A number of Minnesota Legislators received a tour of a Minnesota State Academy for the Blind building and heard State Correctional Facility Faribault bonding requests.

The members of the House Capital Investment Committee pulled up to the side of MSAB's main building in a grey coach bus.

Members of Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee Arrive at MSAB. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Members of Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee Arrive at MSAB. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

I got to join them on the tour which was led by Minnesota State Academies Superintendent Terry Wilding.  He oversees both the State Academy for the Deaf and Academy for the Blind campuses.

Wilding took the legislators through a MSAB dorm to emphasize the fact they are not handicapped accessible. The same is true at MSAD.  They are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.  Don't meet accessibility, safety, heating/cooling, program requirements for the students who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, blind, visually impaired, including those with additional physical challenges.

Mn. Legislators Enter MSAB Dorm Building. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Mn. Legislators Enter MSAB Dorm Building. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

He explained the school was requesting bonding dollars for Pre-Design Plans to replace the existing pool/therapy spa at MSAB.  The current facility is not fully accessible, is not up to current code and "largely inefficient."

Wilding told those on the tour they have an increasing number of students with physical limitations that require physical excercise and therapy in the pool/spa.

This is the first request for pre-design funds with, "The pool and spa mechanisms nearing the end of their life."

Wilding says, "The pre-design work will allow us to evaluate and design a replacement for our current pool and therapy spa, including related site improvements that will allow us to use the spaces better within our MSAB educational building.  This has the potential for great savings in staffing, energy costs, maintenance needs and workers compensation costs."

It could potentially benefit the school for the next 25 years.

On the MSAD campus Wilding outlined hopes for Pre-Design Funds for a new Student Center which would replace the existing gym building and potentially four other buildings.

He stated the project has been requested in the past but has not been funded with different portions of the project requested.

"This is an attempt to reassess and propose a more comprehensive solution to our challenges.  The pre-design work will allow us to evaluate the use and efficiency of our buildings on the MSAD campus, potentially leading up to the replacement of up to 5 buildings and other campus facilities."

Wilding pointed out the buildings being evaluated are 75 to 100 years old and require a lot of upkeep, maintenance, with high energy costs.

The MSAB buildings also do not meet current standards/codes and are not fully accessible.

"Our current buildings' limitations have a negative effect on the ability to provide appropriate educational programs for our students, both in and out of the classroom."

I spoke with Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee Chair District 59A Representative Fue Lee of Minneapolis on the way from MSAB back to the bus the lawmakers boarded to go to the MCF Faribault.

Lee said he was very impressed with the presentation by Superintendent Wilding, "I thought it was a good presentation that showed us the great need that we have for our students, for the deaf and blind and really learning how much of an impact the state investment will make for those students."

I asked if a 15 or 20 minute walk through an area really helps them decide what to fund when putting together the bonding bill.

He replied that seeing is believing, "It's critical for us to get out to our tours and really hear (about) it and see it in person so that we know the actual impact.  It's quite different from just receiving a packet of information with different papers presented to committees."

When asked about the size of the bonding bill coming out of the next legislative session Lee responded, "I don't know but I'm hopeful that we can have a robust bonding bill.  We have the capacity right now to bond for over 3.3 billion dollars so I hope that we could do more than what we did in the October 2020 bill which was 1.9 billion dollars.

The House Capital Investment Committee spent some time in Mendota looking at their water main connection. Then Northfield examining their request for a state trail extension before arriving in Faribault Tuesday.

Representative Lee told KDHL they would spend the night in Austin after touring their Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Wednesday the Committee goes to Winona, Rochester and back to the Twin Cities.

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