My Community Funding Requests

Community Project Funding is an opportunity that allows Members of Congress to advocate for projects in their districts that will help constituents and provide a direct benefit to the quality of life. This allows Members to direct money in the most responsible way possible, instead of abdicating total allocation power to unelected bureaucratic officials. 

Transparency is of utmost importance to this process which is why below is a list of the projects I requested for Fiscal Year 2022 and all necessary transparency documents to accompany these requests.

It is an honor to serve northern Minnesota and to advocate for projects that will help support and improve our way of life!

The projects I have requested funding for are as follows

Project Name: U.S. Highway 8 Reconstruction
Project Location: 8-mile project in the cities of Chisago City, Wyoming and Forest Lake, MN
Project Sponsor: Chisago County
Requested Amount: $20 million
Member Certification Form

 

Project Name: Two Harbors Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements
Proposed Recipient: Two Harbors, MN
Address of Recipient:  522 1st Ave, Two Harbors, MN 55616
Requested Amount: $10 million
Member Certification Form
About the Project:

Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility include construction of a new activated sludge biological treatment system and mercury removal improvements. This includes new aeration basins, final clarifiers, biosolids treatment units, mercury filter backwash supply tank, operations and controls building, and associated electrical and controls equipment.

The project is needed to provide adequate treatment of sewage prior to discharge to Lake Superior. Much of the existing facility is at the end of its useful life and continued operation of the existing facilities puts Lake Superior at risk of contamination from release of untreated or partially treated sewage.

A local craft beer company has created a tremendous economic boom for Two Harbors. This economic growth that is helping create a vibrant and healthy North Shore community is threatened by the aging sewer plant infrastructure, the capacity limitations, and the ever-looming threat of a moratorium on new sewer connections.

Two Harbors is a small town and without funding assistance, the cost of the project would mean excessive user fee increases, which the community could not financially support.

Further, a recent effluent mercury limit has led to the installation of filters that cannot withstand existing loadings leading to unreliable treatment at the sewer facility resulting in bypass events. The improvements are necessary to protect Lake Superior and to provide reliable treatment to support local residents and businesses.

This project would not only support the local economy through the city's partnership a local brewery, but would also provide the city with the opportunity for possible future partnership with Silver Creek Township to help the Township solve their own wastewater treatment issues. The project would provide treatment capacity for a potential future connection of a portion of Silver Creek Township to the city's system which would eliminate failing septic systems that are currently polluting Lake Superior.

 

Project Name:  Little Falls Childcare Facility
Proposed Recipient: Little Falls, Minnesota
Address of Recipient: 100 7th Ave NE Little Falls, Minnesota 56345
Requested Amount: $1.5 million
Member Certification Form 
About the Project:

The City has been advocating for childcare providers, including providing multiple testimonies by the City Administrator for State legislative committees, and a special forum with Governor Tim Walz in 2019. The City continues to work with the Initiative Foundation, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, League of Minnesota Cities, Sourcewell, Community Development of Morrison County, First Children’s Finance and others to advocate for legislative funding to support providers and communities to help solve the crisis of childcare.  What they have discovered is there is no “silver-bullet” solution to this crisis, but a wide variety of options that need to be brought to the table to give existing providers the support, resources, and respect they need to continue to do this work and to provide the funding, creativity, and encouragement to create opportunities for new or expanding providers to operate within our community. 

There are several variables to increasing the available childcare slots in our community: capital facility costs, operating expenses, available childcare providers, and demand for childcare. As previously stated, they have a great need for childcare, and over the past 4 years they have addressed many of the variables; however, the lone variable that they have not been able to solve has been funding for the renovation or construction of a facility. The request for funding would be used to fulfill the variable of financing a facility. The site would be owned by the City of Little Falls, and access would be given to a provider or providers to use the space at no cost in the early years of operation so that they can get established. The City will work to create a partnership with a childcare provider to ensure there is access to reliable, affordable and quality childcare.

Access to reliable, affordable, quality childcare is the main barrier for parents in Little Falls seeking to enter the workforce. The community has a critical need for workers, and by increasing the availability of childcare, hundreds of capable, productive employees could enter the workforce. The community is poised for growth and improvement, but solving the childcare issue is a challenge that requires public-private partnerships and access to financial resources beyond what the City can provide on its own.

 

Project Name:  Pine County Broadband Expansion
Proposed Recipient: Pine County
Address of Recipient: 635 Northridge Dr NW, Suite 200, Pine City, MN 55063
Requested Amount: $7.435 million
Member Certification Form
About the Project:

Pine County, located in Minnesota Congressional District 8 is seeking funds to complete Broadband initiatives to underserved areas within Pine County, specifically census tract 9504. According to MN Compass, there are 4,835 people who live in census tract 9504 who will be supported by the broadband infrastructure project. The desire is to bring reliable, convenient, and affordable broadband to the 2440 households and businesses within census tract 9504. The project will also provide service to approximately 50 farms, St. Croix State Park, St. Croix State Forest, Pine Grove Academy, Mille Lacs Band Health and Human Services, Lake Country Homes, Pathfinder Village, St. Croix River Resort, Countryside Campground, Two Creeks Campground, 49’rs Training Camp, and many other small businesses and resort communities.

