Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Minnemishinona Falls

The Nicollet County Board of Commissioners has taken some heat for obtaining and developing the Minnemishinona Falls and the property near it. Let's set the record straight on the costs to Nicollet County taxpayers for this natural scenic site.

The price of purchasing the actual falls site was $330,000. These dollars came from three different sources: Minnesota Department of Transportation District Seven ATP Federal enhancement funds-$264,000; Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation grant-$50,000; and a DNR grant-$16,000. There were zero taxpayer dollars used.

Recently the county board approved going out for bids for the construction of the bike/pedestrian trail from County Road 71 into the falls area and connecting back into County State Aid Highway 41. This will also include a bridge over the falls gorge. This project will be financed using additional Minnesota Department of Transportation Federal enhancement funds. The District Seven ATP has delegated $398,400 for this trail and bridge. Future upgrades that may be needed to the falls area will occur as grants become available. Most grants will require a percentage match of some kind which would mean the possibility of some local levy dollars.

Concerning the use of grant dollars. There are two philosophies of looking at grants. Some believe that using grant dollars is poor policy because in the case of grants from governmental agencies, the money is still tax dollars. This is absolutely true. The other belief is that governmental agencies offer incentives through the use of grants. If grants are available and if they can be put to good use, it behooves us to take advantage of them. If we do not apply and put these dollars to good use, some other unit of government will. The other city or county will benefit to the detriment of our city or county. The grant program is an unbiased way of distributing funds.

Regarding the amount of water draining over the falls. We need rain to have a waterfall. Last summer we had a drought and there was no waterfall. The normal course of rainfall should mean a steady stream of water at the falls. As development in North Mankato moves further into the watershed, the amount of water flowing into the creek feeding the falls will be greater and greater. Rain or no rain, the falls are a very popular place with the public. Many people are enjoying the falls every day. end

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