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Bemidji projects missing from Dayton bonding bill

No Bemidji area projects were included in Gov. Mark Dayton's $775 million bonding bill released Tuesday.

Bemidji had two projects for which it was seeking funding - building a new Lakeland Public Television station and securing funding for a new science center.

Lakeland Public Television CEO Bill Sanford was looking for about $3 million dollars to help build a new TV station to serve the region, but the station did not end up on the bill.

"It's a little bit disappointing, but not surprising," Sanford said. "I don't think it means our project is dead in the water by any means. When it comes down to conference time, I believe we'll get some work done."

Rep. John Persell, D-Bemidji, said he was a little surprised neither of Bemidji's requests was included in the bill, but there is still much work to be done.

"All I can say is that we're going to advocate to the best of our ability," Persell said. "We're just going to keep pushing."

Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, said that although the projects Bemidji was targeting are meaningful, they took a back seat to more pressing needs.

"They are worthwhile projects, but they don't fit necessity," Hancock said. "Those are desires. I think we need to take care of roads and infrastructure."

Area lawmakers agreed that infrastructure would be a top priority in the bonding bill.

Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, thinks the final bill will be somewhere in the $350-500 million range.

"Right now, given our revenues, we don't want our debt to exceed 3 percent of our revenues," Carlson said. "A lot of it is going to depend on what the February forecast is."

Bemidji State University had a $3.3 million capital budget request for business building addition and renovation, but it did not make the cut.

The project request included plans to renovate Memorial Hall into multi-use classrooms, demolish Maple Hall and Sanford Hall, renovate 58,500 square feet for business department space, replace HVAC and improve energy efficiency and eliminate $7.6 million of deferred maintenance backlog.

According to BSU Director of Communications and Marketing Andy Bartlett, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities office maintains a priority list for every request in the system. That list is then submitted to the governor's office.

Only the top 13 priorities were included in the bonding bill. The project request for BSU was the 15th priority on the list and was not included.

"It probably fell the way we expected," Bartlett said.