Publisher’s Perspective

By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune

Central Square will benefit from a $4 million included in the infrastructure package (or what is referred to as the bonding bill) by the state legislature this session.

It was the second year the proposal for Central Square improvements were included in a bonding bill, but no bonding bill was passed in last session.  It was welcome and big news that it was included this session and credit goes to a lot of people, but especially to Rep. Paul Anderson, who worked diligently on the issue since first introducing it a few years ago.

Rep. Anderson first brought the Minnesota House bonding committee to Glenwood to tour Central Square and to ask that it be considered for funding.  Once it was recommended for funding, Anderson stuck with it, making sure it was included despite  inevitable changes to the bill and the partisan wrangling over how much to borrow and how much goes where.

He kept in touch with the Central Square board, updating them about the progress through the legislature.  Through it all, he represented his district, making the state funds available here.  And, it was no easy task.

Early in the session it looked problematic to secure such funding for Central Square again this year.  Back in March, it was the Republicans who killed the massive infrastructure package, which requires a super majority and thus Republican votes.  It requires the bipartisan support  because it entails selling general obligation bonds.  Republicans at the time sought to use that leverage for bonding to get more tax cuts from DFL legislators. In the end, the Democrats said they would do a cash bill and do it without Republican support.  Then the Dems decided they weren’t going to fund projects in red districts and that meant lost project in much of rural Minnesota.

Fast forward to the end of the session and the state finally did get a bipartisan agreement on the bonding bill.  And Central Square’s funding was included the “cash portion of the bill, thanks to some political wrangling by Rep. Paul Anderson.  Republican support came around because of the need to provide funding to nursing homes throughout the state.

The agreement included $1.5 billion in bonding and $1.1 billion in cash for infrastructure projects around the state. Republicans would be able to use all of the $300 million for nursing homes, or all or part of it could be used for other GOP infrastructure projects, according to the agreement.

“We’ve put partisanship aside and made sure that if we’re going to save one thing, we’ve got to make sure that we save our nursing homes,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said at a news conference last week.

Here in Pope County, we’re elated that Central Square received the funding and that our Minnewaska Area Schools stepped up to help provide a way to seek that funding.  What started as a bit of a dream to get state funding to renovate Central Square turned into a large community effort with the school district, the county, the city and the Central Square board and supporters coming together.  And then Rep. Anderson and Sen. Torrey Westrom stuck with it to deliver a positive result.

There are many to thank, but space doesn’t allow.  See the story on the front page for information on key players.