State Rep. Loren Solberg said the DNR's proposed closing of its Brainerd and Rochester regional offices is taking the agency "further away from the Minnesotans it serves."
The DNR announced earlier this month it is closing regional offices in Brainerd and Rochester in a cost-cutting move. Brainerd regional staff will be shifted to offices in Bemidji, Grand Rapids and the Twin Cities while the Rochester office will merge with New Ulm. The closings will save between $1 million and $2 million, the DNR said.
"These cuts are the result of four years of House Republicans' assaults on the environment and natural resources," said Solberg, DFL-Bovey. "They've been hacking away at the meat of those programs since they took control and now it appears they're cutting into the bone."
Solberg also was critical of the DNR.
"If the DNR is forced to cut costs perhaps they should start with the bureaucracy in St. Paul instead of removing people from where they're most useful to the citizens they serve. Our natural resources haven't moved away from Brainerd and Rochester, so why is the DNR closing those offices? This is just another sad example of folks in Greater Minnesota getting 50 cents on the dollar for the state services they pay taxes for."
Services such as the issuing of burning permits still will be available in Brainerd and Rochester. But regional management functions will cease and about 65 people could either be forced to re-locate or be laid off.
"We've worked for years to try to decentralize the DNR to make it more responsive to the people," Solberg said. "Now, faced with a DNR budget so meager it embarrassed the House Environment Committee chair, that is being reversed. Closing these regional offices is a bad idea. I'd suggest the DNR go back to the drawing board to cut costs elsewhere."
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