State lawmakers got a small preview of what the future of education could look like when they visited Winona on Tuesday morning.
Members of the Minnesota House of Representatives Capital Investment Committee, including Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, visited Winona as part of a multi-day bonding tour of the state. While in the city, they toured the potential site for Winona State University’s Education Village and received information on that and other potential bonding projects.
WSU is looking for
$22.2 million for the Education Village, a project that calls for renovating two university buildings and buying the Cathedral Elementary building from the Diocese of Winona and surrounding properties to create a modern center for the university’s education programs. The vision for the center includes open collaboration with area school districts and education leaders.
Members of the committee toured facilities in Wabasha Hall and heard from WSU students, staff and administrators about the potential of the project.
“Some people see this as an area that has outlived its usefulness,” said Gary Evans, WSU’s interim vice president for university advancement. “Buildings like this can and should live again.”
One change to the Education Village proposal brought up on the tour was a move away from the original phased plan of implementation. Original proposals involved funding the project over a number of bonding years, with an initial investment of $5.8 million for the project.
But WSU staff and Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said doing things in phases would be problematic. Instead, Pelowski has introduced legislation that would fund the full amount during next year’s bonding cycle.
“Professional teachers have been pummeled at the state and national level for decades,” Pelowski said. “This is the response. There will be nothing like it in the state of Minnesota.”
During a lunch break in WSU’s Wabasha Recreation Center, three other bonding projects were presented. The first two were a $4.2 million extension of Louisa Street to U.S. Hwy. 61, and an $800,000 Riverview Drive improvement project. The other presentation was on a $1.4 million proposal from the city of Lanesboro to repair and restore the Lanesboro Stone Dam.
After the tour and presentations, Davids said he was pleased with the work of the bonding tour so far. A critic of last year’s bonding efforts, Davids said the tour gives the Legislature the time to do due diligence on a bonding bill.
“I love the Education Village project,” he said. “I’m a big fan of that. The Lanesboro Dam project is also an important one for public safety.”