COVID-19 may have turned the world upside down but the Minnesota Legislature was still voting party lines on the bonding bill before it adjourned Tuesday from its second special session of 2020.
Needing six votes from Republicans on Monday for the super majority needed to pass the $1.8 billion bonding bill, the Legislature laid another egg. Republicans stood fast in their opposition to the bill which will fund improvement projects all over the state.
“We weren’t really surprised,” Fergus Falls City Administrator Andrew Bremseth said Tuesday. “The Republicans have said for a couple months that they won’t pass a bonding bill unless the governor gives up his emergency powers and he hasn’t.”
What the failure of the bonding bill vote means for Fergus Falls is another delay in the Downtown Riverfront Project. The city’s original request for appropriations in the bonding bill was scaled back in June from $2.65 million to $1.65 million.
Bremseth gave the Fergus Falls City Council an update on the downtown riverfront project at their June 15 meeting. He pointed out at the time that with the economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the unpredictability of bonding by the state Legislature, some reductions in the scope of the project would be prudent.
Revisions to the east block project included removal of the amphitheater, an elevated walk to Mill Street, the historic Kern Bridge, an enhanced splash pad and a restroom. City staff felt garage doors and three seasons heating elements related to the market structure should be bid as alternatives - meaning they could be included if the pricing proves favorable.
The Senate is still honoring the city’s $1.65 million appropriations request but in the House the Fergus Falls appropriation amount is set at $1 million.
Bremseth is optimistic that Gov. Tim Walz will call another special session in August and the bonding bill will have another shot at passing.
Bremseth also pointed out that the building season will be pretty much over by then. Any construction on a downtown riverfront project would be unlikely to take place before 2021.
Back in January, before the COVID-19 threat was declared a pandemic, Walz was in favor of the state borrowing more than $2 billion to invest in projects intended to improve public safety, infrastructure, safe and affordable housing, water quality, higher education and other areas of need around Minnesota.