MARSHALL - A request for funding for the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training Center in Marshall fared no better than the proposed regional sports complex in the Minnesota Senate's proposed bonding bill, MERIT Center Board Chairman Stan Brewers said. A request for $2.5 million to help expand the MERIT Center and build a driving track was not included in the bonding proposal released Wednesday.
Brewers said from the time he saw the Minnesota House's proposed bonding bill didn't include the MERIT Center's request, "I knew our chances were pretty slim. There are a lot of good projects out there."
But while it may be a setback, Brewers said the Legislature's decision will not keep the expansion project from moving forward.
The Legislature approved $1 million in bonding money for the MERIT Center in 2010, and the Center has received grant funding as well. The Center has finished construction of a new wind tower training prop, and the land to build a driving track has already been acquired, Brewers said. He said he's remaining optimistic that the state could still award at least part of MERIT's request in its final bonding bill.
"Until the gavel falls, it's not over," he said. "Even if we get a little bit of funding, it's better than nothing."
The driving track would be an addition to the MERIT Center that could be used for a number of training purposes, from law enforcement and emergency response training to driver's license testing, supporters say.
There will be another major milestone ahead for the MERIT Center project, Brewers said. The November vote on a Marshall city sales tax will be "extremely important for our project," as well as for the proposed sports center, he said. The local taxes would help provide funds for the project without placing the tax burden solely on Marshall property owners.
Brewers said a public information campaign on the MERIT Center expansion would be forthcoming before November.
"We really wanted to see what the Legislature was going to do first," he said.
An open house for the MERIT Center is planned for May 26.