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Borchert, SW Minnesota leaders discuss issues with Sen. Klobuchar

State to receive funds for highways, bridges

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Brown County Commissioner Dave Borchert and several southwest Minnesota county commissioners discussed some of their needs and possible benefits of the recently approved $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar via Zoom Friday.

“This is so important and timely. I think you’ll see more funding coming down the pike,” Klobuchar said.

The bill signed into law will put $550 billion into transportation, broadband and utilities over five years. In addition, $110 billion is earmarked for roads, bridges and other projects; $66 billion to freight and passenger rail, $65 billion to broadband expansion and $55 billion to improving water systems and replacing lead pipes.

Klobuchar said another $25 billion is earmarked for Minnesota drinking water and $1 billion for rural water.

Borchert thanked Klobuchar for her work on U.S. Highway 14 New Ulm to Nicollet four-lane expansion project set to begin in April.

“We’re very excited about the progress being made on that,” Borchert said. “It’s a very dangerous stretch of highway.”

Because its where the Minnesota and Cottonwood rivers meet, Borchert said New Ulm often deals with flood mitigation.

“I’m grateful for federal dollars in the past that helped create a mitigation effort that saved a bridge and road and helped preserve New Ulm’s drinking water, 50% of which was vulnerable,” Borchert added.

He thanked Klobuchar for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding for property acquisition projects in flood-prone areas.

“It’s a permanent solution that benefits our area,” said Borchert.

He said remaining needs include a lift station to prevent flash flooding on the south edge of New Ulm.

“They don’t come cheap. It’ll cost us about $3.5 million,” Borchert explained. “We tried to handle it with hydraulic pumps, but there are times when we can’t handle it all and have many flooded basements.”

New Ulm is interested in grant money for a project near 20th South Street, which he called “extremely vulnerable.”

Watonwan County Commissioner Bob Rinne of St. James said the county has broadband issues like many other counties, but their biggest issue is roads.

“Our county highway engineer said 66% of our county roads are rated poor to fair condition. We’re not keeping up with the times,” said Rinne. “We’re just putting Band-aids on all the time. There’s a big gap between what (funding) we need and what we get.”

Cottonwood County Commissioner Larry Anderson of Westbrook said a new $13 million highway shop and $8 million jail remodeling project are needed.

“We’re really fragmented on broadband,” said Anderson. “We have several wireless and fiber providers in small towns, with lots of holes in between them. Nobody wants to partner with us because we’re so fragmented.”

Nobles County Commissioner Donald Linssen said there is very poor to no cell phone reception in Round Lake, south of Worthington, near the Iowa state line.

Linssen also said ambulance service is an issue.

“We funded four ambulance services with $46,000 to keep them going. We don’t have enough volunteers,” Linssen said.

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