Dayton releases initial bonding proposal, and it does not include $3M for new NCFB facility in Crookston

    Members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee, which tours the state each year along with their colleagues from the same committee in the House to see which capital investment requests are most worthy of inclusion in the legislature’s capital investment “bonding bill,” will be in Crookston Wednesday afternoon to visit North Country Food Bank and the University of Minnesota Crookston.

    State Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, will accompany the committee.

    For the food bank, the request that dates back three years for $3 million to be matched by $3 million in fundraising to construct a new facility on Crookston’s north end remains. The NCFB currently has offices and warehouse space on North Broadway downtown and a larger warehouse in the city’s industrial park, but a growing demand for services and increased partnerships in the 21-county region it serves have resulted in a major space crunch. A parcel of land further up on North Broadway, adjacent to Agassiz Townhomes currently under construction, has been donated for the eventual construction of a new NCFB facility.

    “We are very excited to have the Senate Capital Investment Committee come and visit the food bank. It gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how our facility creates a huge challenge in our pursuit to make sure neighbors struggling with hunger have access to food in northwest and west central Minnesota,” NCFB Executive Director Susie Novak told the Times. “We hope to gain strong support and to have our building project included in the bonding bill this spring. This would make us eligible for $3 million in bonding funds, which is half of the total $6 million project cost.”

    Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton released his initial public works bill Wednesday, and it does not include among its $1.5 billion in projects statewide $3 million for North Country Food Bank. But, Dayton’s announcement indicates, his initial proposal could change. Funding for NCFB is included on a list with other project requests totaling $857 million that are not included in Dayton’s bill as of now, but could be later, his office indicates. “Though not part of his public works proposal, Governor Dayton believes that these projects merit state investments, and looks forward to working with the Minnesota Legislature to include many of them in a final bill during the 2018 Legislative Session,” his announcement states.

    Included in Dayton’s initial public works bill is $10.5 million to build modern chemistry and biology labs in the U of M Crookston’s Owen Hall. (A portion of that money would also be spent on similar projects on the Duluth and Morris campuses.)

    Andrew Svec, UMC director of communications, marketing and public relations, tells the Times that the project involves renovating 4,000 square feet in Owen Hall that would provide more flexible and modern lab space for up to 30 students and support independent undergraduate research.

    UMC’s request also include optimizing 9,500 square feet in Dowell Hall with lab stations for 122 students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, computational research, and teacher education. That project is not specifically mentioned in Dayton’s narrative regarding University of Minnesota system funding in his bonding proposal.

    The U of M and its campuses in Crookston and elsewhere also seek Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) dollars for maintenance, repair and improvement projects on system campuses, and Dayton’s proposal includes $243 million for such projects, with funding to be spread out to cover projects on all of the system campuses.

    At UMC, Svec said, among the HEAPR projects is window replacement in Dowell Hall.