On bonding prospects, mayor says it’s up to legislators

MARSHALL – Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said Friday that if a bonding bill comes out of the Capitol this year and the city’s regional amateur sports facility is left out, the prospects of the project getting bonding money in the future are basically slim to none.

“If there is a bonding bill, which everyone expects there will be, and we’re not in it, well, that’s it,” Byrnes said.

The city of Marshall has requested $4 million for the sports complex. Supporters of the $12.9 million, 80,000 square-foot sports complex have twice been denied $4 million bonding requests and also came up short last fall in an attempt to attain money from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, which was put in charge of divvying up $47.5 million to projects around the state.

The project made some significant progress earlier in the session when the House version of the Capital Investment bill included the $4 million for the sports complex as part of a substantial $858 million capital investment bill.

But despite being listed as the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission’s No. 1 priority heading into the 2013 legislative session, there is no guarantee the money will flow Marshall’s way.

“The reality is, even though there is a lot of local support, when it comes right down to it, if our legislators don’t support a bonding bill our project’s out,” Byrnes said.

Swedzinski wouldn’t say Friday whether or not he would support putting a bonding bill in play this year until he knows the size and scope of it. And with less than two weeks left in the session and a budget that still needs to be worked out, he’s not optimistic there will even be bonding this year.

“It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing,” said Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “It really depends on how large it ends up being and what projects are in it. Routinely, this is a budget year, and we’ll be lucky to get that done on time.”

The Minnesota Senate is likely to come up with a capital investment bill sometime next week.

“My gut feeling is we’ll probably see a bonding bill,” District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms said. “The question is, will they hold it to Capitol improvements or expand the investments to state infrastructure, the Capitol, educational institutions, and roads and bridges.”

Dahms declined to say if he would support a bonding bill this year, but said although this is not a traditional bonding year, if an agreement is reached by the House, Senate and the governor to bond, there will be a bill.

“The reality will start setting in Monday or Tuesday, then we’ll see,” said Dahms, R-Redwood Falls. “The Senate Tax Committee has put money in for work on the Capitol but are insisting they’re not going to have a bonding bill. The governor wants one, the DFL (leaders) in the House want one, the DFL (leaders) in the Senate say they don’t want one.”

“Right now we’re hearing conflicting stories, but there seems to be a lot of speculation there might not be (a bonding bill),” said District 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne. “At this stage, I’ve heard Majority Leader (Tom) Bakk say he really doesn’t see why we have to have a major bonding bill. So right now, there’s a chance there won’t be any additional bonding.”

That’s not good news for Marshall and projects – the sports complex and a driving track at the MERIT Center. Both buoyed by a .5 percent general sales tax and a 1.5 percent food, beverage and lodging tax that passed on the Marshall ballot Nov. 6. The measures for the MERIT Center and sports complex passed by 60 and 62 percent, respectively. The two local sales taxes would help pay for capital and operating expenses for the track and all or part of the costs of the new facilities at the sports complex. The sales tax applies to retail sales in the city of Marshall and does not apply to sales of motor vehicles.

The .5 percent sales tax went into effect April 1; the lodging tax will take effect on June 1, and the 1.5 percent food and beverage tax on July 1.

To that end, Byrnes said there is nothing more supporters of the project can do at a local level, and that it’s now up to local legislators.

“At the end of the day, if it’s going to happen, it’s really up to them,” Byrnes said. “They deserve all the credit. On the flipside, if it doesn’t happen, it’s because of their vote.”

Sen. Lyle Koenen said there is a possibility for a bonding bill to be ironed out this year.

“We’ve been working on a bonding bill for well over a month now,” said Koenen, DFL-Clara City. “I know they’re busy putting it together right now. There’s a lot of work to do, and the committees have been doing a lot of work to get their final decisions. I think it’s possible.”

Byrnes said the city will take another shot at bonding dollars next year if for some reason a bonding bill doesn’t come to fruition this year. But, “if you’re excluded this time, your prospects go down.”

City officials have said the sports complex will happen with or without bonding money, but “without the $4 million, the project will really not have the regional significance that it should,” said Byrnes.