Hope for MERIT Center with amendment

MARSHALL – Amendments to the House’s construction package that was released Wednesday will potentially bring more statewide projects into the fold and include funding for proposed expansion at the MERIT Center in Marshall.

District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said Wednesday he is authoring a portion of the amendment that would allocate $1.5 million for the MERIT Center.

The amount is less than what has been requested in the past, but Swedzinski said he didn’t want the final number to exceed funding requests for two other training center projects in Cottage Grove and Maplewood. Those two projects did make the House’s original proposal.

“We wanted to be in-between those two projects,” Swedzinski said. “There were projects from around the state and some stuff from the suburban area that were left out of the bill.”

The original $850 million House bill (the total bill amounts to $975, but $125 million in cash will be drawn from the budget surplus) included $4.292 million for the Southwest Minnesota Regional Amateur Sports Center and $20 million for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.

“This bill more accurately reflects the agreement that was previously made,” Swedzinski said. “We’re pushing it forward in committee and hope to get it amended. It’s a broad-spectrum amendment; there were some good projects left out of the bill. This bill puts more good priorities through.”

The sport center project was included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s $986 million Capital Investment package for the 2014 session that was released in January. The MERIT Center was left off Dayton’s list. Supporters of the MERIT Center want to build a driving track and classrooms that could be used for both emergency response and civilian training.

The MERIT Center secured $1 million in bonding in 2010.

Both the sports center and MERIT Center will be partially funded through new local sales taxes that went into effect in 2013.

The Senate has yet to release its construction package.