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Danielle Nordine and Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published May 09 2012

Minn. bonding bill could expand Moorhead flood control

ST. PAUL – A plan to borrow $500 million for public works projects – potentially including money to expand flood-control projects in Moorhead – is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it into law.

The Minnesota Legislature approved a public works borrowing bill, which includes money for flood prevention, transit, infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges and other needs. Nearly $200 million of the proposal goes to state-run colleges and universities and $44 million to Capitol renovations.

The House voted 97-33 Tuesday to agree to slight changes to the bill the Senate made when members approved it Monday.

The bill includes almost $50 million that the state Department of Employment and Economic Development can hand out for economic development projects. Bill author Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said it could be used for projects such as those often in the bonding bill, including civic centers that were not in this year’s bill.

Howes said the funding pool will provide a good opportunity for those throughout the state, especially in greater Minnesota, to find funds for projects. But Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, called it a “$50 million slush fund.”

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said there were many “meritorious” projects proposed, but “we’re trying to keep this bill within the confines of $496 million.”

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said they did “pretty well” setting up the bill given the Republicans’ desired spending cap. He said the piece that is most important for northwestern Minnesota is the $30 million for flood control.

“This will go a long way to help Moorhead and other communities to finish up their flood control projects,” Langseth said.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said Langseth “is thinking there is a possibility we could get about $11.5 million,” which would be used to expand the city’s permanent flood mitigation projects such as buyouts and dike construction.

If the city receives more money, it will complete the final projects in a seven-phase plan it created last fall to protect homes to 42.5 feet. The city has already received $16.5 million from the state’s Department of Natural Resources which it used to buy out homes and build permanent protection in the low parts of the city.

The bill allotted $20 million for maintenance and facilities project at Minnesota State College and University schools – $90 million less than the system had sought.

That means Minnesota State University Moorhead, which had requested about $6 million for projects like roof replacement, boiler replacement, and storm water distribution, will probably get about $2 million instead.

Jan Mahoney, the university’s vice president for finance and administration, said the lower amount wasn’t surprising given the current political climate.

“We’ve always asked for more than what we traditionally have gotten,” she said.

Forum reporters Marino Eccher and Wendy Reuer contributed to this report.

Danielle Nordine reports for Forum Communications Co.