Archived Story

Get vocal for the projects you want

Published 5:12pm Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mower County residents should stop and take note of something that didn’t happen a few days ago.

The chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, and a tour of state bonding requests stopped in Rochester and Albert Lea Thursday to get a closer look at projects requesting money, but the tour didn’t stop in Austin and Mower County.

We understand Austin area officials aren’t pitching a big-ticket project like 2012’s Hormel Institute expansion, so the tour skipping Austin isn’t necessarily a sign we’re being overlooked. Austin and Mower County turned out to be one of the major winners of that year’s bonding requests, landing $13.5 million for The Hormel Institute’s expansion.

But this year, Austin is in the running for funding for less-hyped projects.

While the tour didn’t stop here, the county was represented Thursday. The Cedar River Watershed District’s Justin Hanson was in Albert Lea to talk about the district’s efforts to reduce flooding in Austin and the need to reduce water runoff throughout the entire district. He requested $1 million in state bonding funds to go toward a $1.5 million effort to reduce water flow coming into the Cedar River. District officials hope to build detention structures in five areas of the watershed.

And Craig Hoium, Austin community development director and ex-officio member of the Blazing Star Trail joint powers board, presented information about the request for $500,000 for the extension of the trail from the state park to Hayward. The money would cover the last mile-and-a-half stretch of the extension — from the edge of Albert Lea Lake to Hayward. There is a hope the trail will someday extend past Hayward to the west city limits of Austin and the Shooting Star Trail.

But, the Shooting Star trail didn’t receive much talk at Thursday’s meeting, which is a bit disconcerting since Vision 2020’s bike/walking trail committee has boosted the buzz about the trail locally. Trail enthusiasts have been working with Public Works Director Mike Hanson to secure a Shooting Star Trail route from Rose Creek to Austin to improve the chances of securing bonding funds.

One meeting isn’t a major red flag, but there’s only so much bonding money to go around. Plus, Democrats and Republican have turned everything — especially spending money — into a fight in recent years.

While there’s no need to panic just yet, Thursday serves as a good reminded to trail and flood plan supporters to get vocal.

In bonding years, it’s important for constituents to contact state leaders and tell them how they think money should be spent. That means it’s time for people who support funding for bike trails and flood mitigation — just like people who would rather see such funding spent elsewhere — to start get vocal.


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