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Senate Bonding Committee to visit Duluth

It's been two years since the Senate and House Capital Investment Committees visited the Duluth area to tour bonding projects and hear requests. In even-numbered legislative years, the Legislature spends a considerable amount of time sifting through hundreds of requests to fund infrastructure projects across Minnesota.

In 2014, the Legislature invested $1.1 billion. Duluth fared well. Projects at Spirit Mountain, University of Minnesota Duluth, Wade Stadium and the NorShor Theatre totaled $19 million.

This session, there is a new slate of project requests. The Senate bonding committee will be touring and listening to these requests when members visit Duluth on Sept. 15.

The Duluth Airport Authority has made an important request of $11.5 million for two separate projects. The first calls for reconstructing and extending the crosswind runway at the Duluth International Airport. The goal is to accommodate the needs of the local 148th Fighter Wing and commercial passenger traffic. Also, the airport's main runway will undergo complete reconstruction over the next several years. The authority is requesting $10 million for this project.

The second project calls for realigning one of the runways at Duluth Sky Harbor so that nearby old-growth red and white pine trees are protected, and required visibility for planes landing and departing is maintained. The authority is requesting $1.5 million to complete this project.

The Lake Superior Zoo is back for another round of requests. This time the zoo seeks $3.8 million to convert its Polar Shores exhibit, which was destroyed during the 2012 floods, into an amphitheater. The zoo wants to transform the space into a special-events center that could host a variety of private and public functions including small concerts, educational programming and fundraising events.

This is project is important to me and, likewise, to many Duluthians. The 2012 floods were a real blow to the city and the zoo is still working hard to fully recover. This bonding request will help the zoo turn a vacant exhibit into a new, energetic center at the heart of the facility.

The bonding committee will also visit Glensheen Mansion. Glensheen is a cultural gem and statewide asset, with more than 95 percent of its visitors coming from outside of Duluth. This cultural and historic asset has several critical maintenance repairs and is the definition of a bricks-and-mortar project. The kitchen porch is pulling away from the main house, the fountain garden and terraces are subsiding and the boathouse needs reconstruction.

I also strongly support the Duluth Boat Club's proposal to create the first public water-recreation activity facility in Duluth, on Park Point. The club is requesting $1.5 million for the first phase which includes a floating dock, a walkway, a plaza and kayak storage. We live in a city on the greatest lake in the world and Duluth is overdue for a bonding project like this.

The committee is also visiting Duluth Energy Systems, which is requesting $25 million to renovate and upgrade its municipal steam facility and systems.

The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) is also requesting $13.5 million to design and build a combined heat-and-power system for the wastewater treatment facilities. The system would create biogas, which keeps regional wastewater treatment costs stable and contributes to the state's renewable energy goals with clean, cost-effective energy.

Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate.

Roger Reinert

Roger Reinert is a Duluth resident.