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Wait-and-see time for local projects

July 10, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

By Per Peterson

MARSHALL - Denied bonding dollars from the Legislature this session for a proposed regional amateur sports complex and expansion of the MERIT Training Center, the city of Marshall is hoping to find its pot of gold at the end of a different rainbow and has submitted its applications to acquire funding from a Department of Employment and Economic Development grant program.

The deadline for cities to submit applications for the funding was Monday afternoon. Officials at DEED will now sort through the roughly 90 proposals that came in by the deadline. DEED plans to announce the selected projects within the next couple of months.

"We submitted both (projects) a couple of weeks ago and resubmitted them on Friday with some updated information on it; it's the same dollar amount we had asked for originally," said Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig.

The city of Marshall this year requested $4 million in bonding dollars for the proposed sports complex and $2.5 million for MERIT center expansion. The $496 million bonding bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton this year left both off the list, but it did include a separate $47.5 million for economic development projects across Minnesota.

However, there are no guarantees on who will get the money. In fact, smaller cities like Marshall will have plenty of high-profile competition for a piece of the DEED pie.

The city of St. Paul, for example, has been approved by its city council to pursue a $27 million chunk of that money to help fund a new St. Paul Saints stadium. Plus, there are other cities looking for money for their projects.

"There are a number of very large projects looking for this money," Martig said. "I'm kind of surprised one of them thrown in there is for light rail projects - those are really big dollar amounts. We have reason for optimism because I think there will be some monies dedicated to greater Minnesota."

The state will consider a number of criteria when poring over grant applications and choosing the winners, such as job creation and retention and how a project will affect the local tax base.

Residents of Marshall will vote in November on local sales taxes that would go toward the proposed sports facility and MERIT center upgrades. The taxes would help pay for the construction and operating expenses of the proposed $12.9 million sports center, as well as a driving track at the MERIT Center.

The ballot question will go before the city council for approval at tonight's council meeting.

Martig said getting more funding for the MERIT center could be a bit more challenging because that project has already been awarded funding in the past.

The Legislature approved $300,000 in bonding for the MERIT Center in 2008 and $1 million of a $2.14 million request in 2010.

That same year the MERIT Center received a $100,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for an ethanol prop.

"I think we did a nice job of putting together a strong proposal," Martig said. "We should rank pretty well, but it all depends on the competition we're up against."

Martig said if the city is denied the DEED money and goes back to the Legislature again in 2013, it would fare better if the local vote goes in its favor and it has that dedicated source of money.

Not having that dedicated money, Martig said, is something that could work against Marshall.

Proponents of the projects tout the potential economic benefits the city of Marshall would reap from the new facilities and say out-of-town residents, not just those who live in Marshall, will contribute to the new tax base.



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