New and renovated buildings at Minnesota state academies for people with disabilities and improvements to the Minnesota Security Hospital are among the projects included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2014 bonding bill. Dayton announced his recommendations in January. The bonding bill is expected to be a key focus of the 2014 legislative session, which began February 25. The bonding bill is being reviewed as many legislators would like to get their districts’ projects included.
The 27-page bill covers more than $1 billion in projects statewide. Cities, counties, state departments and other groups submitted their requests in 2013. The submittals topped the $2.8 billion mark, so many proposals didn’t make the cut. It sometimes takes several attempts before a bonding request is funded, so many proposals are repeat submissions.
One key request is for $63 million for the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center—including $56.3 million to design, construct, furnish and equip new residential, program and activity facilities at the upper campus of the Security Hospital in St. Peter. This will allow for better services for the civilly committed patients and greater safety for patients and staff. It is part of a long-range strategic plan for the facility.
The St. Peter Regional Treatment Center’s Minnesota Sex Offender Program would receive $7.405 million to design, remodel and construct, furnish and equip existing buildings on the center’s lower campus to make them useable for the sex offender treatment program.
In the St. Peter Herald newspaper, Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL – North Mankato) said that the funding is one of his top priorities. “The people in the know— the folks who work there—have been telling me about how we need to re-invest in the facility,” said Johnson. “To them, it is about providing the safest place possible for employees and the patients. The need for these improvements became more apparent recently when the hospital reported its first homicide in 30 years.”
Another high-profile project is replacement of Frechette Hall, the boys’ dormitory on the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) campus in Faribault. The building was built in 1967 and is named for Edward Frechette. Frechette began working at MSAD in 1906 as a house parent, and was well-liked by students and faculty.
Dayton is proposing $6.5 million toward demolishing and replacing Frechette Hall. The rest of the recommended $1.65 million allocation would be used for converting other campus space into living quarters during the dormitory construction period. MSAD has estimated costs at $810,000 for 2014 and $9.9 million for 2015.
Frechette Hall has been criticized for its design. The building has poor lighting, which creates problems for students and staff communicating with American Sign Language (ASL). Dormitory rooms are small and there is limited gathering and activity space. The building needs new heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and is not very energy-efficient. The new dormitory would include study rooms, meeting spaces and social areas where students could interact. It would also be designed for ease of ASL use.
This is not MSAD’s first request for funding for Frechette Hall. Funds were allocated previously for building design. It went through two design processes as the first process resulted in plans that were deemed too costly.
In 2011, MSAD sought state funding to remodel the dormitory. The request was also in the supplemental bonding bill that was brought forward but not passed in 2013.
One MSAD project Dayton didn’t include is $1.5 million to complete renovation of Pollard Hall, a second boys’ dormitory. Funding was requested to complete a renovation project which began five years ago. Work on Pollard Hall would include replacement of heating, ventilation and cooling systems. Another MSAD request that wasn’t approved was for $15,000 for a feasibility study to determine if an older, unused building on the campus could someday become a museum and employment center.
Dayton has proposed $2 million for asset preservation projects at MSAD and at the State Academy for the Blind, also in Faribault. If this request is funded, it would focus on projects that would provide energy savings, security upgrades, and infrastructure replacement and restoration.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services would receive $70.722 million if all of Dayton’s recommendations are approved. DHS is also recommended for $4 million, to make improvements to state facilities around Minnesota.
Dayton is also recommending $40 million for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA). This funding would be used to build or rehabilitate housing, including permanent supportive housing. The MHFA would allocate the funding on a statewide basis.
Some of the governor’s project recommendations include making facilities accessible for persons with disabilities, including $6.95 million to the Duluth Economic Development Authority. This money would be used to make the newly renovated NorShor Arts Center accessible to people with disabilities. The total project cost is more than $22 million.
Hennepin County would receive $3.75 million for St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development.
The state funding would go toward a $12 million facilities replacement project for the center, which serves more than 2,000 children each year. St. Louis County would receive $2 million toward a $20 million office building. The building would be shared by Range Mental Health and the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency.