Editorial: Bonding bill critical for Albert Lea community

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Another legislative session has come and gone, and while there were some successes, one of the biggest disappointments of the session for the local area was the failure to pass a bonding bill before the session deadline.

The approval is critical for communities like Albert Lea, who face tremendous burdens of infrastructure replacement in the coming years.
Albert Lea is tasked with replacing an $80 million wastewater treatment plant — a large part of which is being required because of new regulations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

As has been the case in recent years, the more time that passes to start a project like this, the higher the cost rises.

Email newsletter signup

Albert Lea’s wastewater treatment plant project started at $30 million a few years back, but after the new state phosphorous guidelines were put in place, the project doubled. Add in inflation and materials, and the cost rose another $20 million.

City leaders have requested $40 million in state bonding funds for the project and have said without the funding, sewer rates will triple for residents to pay for the project. Even with the state funds, the sewer rates could double.

In addition to the effect on residents, the plant is also critical for industries in the community.

If higher sewer rates are implemented, high industry users could be prompted to move elsewhere. And if that happens, hundreds of jobs could be on the line.

We urge Gov. Tim Walz to call the Legislature into a special session to finish the work of the bonding bill.

We also urge legislators to put aside partisan bickering and focus on a bill that will primarily improve the state’s infrastructure.

Time is of the essence, and so is the health of our community.