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HIBBING, Minn. – As it considers projects for a 2018 public works bonding bill, the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee toured northeastern Minnesota last week, including several stops in Hibbing. Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL – Hibbing), who joined the committee for these visits, called on the Legislature to pass a robust package of capital improvements next year, including those proposed for the Iron Range.
“Taking care of our public infrastructure is one of our key responsibilities as a Legislature, and many of these projects strengthen communities while creating good-paying jobs,” Rep. Sandstede said. “With so many needs throughout the state, we’re still playing catch-up to a large degree, so next year it’s important to pass a bill that’s both sizable and balanced addressing needs throughout the state including those in our region.”
In Hibbing, the committee visited the Range Regional Airport, the DNR Drill Core Library, and Hibbing Community College. They also visited other sites such as the Split Rock Lighthouse, Black Beach in Silver Bay, Mesabi Range College and the recently completed Highway 53 project in Virginia.
One potential project the committee didn’t have on its agenda was the Range Regional Health and Wellness Center, a proposed facility to be owned and operated by the city of Hibbing. The $20 million center – half the cost of which would be covered by the city – would include physical therapy rooms, a gymnasium, educational program space, locker rooms, an aquatic center and multiple outdoor sporting fields. A partnership between the city and a health care provider such as Fairview or Essentia is also possible, similar to the wellness center project in Hermantown.
Rep. Sandstede has drafted legislation for the state’s half of the construction costs through bonding and is hopeful meaningful progress can be made on the proposal soon.
“Families in Hibbing and the surrounding area don’t have access to any integrated space like this where they can take advantage of activities, programs, and high-quality facilities to improve their health and wellbeing,” Rep. Sandstede said. “As we put forth a vision to keep and attract families to our region, a wellness center is just one piece of the puzzle. I’m confident local leaders can see the urgency of identifying a site in the very near future so plans can be developed and design can begin, and then the community can make a strong case to the Capital Investment Committee. Otherwise, I fear this wonderful opportunity could be missed.”
Statewide, requests totaling $3.2 billion from state agencies and local units of government have been submitted for consideration in the bonding bill, many of which are contingent on local matching funds. Each of these will compete for inclusion in a final bonding bill likely in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Its passage requires a supermajority vote in both houses of the Legislature as well as the governor's signature.
The 2018 legislative session convenes on February 20.
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