This census tract encompassed all the ingredients to be one of the worst areas hit medically and economically by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, given its high poverty and heavy reliance on the leisure and hospitality industry.

From an education standpoint, the lack of reliable technology resulted in many students not having the necessary technology to safely distance learn. Many families resorted to sitting in their cars in a parking lot to utilize a business free Wi-Fi, or even worse their children did not complete their assignments at all. And finally, the lack of technology has left many community members without the ability to utilize telehealth visits with their medical providers, leaving them to either miss appointments altogether or put themselves at risk to be in person.

Closing the gap for broadband services in the community is a high priority. Census Tract 9504 has historically been underserved, despite neighboring communities developing infrastructure. There are 2,440 household within Census Tract 9504 who will enjoy a better quality of life with reliable and affordable broadband service. The area will also be equipped to handle an expansion of commerce once the technology infrastructure is in place.

 

Project Name:  City of Virginia 2021/2023 Street and Infrastructure Improvements Project - Phase One, Stage Two
Proposed Recipient: City of Virginia, MN
Address of Recipient: 327 1st Street South, Virginia MN 55792
Requested Amount: $2 million
Member Certification Form
About the Project:

The City of Virginia Comprehensive Plan (2017) challenged City Leaders to “Review opportunities for multimodal transportation improvements enhancing access, walkability and aesthetics to primary thoroughfares in the Community”.  After the adoption of this Comprehensive Plan, the City took this challenge into consideration and identified that one of their top priorities was street repair and restoration –not only for vehicle traffic but for all modes of traffic.  At their regular Council meeting on November 26, 2019, the Virginia City Council ordered preparation of a Feasibility Report for the 2021 Street and Infrastructure Improvements project.    

During the preparation of the Feasibility Study, they identified the “worst road segments” and found that they exhibited alligator cracking, settlements in pavement, potholes, and serious deterioration of the surface.  All road surfaces are considered to be in “poor condition”.  Sidewalks (varying in width from 4-5 feet) are present in many areas but are also deteriorated, broken up, and heaving/settling and are not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. 

The curbs and gutters are cracked, heaved/settled, and chipped and do not properly facilitate the drainage. The storm sewer manholes, catch basins, and 12-inch to 18-inch diameter vitrified clay pipe (VCP) storm sewer pipe have also passed their design life. 

Many of the utility mains, pipes and connections to water and sanitary sewer are old and deteriorated.  In many instances, the utilities are beyond the intended life span of their original design and installation.  Inflow and infiltration was apparent due to the poor condition of storm water and sewer connections to the City mains.

The project is proposed to be completed in two separate phases that will occur in two separate stages.  Phase One, Stage 1 and Stage 2 will require all construction to occur in calendar years 2021 and 2022.

Proposed road segments for Phase One, Stage One, which are to be substantially completed in 2021, are:

  • 8th Avenue West from  8th Street South to 3rd Street South

  • 10th Avenue West from 3rd Street South to 2nd Street South

  • 3rd Street South from 9th Avenue W to 6th Avenue West

  • Pine Mill Court

Proposed road segments for Phase One, Stage Two, which are to be substantially completed in 2022, are:

  • 3rd Avenue West from 1st Street North to 2nd Avenue West 

  • Southern Drive from 14th Avenue West to 20th Street South

Proposed improvements to the roads include a full reconstruction of the subgrade, base, curb and gutter, ditching (where applicable), and surface. The roads will be surfaced with bituminous pavement. The overall width of the road will be designed to meet typical design standards. Perforated polyethylene (PE) drain tile pipe will be installed at the bottom of the road section to allow for subgrade and base drainage to help keep water out of the road bed and significantly reduce possible failures (i.e., settlement, heaving, cracking, etc.).

Sidewalks will be reconstructed to meet current ADA standards, including widths, grades, and accessible pedestrian ramps.  Utilities (storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and water main) will be upgraded to provide many years of continued service to the citizens of Virginia.

This is a priority to the City of Virginia residents as improved streets not only allow for better mobilization, but it also improves the appearance of the City, reduces repairs and maintenance costs, and instills a greater sense of pride when one can traverse a street safely. 

 

Project Name:  Minnesota Meat Cutting & Butchery Program Development
Proposed Recipient: AgCentric
Address of Recipient: 1830 Airport Road, Staples, MN 56479
Requested Amount: $3 million
Member Certification Form
About the Project:

The Minnesota State Northern Agricultural Center of Excellence (AgCentric) is an educational leader in connecting industry and education to meet the regions’ needs. AgCentric is housed at Central Lakes College and is one of eight Centers within Minnesota State.

