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House Capital Investment Committee to hear $28 million in local bonding requests

Bemidji area state bonding requests nearing $28 million will be heard his week by a Minnesota House panel.

The House Capital Investment Committee, on a tour throughout northern Minnesota this week, will hear Bemidji requests Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Topping the list of requests is $13 million to design and construct a new Headwaters Science Center, a $26.1 million project.

"Our highest legislative priority continues to be finding the best, most effective ways for state government to help create a positive environment for job growth and economic recovery," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, panel chairwoman.

"There is broad consensus by economists, business leaders and policy-makers that bonding projects have some of the greatest potential to stimulate the economy, disrupt a downward economic spiral and help get people back to work," she said.

The state Management and Budget Department reports that it has received $619.1 million in requests from local governments, involving 145 projects.

The panel arrives about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday to Bemidji State University to have dinner and tour newly completed construction at Sattgast Hall, plus hear BSU's bonding requests.

At 7:30 p.m., also at Sattgast Hall, the panel will hear requests from the city of Bemidji, Beltrami County and Leech Lake Tribal College.

On Thursday morning, the panel will drive by the site for a proposed Paul Bunyan Trail bridge before hearing the Headwaters Science Center pitch at 7:45 a.m. at the center.

The $26.1 million project is asking for $13 million in state bonding for pre-design, design, acquire land, construction, furnishing and equipping the new science center.

HSC "provides activities and exhibits that introduce lay persons and children to basic ideas in science," states the bonding request.

The center's current site "has two major problems: a lack of accessibility and a total lack of dedicated parking."

BSU is requesting $3.4 million for pre-design and design of a business building and demolition of three buildings on campus. It would ask for $17.9 million in 2014 bonding to complete the $21.4 million project.

The current BSU Business Department is housed in a reconstituted dining hall, and it is desired to move the operations to the heart of the campus.

The work would see the demolition of Decker and Sanford halls, plus the demolition of Maple Hall, a residential hall. Memorial Hall would be renovated to include Student Life activities, and Upper Hobson Memorial Hall would be renovated to house the new business school offices and classrooms.

The campus bookstore would also be moved to a more visible location.

The project is on the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities priority list, ranking 27th of 31 bonding items.Typically, the Legislature doesn't go any further than the top 10 or dozen projects.

Bemidji State is also requesting $2 million for acquiring the old Bemidji High School property at 15th Street, repaying the BSU Foundation. The request has been made several times in the past.

The city of Bemidji is asking for $1 million for the Paul Bunyan State Trail Bridge over Paul Bunyan Drive, to be added to another $1 million in federal funds for the $2 million project.

Beltrami County is requesting $1.99 million in state bonding for its $3.98 jail efficiency project. The work would upgrade the 25-year-old jail with new technology and some renovation.

The county is also making a request for its Beltrami County Regional Shooting Sports Center in Eckles Township, but the bonding request has not yet been submitted to the Management and Budget Department.

The first phase of the shooting sports park is $1.57 million and a second phase is estimated at $6.14 million. The park would provides shooting ranges for youth and adults, and for law enforcement. A building would also house the local shooting club, relocated from Bemidji Regional Airport property.

The Leech Lake Tribal College is also presenting to the House panel, but it too doesn't yet have a formal request filed with the state agency responsible for compiling capital bonding requests.

Beyond Bemidji, the Red Lake School District is requesting $25.2 million to complete renovations to the Red Lake Middle School/High School complex.

After leaving Bemidji, the panel will stop in Walker to hear requests of $21 million for the city's proposed hospital at the former Ah-Gwah-Ching site, and funding for a connection between the Paul Bunyan State Trail and Heartland State Trail.

Typically, even-numbered years in the biennial legislative session are devoted to capital investment, or bonding bills. Hausman, one of three chairs of the House Jobs Task Force, expects there may be as many as $3 billion in bonding requests submitted to the committee next year, noting that Gov. Tim Pawlenty's agencies alone have submitted more than $2 billion in requests already.

That makes the tours extremely important for the committee to begin setting priorities about which projects may eventually be included in a final bonding bill, Hausman said.

"Labor-intensive projects that have the ability to get underway quickly -- what we call paint-brush and shovel-ready -- will receive additional consideration this year," said Hausman. "In addition to job-creating potential, we'll also consider the statewide and regional significance of the projects, as well as their short and long-term prospects to strengthen Minnesota's competitive edge."

This week's tour via a bus includes Duluth, Brainerd, Moose Lake, Bemidji, the Iron Range and other parts of the region.