Senator Dan Sparks: Legislature Should Approve Albert Lea’s Capital Investment Request

Wherever you go in our state, you’ll find nationally-recognized parks and trails; exceptional public schools and colleges; fertile land for farmers to grow crops; and special places like museums and the performing arts, where we gather as a community to celebrate our culture and history.

These qualities are no accident – our state is exceptional because we invest in our people and public assets.

As a state senator, I’m entrusted to ensure our public assets are strong and provide a good return on investment to Minnesota taxpayers. That’s why I was pleased to testify before the Senate Capital Investment Committee this week in support of a $1,000,000 request from the City of Albert Lea to finance water quality improvements in the Stables Area located near city limits.

I want to recognize the leaders in Albert Lea who took time away from their personal and professional obligations to testify before the Capital Investment Committee with me this week. I also want to thank the committee’s membership for taking Albert Lea’s request under consideration.

The city’s request would expand access to clean, safe drinking water in an area that has failed sanitary sewer testing and is at a higher risk of drinking well contamination. Albert Lea would annex the properties in the Stables Area, put in a wastewater collection system, provide treatment at its municipal facility, and extend its water system to homes in the area. It’s the most feasible and cost-effective solution to this challenge, according to Albert Lea officials. The plan has my full support and I’m proud to be the chief Senate author of the bill.

During this week’s hearing, I urged my colleagues to approve Albert Lea’s project, which has been in the works for decades. According to the City of Albert Lea, the project is currently ranked #10 on the Minnesota Drinking Water Revolving Fund. The committee “laid over” the proposal for possible inclusion in a final capital investment plan, which is expected to be released soon.

In even-numbered years such as our current session, the focus of legislators’ work is passing a capital investment bill, more commonly known as the “bonding bill.” As a member of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, I help the Legislature do its due diligence on hundreds of requests and ultimately decide which projects receive funding.

This year, the Legislature received more than $3 billion in bonding requests from local governments. Governor Dayton released a proposal in January. The majority party in each legislative body has yet to release a comprehensive plan. With just three weeks until a constitutional deadline to finish our work, I urge my colleagues to release a plan for public discussion as soon as possible. Bonding bills require three-fifths of support from each legislative body to pass (81 house representatives and 41 senators), meaning that lawmakers must work together and find common ground before awarding funding for projects.

If you have questions about this project or other capital investment opportunities in our area, please call my office at 651-296-9248, email me at sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn, or mail a letter to 95 University Avenue W., Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 2201, St. Paul, MN 55155. You can also follow the Capital Investment Committee’s work from your own home. Visit www.senate.mn/committees to gain access to meeting minutes, presentations, and audio recordings during the final three weeks of session.

This commentary originally appeared in the Albert Lea Tribune.

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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