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Round Lake seeks state funding for road repair

The road surface on Rohrer Street in Round Lake is in need of repair. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

ROUND LAKE — For the second time in two years, the city of Round Lake is applying to the state for Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) funding to repave Rohrer Street.

Rohrer Street has not been reconditioned since 1984.

Bigger municipalities throughout Minnesota receive “direct entitlement” funding for such projects, but Round Lake does not meet the population threshold to qualify for those funds.

Round Lake requires sponsorship from the county in order to apply for an LRIP grant. Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson and Director of Public Works Stephen Schnieder were enthusiastic in their endorsement during the first application in 2017 and will lend their support again this time around.

Despite the best efforts of city and county officials, consultants from the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC) and congress members Sen. Bill Weber and Rep. Rod Hamilton, the 2017 application was rejected. This time around, WREDC staff is including letters of recommendation from representatives of Round Lake businesses — including AGCO, New Fashion Pork and Round Lake Vineyards & Winery — as well as others from local landowners and community leaders.

WREDC Executive Director Abraham Algadi explained that local businesses rely on passable roads. As Rohrer street is in the industrial hub of the town, he said, its upkeep is vital to further economic development.

Round Lake Mayor Doug Knuth emphasized that with “farmers and truckers going in to the (grain) elevator” regularly, Rohrer Street sees a lot of wear and tear. After the opening of the new feedlot, Knuth estimates Rohrer street will need to support 45 truckloads every day.

Referencing businesses with Round Lake roots such as HitchDoc and Smith Trucking, Algadi stressed the importance of investing in economic development.

“There’s something in the water (in Round Lake) that brings out incredibly successful entrepreneurs,” he said, adding that he believed the same is true in other small towns throughout Nobles County.

Although adequate infrastructure is essential for small businesses to thrive, communities as small as Round Lake cannot accommodate a tax base sufficient to provide the estimated $220,000 required to refurbish Rohrer Street.

Knuth pointed out that “(Round Lake) taxpayers are just as important” as those in other areas who have received LRIP funding in the past. He remains hopeful that this attempt will be successful in securing the necessary funds.

Schnieder said that the state intends to prioritize awarding 2019 LRIP funding to previous applicants.

“(Round Lake) has a very good chance of getting it this year,” he said.

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