Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

Big happenings on the hill

THUMBS UP: The Diocese of New Ulm broke ground on Friday at the site of its new diocesan Pastoral Center. The new Pastoral Center will be a year in the building, and will replace the current pastoral center, built in 1960 as a bishop’s residence office building. The new Pastoral Center will have plenty of room for a new chapel, 28 offices, four conference rooms, and all the amenities needed to house the 20 diocesan offices and its employees.

Budgeted at $7.5 million, the new center will cost not much more than renovating and repairing the current center.

With the construction set to begin as soon as weather permits, the Pastoral Center brings to three the number of multi-million dollar building projects going on within a few blocks of each other up on the hill. The Pastoral Center is only a block or two away from the Martin Luther College Early Childhood Center, a $4 million building project with another $1 million raised for early childhood education financial aid. Not far away, the New Ulm Medical Center has started work on its clinic expansion, a $5.3 million project financed entirely by Allina Health.

With two or three good-sized apartment projects set for this year, it is a big expansion year for the city.

We look forward to next year, when these projects are expected to be completed.

Fuel sales tax?

SIDEWAYS THUMB: Gov. Mark Dayton is opposed to raising the tax on a gallon of gas to finance much-needed road projects in Minnesota. Senate Democrats are countering with a tax of 5.5 percent on the sale of fuel at the wholesale level, a proposal that would lower the 28.5 cents-per-gallon tax, but would still raise an extra $200 million.

Make no mistake. This tax will get passed on to the consumers at the pump. We’d guess the governor won’t like this idea either. He thinks Minnesotans won’t accept another gas tax increase.

We think Minnesotans are smart enough, however, to know that the good roads they want come at a price, and that price is paid with taxes. Dayton should give this a chance.

Good nursing home rating in hard times

THUMBS UP: Oak Hills Nursing Home received a fiv-star, or top overall rating, in U.S. News & World Report’s 5th annual Best Nursing Homes ratings.

Like all nursing homes in Minnesota, Oak Hills is working on a limited budget – limited by the state’s policy of allowing nursing homes to charge is residents no more than the state Medicaid reimbursement rate. And the state keeps that rate low.

Nonetheless, Oak Hills has done an admirable job of creating a more livable atmosphere and keeping the care of the residents at a high level.

Leigslators are now considering a bill to allow nursing homes, group homes and other long-term care facilities money to provide pay increases to their workers who have suffered through several years of pay freezes.

Sen. Gary Dahms and Rep. Paul Torkelson said they support the legislation, which would provide money for the raises without making nursing homes dig into other funds to make up the difference. We think it’s a bill that should pass.