Local Capital Investment Projects are Priority for Senator Sparks

Minnesota is a great place to live, work, raise a family, and start a business because we offer people a great quality of life.

Wherever you go in our state, you’ll find nationally-recognized parks and trails; exceptional public schools and colleges; top-notch hospitals and health clinics; and special places like museums and the performing arts, where we gather as a community to celebrate our culture and history.

One of my jobs as a state senator is to make sure our public assets are strong and provide a good return on investment to Minnesota taxpayers. That’s why I was pleased to recently participate in a Capital Investment Committee tour of southeast Minnesota, where we visited with local officials from my hometown of Austin and elsewhere to learn about requests for state bonding aid.

As a member of the committee, I help the Legislature do its due diligence on hundreds of requests and ultimately decide which projects receive funding. Traditionally, lawmakers focus on these construction and jobs projects during the second year of a biennium. Bonding bills require three-fifths of support from each legislative body to pass (81 house representatives and 41 senators), meaning that DFLers and Republicans must work together and find common ground before awarding funding for projects.

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm and City Administrator Craig Clark joined the capital investment committee tour earlier this month to discuss area projects that will enhance the recreational opportunities in our community.

The city is seeking $4 million to create a recreational area near Ramsey Mill Pond. Part of this would include acquiring flood-prone land in the area and connecting the current rail systems to the abandoned railroad bridge to once again make this a useable, accessible area.

Additionally, Austin is looking for $500,000 to create a portage and trailhead on the Cedar River. This will be on the historic site of Austin’s first structure, a former mill on the Cedar River and near the planned community center.

The city projects offer regional benefits by attracting visitors, ensuring a great quality of life, increasing adjacent property values and providing options for active lifestyles.

The Cedar River Watershed District hopes to receive $2.3 million to continue water retention and stabilization efforts. CRWD work would improve water quality and reduce flood risk at many sites throughout Freeborn and Mower counties.

I want to extend my gratitude and thanks for all the hard work being done to advocate for these projects by the City of Austin and its partners, which include Vision 2020 Waterways and Bike-Walk Trails committees; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Cedar River Watershed District; and the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. I am honored to work with you and unite around these important projects for our people.

So, you might be asking yourself “what happens next, how do I get involved?” The 2018 Legislative Session began Tuesday, Feb. 20, which is the starting point in creating a statewide capital investment bill. You can keep track of the Capital Investment Committee’s progress by visiting www.senate.mn/committees.

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns I can address. You can reach me by email at sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn or by phone at 651-296-9248.

This column was first published in the Austin Daily Herald.

Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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