Funding for a plethora of projects in Otter Tail County and Fergus Falls have been funded after the state legislature passed and Gov. Tim Walz signed the 2023 bonding bill that had been held up in a previous legislative session.
Fergus Falls city administrator Andrew Bremseth said the city not only got what they were hoping for, but wound up exceeding their expectations.
“We thought a bonding bill was off the table, but thanks to the hard work and persistence of Senator Jordan Rasmusson, we are pleased this session concluded with several wins for our community,” said Bremseth.
“Sen. Rasmusson serves as a strong voice for our community at the Capitol and championed our local projects to the very end,” said Bremseth. “We’re fortunate and appreciative of his tireless efforts to represent the progress and people of Fergus Falls. We are grateful for his leadership and bipartisan approach to getting important work accomplished.”
City of Fergus Falls communication director Jean Bowman said Phase 2 Part 2 will revitalize the former dairy property, not the splash pad. The $4 million allows the city to acquire 11.68 acres of land as a buffer and trail along the Otter Tail River. The remaining 17.85 acres will be sold to a private developer for commercial development. This funding will also go towards the design, engineering and construction of the trail, including accessible public parking and other amenities.
Fergus Falls was also approved for $75,000 for water quality improvements in Lake Alice.
The "approval to bond" is related to the aquatic center. The project is $10.8 million and that's what voters approved last year. All voter-approved projects need legislative approval. The legislature previously approved $7.8 and now added $3 million - again, approval for the city of Fergus Falls to bond for the $10.8 and build the full-scale project.
In addition, two safe railroad crossings are also part of the project, allowing safe access points to the site for motor vehicles and pedestrians.
“Fergus Falls has had strong growth along the Otter Tail River,” said Rasmusson. “I’m proud to support their progress and vision to strengthen this corridor which will lead to enhanced recreation, commerce and livability for residents and visitors.”
The best part for Fergus Falls is that being included in the cash grant part of the bonding bill will ultimately mean no additional local match is required enabling work to begin sooner.
In the county, funding included in state capital investment bills will support infrastructure in Maplewood and Glendalough State Parks, along with several other projects within the county. According to Rasmusson, who authored many of the bills, “The investment returned to OTC delivers over $8 million to communities to improve local infrastructure.”
The two state parks have been appropriated for more than $2 million dollars to enhance the parks and provide funding for the Maplewood Trail segment of the Heart of the Lakes Regional Trail.
The funding will eventually complete the trail between Perham and Pelican Rapids. Battle Lake is connected to the Glendalough recreational trail.
OTC commissioner Kurt Mortenson said the growth potential is enormous.
“We would like to thank Sen. Rasmusson for his initiative and influence in the recent bonding bill funding. These investments will continue to grow our communities and sustain our high quality of life in Otter Tail County,” said Mortenson.
According to a release from OTC, local leaders sought the funding to complete the local core infrastructure projects that may otherwise have gone unfunded.
Locally, the Fergus Falls Riverfront Corridor received $4 million with $800,000 to be used for the Fergus Falls Readiness Center.
Pelican Rapids was awarded $1.5 million for a new aquatic facility as well.
Veterans Memorial Park in Parkers Prairie will receive $50,000 and the Tyler Wohlers Memorial Trail in Ottertail City will be disbursed $55,000 in funding.
County board chair Wayne Johnson said Rasmusson’s efforts were crucial to projects that hung in the balance: “Throughout the session, Sen. Rasmusson listened to the priorities of the county and local communities. He championed these important infrastructure projects that otherwise would not get accomplished.”