House to include Bemidji events center

ST. PAUL - With a sea of Bemidjians wearing red-and-black plaid sweaters knocking on doors, the Minnesota Legislature knows what Bemidji wants in state bonding this year.

ST. PAUL - With a sea of Bemidjians wearing red-and-black plaid sweaters knocking on doors, the Minnesota Legislature knows what Bemidji wants in state bonding this year.

"Go BSU!" House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, shouted as he spoke to about 80 Bemidji people who bused down to St. Paul for Bemidji Day at the Capital to plug Bemidji's bonding list--regional events center, Paul Bunyan Trail and academic improvements to Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College-Bemidji.

Sviggum reiterated his pledge that the House bonding will include $3 million in planning and design funds for a regional events center that will have BSU's NCAA Division I hockey program as a major tenant.

With long-time BSU men's hockey coach R.H. "Bob" Peters standing nearby, Sviggum said the rink in the completed events center should be called the "Bob Peters Ice Sheet."

It will be in the House bill, he said, "you can take it to the bank, I guarantee it." The comment brought a loud cheer from the Bemidji delegation, making the city's first-ever lobbying trip to St. Paul, as they headquartered in the Capitol's Great Hall. "It is the right thing to do."


The Senate bill crafted by the DFL doesn't include the regional events center, as well as $33.7 million for improvements to Duluth's convention center, both of which Sviggum said will be in the House bill.

"You will be taken care of in the House," Sviggum said.

He added that the bill would also include the $2 million sought to acquire land to complete the Paul Bunyan Trail in Bemidji, while the Senate bill gave $1 million. Gov. Tim Pawlenty's bill includes the events center, but no trails monies.

"It is appropriate and right for the Senate to reconsider its bill, and include the funding, Sviggum said. "Take the bonding bill off the table, go back and do the right thing."

But Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, disagreed, saying the House should do its bill and put it out to compare. And, he said, the GOP bill should also include what to cut to make room for the projects not in the Senate bill

"What is he going to take out to make room for them?" said Langseth, who also spoke to the Bemidji group. "The real big problem is the size of the Duluth request." Without it, it would be easier, he said. "You've got to shellac the whole higher education system, because that's where it would come from."

The Senate bill fully funds Minnesota State University and Colleges system requests, including that of BSU and Northwest Tech, while Pawlenty's bill does not, he said.

The measure will eventually be done in conference committee, but Langseth fears that the House will hold out until session's end.


House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, said he would support a bonding bill with the Bemidji regional events center, and credited Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, for his persistence. "Bemidji is a crucial, crucial regional center for us. You've got my pledge."

About 80 people - from business, education and government - fanned out through the Capitol and State Office Building to present Bemidji's bonding proposals directly to lawmakers. They couldn't be missed in their Bemidji Woolen Mills sweaters.

"Our presence and our visibility at the Capitol is getting a lot of attention," said Rich Seigert, whose team visited Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar. "People are stopping us and asking us. Our awareness is being accomplished."

John Ostrem's team visited Sen. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, a member of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, who said Bemidji's fallen projects will get consideration in conference committee.

"I came away feeling pretty optimistic," Ostrem said. "He was very familiar with the events center and the trails proposal. I was very happy with it."

Included in the lobbing was $700,000 to renovate BSU's Sattgast Hall, $2 million to acquire the old Bemidji High School property and $500,000 for construction technology labs at Northwest Tech.

Moe told the group that the lobby day "was the best day to be a legislator from Bemidji."

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer also spoke to the group, calling Bemidji "a beautiful city," and thanking the group for participating in democracy by coming to St. Paul to make their views known. "We all come from different perspectives and government is about sorting out our differences," the Republican Kjffmeyer said.


Also making short remarks to the group was Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. Both Moe and Ruud wore Bemidji sweaters Tuesday.

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