Bonding needs looked at

Virginia Fire Chief Allen Lewis gives a tour of the city's 100- year-old fire hall to a group of state representatives touring the area doing research for the upcoming state bonding session.

IRON RANGE — The Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee toured the region to prepare for bonding legislation in 2020 and show the needs acros the area.

Tour stops on the Iron Range included Aurora, Eveleth and Virginia on Wednesday. Thursday, the group was in Chisholm and Hibbing.

Wednesday, Rep. Dave Lislegard led the tour. Lislegard was previously the mayor of Aurora before being elected to the 6B House Representative seat. Using his knowledge of the area towns, Lislegard guided the group as well as added information necessary to bonding decisions.

“I am honored to welcome the House Capital Investment Committee to the Iron Range,” said Lislegard over the phone Wednesday. “It was important for committee members to see first-hand the projects that are so critical to our communities and region. My deepest appreciation goes to those who took the time to travel the state to better understand the needs of, not only our communities and region, but the state as a whole. My hope is that we all come together in the upcoming session to pass a strong robust bonding bill that invests in the people and state of Minnesota.”

Throughout the conversation, Lislegard stressed that he will be fighting for our region to get the bonding it needs and he thanks the communities for this crucial support.

“My heart is for these projects,” said Lislegard, “for this region.”

Wednesday, the group visited Aurora to discuss the East Mesabi Joint Water System; Eveleth to discuss aging public buildings; Virginia to discuss the aging Fire Hall and a new Regional Fire, Emergency Medical Services and Public Safety Facility; and finally, Mesabi Range College.

Thursday, Rep. Julie Sandstede was to lead the tours in her legislative region.

On Thursday, the group was to visit the Chisholm Public Safety Building, Chisholm Sports Arena, Hibbing Mine View and the Canisteo Mine Pit (located in Bovey).

According to the press releases from both Lislegard and Sandstede, “In the 2020 session, House DFLers will announce a robust, regionally-balanced bonding bill to invest in infrastructure, protect the vitality of local economies, and create jobs based on the projects they toured.”

About 20-30 people participated in touring the region with the House Capital Investment Committee.

Aurora

The regional, ongoing water project was the focus on the group’s tour of Aurora.

“We have a bonding request in for our water project with the Town of White and the secondary hook ups with Hoyt Lakes and Biwabik,” said Aurora City Administrator Becky Lammi over the phone Wednesday. “The group will be stopping at the water plant.”

In addition to the touring group, city staff and council members of Aurora, Town of White and project engineers, SEH, will be on hand. After an informational discussion, a tour was given of the Aurora water plant.

“I hope that they see the condition of our facility and how much this is needed- this project is imperative to our region,” said Lammi. “We requested $6.1 mil for the 2020 bonding cycle. The project total is $17.2 mil. We’ve already received $2.5 mil from state of Minnesota general obligation bonding, already.”

A general obligation bond is a one-to-one match. The project needs to be fully funded before that money can be accessed.

Eveleth

The aging government buildings were addressed during the group’s stop in Eveleth.

“We’ve submitted a capital bonding request for government buildings,” said City Administrator Jackie Monahan-Junek over the phone Wednesday. “The total project cost is $2.04 million, of which the city is matching half.”

The government buildings toured by the group included Eveleth City Hall, the Police Department, Library, Fire/Ambulance Hall, Hippodrome and the Auditorium.

“I think it’s great,” commented Monahan-Junek of the Eveleth stop.

Virginia

The group toured the Virginia Fire Hall and discussed the building of a public safety building.

“The 112 year old fire station has outlived its role as a regional fire and ambulance service hub,” said Virginia Fire Chief Allen Lewis over the phone Wednesday. “We need a new public safety facility that will serve as a workplace, training space and home for fire service and EMS.”

Following facility tours, the group participated in several presentations including one by Lewis.

During his presentation, Lewis explained, the Virginia team services much more than just the 17 square miles of city proper. They regularly service 640 square miles across the region and even work up to over 1,000 square miles, if requested.

The presentation argues for bonding support for the Public Safety Building.

“Half of the time we receive a 911 call it requires our ambulance to be sent outside the city.” Lewis explained that they are a regional department and the current facilities do not meet the needs of the community or department.

Planning work has begun on a proposed Public Safety Building which has an estimated total cost of $25 million. Bonding funds are being requested for this project in 2020.

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