The recently released 2016 Senate bonding bill is good news for Minnesota and includes needed investments in our part of the state. Bonding is a critical component of what we do at the state legislature. The state owns billions of dollars’ worth of property and real estate and it is the state’s responsibility to take care of it. The 2016 bonding bill is a $1.5 billion investment in our future, will fund several critical projects in our communities, is a true economic development tool, and will create more than 40,000 jobs.
One of the major projects to benefit our area is the methane gas to power upgrades at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. The Combined Heat and Power Project would capture methane gas, which is a byproduct of WLSSD’s operation, and use it to create electricity. Right now, WLSSD is burning off the excess gas and in effect, is wasting its power generation potential. Only 8 percent of the methane gas is currently used to generate electricity, with the upgrades that would jump to 35 percent. This upgrade will save WLSSD roughly $1 million and should lead to more stable rates for WLSSD’s 14,000 customers. This project is one example of the impact the Senate bonding bill has on water infrastructure. Bonding funds are also being dedicated to clean up parts of the Saint Louis River and to the construction of waste water treatment plants across the state including the Big Lake Sanitary District.
Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College as well as Pine Technical and Community College are receiving sizable dollars for asset preservation in the 2016 bill. Bonding isn’t only about constructing new facilities, bonding funds also takes care of the facilities we already have. These funds can be used for anything from fixing a decaying roof to patching a crumbling wall.
Asset preservation is a major focus in this year’s bonding bill and there isn’t a corner of the state it doesn’t touch. Besides higher education, a significant amount of money is being invested to preserve the Minnesota Correctional facilities in Willow River and Moose Lake. These are places where many members of community work and it’s important we make sure they are safe and in buildings that will stand the test of time.
Finally, the bonding bill is investing in small communities across the state. We know that by making quality of life improvements, communities will grow and thrive. The Riverside Arena in Moose Lake is a great example of a heavily-used community center that is due for an upgrade. Moose Lake is the quintessential small town. They don’t have the ability to pay for large construction projects so they rely on the states’ help, and they are not alone.
Across Minnesota, small towns are looking to the state for the opportunity to improve the communities they call home. This is what bonding bills are about, identifying those communities with the greatest need and projects with the biggest upside. Although it seems $1.5 billion dollars is a large amount of money, these funds invest in our community colleges, your favorite parks, and creates thousands of jobs in the process.
We all stand to benefit from this year’s bonding bill, from clean water projects to schools, this bill will improve and transform lives. It’s time for our state to make a real investment in our future and ensure Minnesota stays great.
This column was originally published in the Duluth News Tribune.