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'We're 95 percent there': Events center funding included in House bonding bill

The Bemidji events center took another step toward reality as the House Capital Investment Bill was released on Monday, including $20 million in bonding funds for the project.

The events center also was in the bonding bill approved last week by the Senate Capital Investment Committee, which allotted the full $22 million toward the events center as requested.

"We got $22 million in the Senate and $20 million in the House," said Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji. "We're so close. This is huge."

The House committee announced its $1 billion bonding bill on Monday.

"We're 95 percent there," Moe said. "Who would have guessed that we'd be here just a few months ago?"

While Moe and Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, have been promoting the project to their colleagues throughout the legislative session, Moe said the support of the community has been invaluable.

"We couldn't have done it without that support," he said.

Area residents and project supporters have made multiple trips to the Capitol in the last few weeks to show their support, Moe said.

"And then a group of (Bemidji State University) students made a timely delivery last week of thousands of letters written by students," he said.

The House and Senate bonding bills will now go before both their respective legislative bodies for an up-or-down vote and will then be debated in a conference committee before getting another vote by the Senate and House.

Eventually, one legislative bonding bill will be sent to face its final hurdle: Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He could choose to approve the bonding bill, veto it in its entirely, or line-item veto certain projects in it.

Olson told the Pioneer on Friday that Pawlenty is against funding the project at this time - and also is not in favor of extending the half-cent sales tax that would fund the local portion of the facility's cost.

"I think it's important for the community to reach out to the governor's office and remind him of his prior support," Moe said.

Pawlenty previously has voiced support of the Bemidji events center, Moe noted, and was in favor of the $3 million that was given to the city last year for preliminary work and design plans.

Moe said no one but Pawlenty knows for sure what he thinks of the project at this time.

"I still have to take him at his original word," Moe said.

Funding for other local projects in the House bonding bill include:

-- Funds to complete the paving of the Paul Bunyan Trail from Walker to Guthrie.

-- $8.9 million for the Sattgast Building addition and renovation at Bemidji State University.

-- Funding for the science lab renovations at Bemidji State Nursing School.

-- Funding to help with the purchase of the former Bemidji High School site by BSU.