freeborn County a destination spot. We as a county board need to support the efforts of the Shell Rock River Watershed District in acquiring bonding dollars to finish the dredging of Fountain Lake. Then the focus will turn to starting the process of laying the ground work to start working to dredge Albert Lea Lake. What a great living billboard of our area it will be for people traveling on I-35 to see people out using and enjoying Albert Lea Lake. 

Something I feel that could be a draw to the area is for the Minnesota State park system to establish a small bison herd at Myre-Big Island State Park. Other state parks that have bison brought into their parks have seen a substernal increase in the numbers of visitor’s visiting their parks. With two freeways in close proximity to Myre-Big Island, I feel this could be a big draw in pulling visitors off the freeway and visiting Myre-Big Island State Park and the city of Albert Lea.

I am very optimistic that in the near future that the county will be receiving federal funding to build a tornado shelter near the trailer parks on the south end of Albert Lea. The federal government will pay for 75% of the cost of the shelter with 25% of the cost being paid for by the county. This is a project that is needed in that area and could save lives in a future severe weather event.

Lastly, I would like to say thank you the citizens of the 5th District for providing me the opportunity to represent you as your county commissioner for the past nine years. It is a position I take very seriously. I will always do my very best to represent your interest to the best of my ability. It would be an honor to receive your vote on Nov. 3.

Incumbent Freeborn County 5th District Commissioner Mike Lee is running for reelection.