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Bonding discussed locally

Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh (left) addresses the crowd as Lewis and Clark Regional Water System Executive Director Troy Larson looks on during Thursday’s Minnesota Senate bonding tour stop at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)1 / 4
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Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, listens during Thursday’s Minnesota Senate bonding tour stop at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)4 / 4

JACKSON — Sen. LeRoy Stumpf said it was a nearly impossible task ahead.

In a Minnesota Senate bonding tour stop Thursday morning at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, the Democratic senator from Plummer said here have been many more requests received than can be filled for next session’s bonding cycle.

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“The real tough thing is to drive that square peg into a round hole,” he said. “We have almost $3 billion in (general obligation) bond requests, and we probably will only fund somewhat less than a billion.”

A total of four different entities presented their projects to the group of members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

“We were very impressed with the campus here at Jackson and obviously Worthington is a part of that college system,” Stumpf said following the presentations. “I think the committee members were impressed, I think, from the angle of hands-on education.

“There is a lot of discussion right now in education especially, the importance of career-type education where someone can get an education and immediately step into a job,” Stumpf added. “That was very impressive.”

Along with requests from Minnesota West, Troy Larson spoke regarding the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, and presentations on the Jackson Library expansion and a new Windom Arena were heard.

“The projects here, some of them are vitally important, such as the Lewis and Clark Water System project,” Stumpf said. “We had a local project of a library here in Jackson, and along the way we’ve had a lot of other projects. This is our second week on the road. I think in the first week, it was 30-some projects we heard — so far this time probably about a dozen projects. And we have a day and a half to go.”

According to Stumpf, each senator tries to push projects through. However, he said there is a hierarchy he likes to use when evaluating projects.

“First of all, the state maintaining the state facilities,” he said. “That could be bridges or roads, or it could be state-owned facilities or parks. Those, I think, are of utmost importance to maintain the property that the residents of Minnesota own and keep it in good shape.”

He said the second area is higher education in the state.

“That has always been a very key part of our bonding packages,” Stumpf said. “Then the third component is the local projects that come up out of a region or a community. Those are important and those are probably under the most scrutiny.

“Usually, in the higher education program, you have the systems themselves that set a priority,” he continued. “The same holds true in the asset preservation and the maintaining of our public infrastructure. In the local projects, there is a lot of competition. By coming out to communities and going around the state, it helps us put a face on some of the local projects and helps us understand.”

Lori Voss, vice president of administration at Minnesota West, outlined three projects throughout the campus.

The first was improving the power line technology training facility. It would demolish 18,000 square feet and construct a 8,400-square-foot indoor training facility. It would also relocate the existing off-campus outdoor power line training field to the main campus.

Voss also explained the need for relocating existing ITV classrooms at the Jackson campus as well as upgrading the HVAC system in Canby.

Larson, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, said it would take $63.8 million to complete the Minnesota portion of the project. However, he said he realized that might be too much for one time. Larson explained the first phase would take $20.1 million, the second would be $27 million and the last would be $16 million.

Representatives from the cities of Worthington and Luverne as well as Rock County and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water Systems were present.

“None in Minnesota are receiving water,” Larson said. “In terms of the construction status, Lewis and Clark is 65 percent complete and soon to be six years behind schedule.”

Larson said the pre-paid funds by the state and entities have been used.

Now, more help is needed, Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said.

“I’m wholeheartedly behind the Lewis and Clark water project,” Oberloh said. “I just wish we should get the people who represent us to understand the importance of this.”

Luverne City Council member Kevin Aaker said it’s a desperate situation.

“We’re asking for water,” Aaker said. “We need it to live, we need it to grow. … If we don’t bring it in from the outside, we’re done.”

Jackson City Administrator Jennifer Bromeland presented about the proposed expansion and renovation to the public library. The city is asking for $570,000 from the state. The money would add a new expansion of 1,500 square feet. With it, plus the renovations, the library would have new windows, ceilings in some areas, new information desk, more space for periodicals, collection materials and technology.

“The existing library facility was constructed in 1981 and has served the Jackson area and its library patrons very well over the years,” Bromeland said. “However, as with any building, the time has come in which necessary renovations and an expansion is necessary in order to ensure that the Jackson library remains a viable asset to the community.”

The last presentation was by a group from Windom promoting a new arena.

Justin Espenson, who is on the building committee, laid out a plan for a new arena. He said the facility, as planned, would cost between $8.5 and $9 million.

“With the development of our girls’ hockey program, we are finding our facility does not allow for the separation of boys and girls and does not allow us to ensure personal safety and privacy,” Espenson said. “With Title IX, we want to address these issues as we move forward.”

The new facility would be a 43,000-square-foot arena, which would allow for a sheet and a half of ice. There are also other uses when not in hockey season, the group said.

Espenson said the group is requesting $4 million on bonding. It is also bringing a local option sales tax to the voters next year.

“We hope that together we can help keep our rural, outstate communities vibrant and growing,” Espenson said.