Sen. Gene Dornink: Tours provide key insight into bonding projects

Published 6:07 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

Friends and neighbors,

This week, I joined with the other members of the capital investment committee to tour bonding projects in southwest Minnesota.

A bonding project is typically a local infrastructure upgrade paid for by money raised through the selling of bonds. This was our third trip as we go around communities across the state. The next tour will be in southeast Minnesota, including our district.

We have a lot of project proposals. In the legislature, we need to determine what is the normal responsibility of the state and what projects are a local responsibility.  Our tours will provide the opportunity for committee members to see and appreciate our communities. My hope is that we will get the opportunity to see the best projects and secure funding in the upcoming bonding bill.

In Albert Lea, we are seeking bonding funds to finish the final stages of the Fountain Lake restoration project, which started years ago. Fountain Lake is a distinct landmark in our community, and we must maintain it properly. It has been coined as the “Crown Jewel” of Albert Lea by many residents and it plays a vital economic role. Because the state agencies changed their requirements, Albert Lea and Austin must begin the process of designing and requesting funds for new Wastewater Treatment plants. They are requiring Albert Lea to reduce the phosphate coming from the treatment plant while ignoring the largest point source contamination, phosphate at the bottom of the lake. Until we address the phosphate that is already in the lake, it doesn’t make much sense to force our community to spend millions of dollars. This is another mandate the state tries not to pay for. Mandates from state agencies or the legislature should be funded because, in many cases, local governments are not allotted enough time to raise sufficient capital. It is a major stress on our communities and will take money away from other community projects.

I understand that as our community grows, water infrastructure must be updated but we need to do it with time, not mandates.  I am looking forward to working with local leaders and residents, as well as my colleagues in the legislature, to secure funding for these projects.

In Austin, we will be requesting funds for a wastewater treatment plant and the new Hormel Bioimaging Center. The wastewater treatment plant is long overdue. Local elected and appointed leaders have worked tirelessly to get final construction plans complete and submit all the necessary information to the state. The project has already begun, and this new round of funding will allow the plans to move forward. The Hormel Bioimaging center will greatly benefit the community, bringing economic rewards to our region and aiding the University of Minnesota in research.

In some of the other communities across our district, there are bonding requests to complete the Shooting Star Trail expansion/connection project, fund water infrastructure through the Cedar River Watershed, and fund a Riverland Community College renovation project (a Minnesota State priority). All of these will aid in expanding and improving our district. I will be working with the Capital Investment committee, of which I am a member, to get these projects funded and completed as soon as possible.

As always, I am here if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at sen.gene.dornink@senate.mn or call me at 651-296-5240.