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Cyrus fire all among local programs funded by Legislature

MORRIS – Funding for a new fire hall and community center in Cyrus was included in a bonding bill passed by the Minnesota House and Senate before the legislature adjourned last week.

Both the Minnesota House and Senate included $225,000 from the state’s budget surplus for the project, which will improve the safety and usability of the Cyrus Fire Department’s existing fire hall.

Rep. Jay McNamar and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy touted that success and gave an overview of the legislative session during a stop at the University of Minnesota, Morris on Wednesday afternoon.

“We used the surplus to help fund the fire hall, city hall, community center – that’s a good use of money and was needed in Cyrus,” said McNamar.

Cyrus Fire Chief Jeff Anderson said the project may cost as much as $350,000, a number that would be hard for the 188 residents of Cyrus to pay for on their own.

“It’s gonna be a huge shot in the arm to us,” said Anderson. “It will allow us to maintain our equipment and other things needed other than the building, otherwise we’d have this building debt hanging over our head for the next 20 years.”

Anderson also thanked Sen. Torrey Westrom and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and their staff for authoring bills to support the project.

“This project is very meaningful to me,” said Westrom in an e-mail statement. “It has been an honor to work with Cyrus firefighters and supporters since introducing this legislation back in February. These renovations will improve and enhance the safety and needs of residents in and around the community.”

When Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bonding bill on Tuesday, it meant public works projects across the state will receive $857 million obtained by the state selling bonds, with another $199 million coming from a state budget surplus. The Capitol building is the biggest single project, getting $126 million to finish a multi-year renovation project.

Higher education construction spending, divided among the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses, totals $240 million.

The allocation includes $42.5 million statewide for University of Minnesota Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement, which would provide funding for University of Minnesota, Morris and the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Proposed local projects include $195,000 for HVAC improvements to the WCROC maintenance shop and $1.3 million in UMM campus building improvements in Blakely and Behmler Halls, the Humanities Building, and the Heating Plant. Blakely Hall will be made fully handicap accessible because of an elevator installation project.

UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson noted that some buildings on campus are “badly in need of renovation. We are not well suited for the kind of education that students and faculty expect in the 21st century. The HEAPR funds will help us maintain and restore [campus]”

“I have been talking about the need for a strong bonding bill since I arrived in St. Paul, and its good to finally get the ball rolling to create jobs and get funding to these necessary projects in communities all over Minnesota,” said McNamar, who serves on the House Capital Investment Committee. “This bill will have lasting impacts on our state because it will improve our infrastructure and positively impact Minnesota’s capacity to continue creating jobs.”

The supplemental budget passed at the end of the session also includes a one-time increase to County Program Aid for several Minnesota counties. The budget will increase aid to 2013 levels, which means a payment of about $128,000 to Stevens County.

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) also awarded two grants to the WCROC.

The first is a $250,000 grant for a three-year project comparing the wind-powered ammonia production system at the WCROC with other systems that use biomass gasification, anaerobic digestion, and hydroelectricity. The second is a $500,000 to study the use of solar power for powering swine nurseries.

Don Davis with the Forum News Service contributed to this story.