CAMP RIPLEY - Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, said Thursday the request for $10 million for the construction phase of a Minnesota Emergency Management Training Center at Camp Ripley should be looked upon favorably by lawmakers when they consider bonding requests next year.
Koering was one of about a half dozen members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee who visited the camp Thursday on the last day of a four-day tour of central and northwestern Minnesota.
"I actually think the chances for this project are going to rate very high," he said. "I know a lot of trails are important to people. Those amount to more of a want than a need. This project at Camp Ripley is an absolute need."
He said his mindset, as a committee member, is to be more receptive to requests dealing with public safety, wastewater treatment and flood mitigation.
"They alluded to the disaster of the (Interstate 35) bridge collapse," he said. "There's going to be, unfortunately, future disasters. They need to have training and facilities to train emergency personnel."
Maj. Kent O'Grady of Operations Support Services with the Minnesota State Patrol, emphasized the proposed training center would be used by more than 600 state troopers. Designed to be a collaborative project, O'Grady said the center would serve more than 43,000 public safety workers, including state troopers, law enforcement officers, EMTs, firefighters, in addition to Minnesota Department of Transportation employees, National Guard members and other users.
"It's a great collaboration," O'Grady said.
The Legislature's original appropriation for this project, approved in 2008, provided $5 million for pre-design, design and construction administration and construction and equipment costs.
The second phase money, which has been requested, will call for $6 million for an Emergency Vehicle Operators Course and $4 million for lodging for state employees who are training. The request for lodging costs were cut from the original estimates of $100,000 per unit to $51,600 per unit, O'Grady said.
"I think this is the best bonding bargain in the state of Minnesota," he said.
If funding is granted the timetable calls for bid opening in May of 2010; construction starting in June of 2010 and continuing for eight to 10 months. Occupancy of the training center would be tentatively scheduled for spring of 2011.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, chair of the committee, said he expected there would be more than $3 billion in bonding requests and speculated the bonding bill would only be $1 billion.
The legislators were running behind schedule and had to forego a bus tour of the camp. In a brief presentation Camp Ripley officials emphasized the variety of agencies that use the camp for training. They also shared the following information about the 53,000-acre camp:
Camp Ripley is the second-largest National Guard training facility in the U.S.
The prototype of the Jeep was field tested there.
At 18 miles, the east boundary riverbank is the longest remaining undeveloped tract of the Mississippi River.
Earlier on Thursday the committee had visited the Cuyuna Recreation Area near Ironton, Central Lakes College in Brainerd and the former state hospital campus in Brainerd.
The panel also visited the site of a requested MnDOT truck station near Highways 10 and 371.
Additional information on specific 2010 capital investment requests may be obtained by the Minnesota Management and Budget Web site at www.doer.state.mn.us.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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