This project has three major phases to bring about a meat cutting and butchery career pathways and service industry needs:

  • Phase 1: Form a comprehensive industry advisory that covers farm to plate including inspection agency considerations. Phase 1 task is to assess the current situation and provide guidance on program design that is comprehensive but also time sensitive to meet immediate industry needs. Additionally, facilities and processes need to adhere to food inspection standards as the product moves from the farm to plate.

  • Phase 2: Secure funding. Phase 2 commences as funding is provided to build out the existing facilities at to accommodate training. Hanging carcasses will be brought from farms and processed by enrolled students. Accommodations will include walk-in coolers large enough for up to 15 students and multispecies areas within the facility. The college has an industrial, fully-inspected kitchen to allow for the retail cuts side of the training. Funds will also allow the college to purchase processing equipment to allow multiple students to train simultaneously.

  • Phase 3: Develop and open new mobile processing trailer. AgCentric and Central Lakes College will partner with an organization that has established farmer relationships to develop and operate a mobile slaughter and processing unit, but keep it separate from the state college system. This unit will be utilized both by the training program and serve the region’s producers. There is a model of the partnership working in Montana: Montana recently partnered to purchase a USDA-inspected mobile slaughter unit as a part of their meat processing curriculum. Private entities in Minnesota also operate mobile slaughter units.

The needs study indicates that this program is needed to assure a more diverse network of meat cutters and local outlets for processing. The hands-on and entrepreneurial program design, short-term format and business ownership orientation will ensure that the program serves as a driver for economic growth within the District. While the meat processing “bottleneck” has long been recognized as a regional issue, the pandemic exacerbated the issue and clearly demonstrated both the negative economic impact and risk that the bottleneck poses to the industry and the region. The farmers experienced financial losses when animals could not be slaughtered in a timely manner, and in some cases were required to be desiccated all together.

 

Project Name:  Twin Ports Interchange Work Package #4 Garfield/I-535 Interchange
Proposed Recipient: MnDOT District 1 – Duluth         
Address of Recipient: 1123 Mesaba Avenue, Duluth, MN 55811
Requested Amount: $29.6 million
Member Certification Form
About the Project:

This project (Twin Ports Interchange Work Package #4 Garfield/I-535 Interchange) was part of the original Twin Ports Interchange project, which began the fall of 2020, and will be completed the summer of 2024. Due to a lack of funding, it was deferred until 2028. The original scope of the TPI project was to replace the main interchange of I-35, I-535 and US Highway 53 in addition to the interchange of I-535 and Garfield Avenue near the Port of Duluth. The project goals are to increase safety (the main interchange has the fourth highest crash rate of any MnDOT interchange), to replace aging infrastructure (the interchange was coming to the end of its life at the same time as the Blatnik Bridge) and to increase freight mobility.

In regard to freight mobility, the main interchange and the I-535/Garfield interchange are on the first and last mile to the Port of Duluth. There is a tremendous amount of oversize/overweight (OSOW) freight in and out of the port. They cannot travel on either interchange because of load restrictions and substandard geometry and are forced to travel city streets and county roads in order to leave or enter the port – causing increased time and cost, travel delays for the public and decreased competitiveness for the port. The main interchange is now being constructed and will be complete in 2024, but until the I-535/Garfield interchange is reconstructed, OSOW loads will not be able to directly access the interstate and will continue to leave Duluth on local roads. In addition, the project in totality was staged and designed to reconstruct the I-535/Garfield interchange with a complete closure of I-535 in conjunction with the main I- 35/I-535/USTH 53 interchange because I-535 is cut-off from I-35 as a result of the man interchange reconstruction. If this project is awarded funding in 2022, it can be reconstructed as currently staged and designed, will eliminate an additional two years of I-535 closure or restriction, will eliminate or minimize re-design/re-staging of the I- 535/Garfield project, will save approximately $14 million of inflation costs and allow OSOW loads to enter and leave the port directly on the interstate meeting the original TPI project goal of increasing freight mobility. This is currently the closest project to shovel ready in MnDOT's current program.

 

Project Name:  Trunk Highway (TH) 95 Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Rail Switch Relocation
Proposed Recipient: City of Cambridge, Minnesota
Address of Recipient: 300 Third Avenue NE, Cambridge, MN 55008
Requested Amount: $800,000
Member Certification Form 
About the Project:

The project relocates the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad switching equipment approximately one-half mile from its current location next to TH 95 in Cambridge. In its current location, switching activities block the BNSF rail crossing of TH 95 for extended periods of time.

Relocating the railroad switch is vital to the City of Cambridge. During switching operations, closures of the TH 95 rail crossing can last up to 45 minutes. With only two other locations for drivers to cross the BNSF rail line in Cambridge, the closures create gridlock. Approximately 15 trains travel through Cambridge each day. Closures are especially disruptive to public safety and emergency services, school buses, commuters, and freight providers. The switch relocation is the first phase of a project programmed for 2025 to reconstruct TH 95 in Cambridge.