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Editorial - Metro spending takes money away from JHS project

A project to redevelop the Jefferson High School property has been put on hold for the moment.

It did not receive the $2.9 million that the Lakes Area Economic Development Authority (LAEDA) requested from the state Legislature, $2 million to acquire the property and $900,000 to cover demolition and abatement costs.

It did, however, receive about half that amount, $1.4 million, which local economic development leaders described as a win for the project. They’ll be meeting soon to determine how to address the shortfall and whether the project can move ahead.

The plan is brimming with potential. The high school property could become a 44-acre, campus-like setting for future medical and manufacturing business, education and training opportunities. The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission estimated that if the property is developed, if could yield an economic impact of $84 million.

Local legislators Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen and Representative Mary Franson deserve credit for helping to secure the $1.4 million, especially considering the politically charged atmosphere of the bonding bill. Once again, metro legislators seemed to have the upper hand, gaining approval for a boat load of projects in the Twin Cities area, including a $21 million renovation of the Nicollet Mall.

The mall project, cited by Franson during a town hall meeting in Alexandria last Thursday, was just one of many in a spree of recent metro spending. At the top of the list was the decision to move ahead with spending $76 million for a new Senate office building. That’s just one part of a larger $273 million project to renovate the state Capitol building.

There are many other big expenditures that will benefit the Twin Cities. Here are some for the east metro area alone: $35.9 million for a new Metropolitan State Science Education Center, $5.4 million for roads and parking at Como Regional Park, $1.6 million for a Hastings Bridge trail connection in Washington County, $6 million for the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, $14 million to expand and renovate the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, $5 million for the Historic Palace Theater in St. Paul, $4 million for a new concert hall at the Ordway, $9 million for the Minnesota Public Media Commons in St. Paul and $15 million for transit improvements requested by the Metropolitan Council.

Out of all that spending, it’s shameful that the Legislature looked at the Jefferson project and deemed that it was only worthy of getting half the amount that was needed. Outstate Minnesota was once again slighted.