District 1 State Sen. Johnson says both projects are worthy of state funding

    The Minnesota Senate’s 2018 $825 million capital investment/bonding proposal contains $3 million that would, when matched by $3 million raised in a funding drive, construct a new, 30,000 square foot North Country Food Bank headquarters on Crookston’s north end, and $3.2 million for classroom renovations in Owen and Dowell halls on the University of Minnesota Crookston campus.

    District 1 State Sen. Mark Johnson, an East Grand Forks Republican, announced the inclusion of funding for the local projects on Friday.

    The similarly sized Minnesota House bonding proposal previously released also includes $3 million for NCFB and funding for UMC classroom projects.

    Johnson said both Crookston proposals are worthy of state investment.

    “The impact of the North Country Food Bank’s fight against hunger is extensive across northwestern Minnesotan communities,” Johnson said. “Having visited their current food bank, its striking to see how much they do from an unassuming old creamery. I’m excited to see the project get underway and am sure this will ease the burden and expense of getting food to those in need.”

    Currently, Johnson continued, NCFB operates out of leased space that was not designed to manage as large or complex of an operation as they have. This has resulted in significant limitations on dry and cold food storage, truck access, the inability to conduct product repackaging, and more, he said.  

    As for UMC’s needs, Johnson said Owen and Dowell halls are in need of updates.

    “Owen and Dowell Halls were designed and built back before the campus had such significant research mission. The current facilities are in dire need of repurposing to create a functional modern classroom and lab space,” he said. “Having visited the facilities on multiple occasions, I’ve seen how cramped and terribly outdated some of these labs are for researchers and students. I’ve also seen what the U of M Crookston has proposed to do with a little capital support and I’m excited for them to have the opportunity to transform these spaces into better educational environments. I only hope the governor will now sign it.”

    The current buildings are starting to show their age as the 1950s-era construction struggles to support students today, Johnson continued. With the lower quality construction, the University has struggled primarily with the aging HVAC systems in these buildings, he said, and overall maintenance costs are starting to rise to the point where a full renovation makes sense.

    The renovations would consist of the following:

    • Owen Hall-  Renovations for a modern chemistry and biology labs and a multi-purpose teaching lab. The chemistry and biology labs will provide working space for up to 30 students to work with faculty on research projects. A 1970 renovation will allow for a high-bay addition to be converted into chemistry and biology teaching labs.

    • Dowell Hall- Renovations to support science teaching, under graduation research and teacher education. The reform will fix the failing parts of the facility of the building, allowing the university to provide more engaging classrooms.