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St. James City Council hears report from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

At Tuesday's St. James City Council meeting, the council heard a presentation from Marty Seifert with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

The coalition focuses on projects for smaller cities outside of the metro area, including energy, environment, economic development, transportation, and land use among other projects.

There are over 100 cities in the coalition.

Seifert highlighted the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, wiping out legislative meetings, and battles over federal aid, as well as a $1.5 billion budget surplus, becoming a $2.4 billion deficit. 

The coalition aimed to advance inflation and population growth and build on its child care progress from 2019. Instead, new child care challenges popped up and the group focused on CARES Act support for small city governments and small business grants.

"These rural cities are really hurting with main street business," said Seifert. "Remember March, April, and a little of May, that was rough."

The coalition's main goal was a bonding bill worth $1.5 billion, which included $200 million for wastewater and water infrastructure, $20 million for Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program, $20 million for child care facilities grants, $10 million for public infrastructure to support housing, and $200 million for local roads and bridges.

However, on July 13th, the bonding bill was updated to be a $1.3 billion dollar bill, with more money being allocated for wastewater, roads and bridge, and housing. The child care facilities grant was reduced to $0.

The main concern with wastewater management is per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which exist in drinking water.

PFAS are chemicals linked to health concerns and are found in water bodies across the state, and the removal of these substances is not cheap, and removal from wastewater is not technologically feasible.

Looking ahead, the coalition will hear new projections on deficits and surpluses from the state.

The only other form of business on the night was accepting a resignation from Kody Hadler.

Prior to adjourning, Sturm gave a short address to the community on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Over the weekend, Watonwan County recorded 52 new positive cases, and an additional 12 on Tuesday.

"The COVID-19 rates are up substantially," said St. James Mayor Gary Sturm. "Please look out for yourself and the other person. Keep your distance. Wear your mask. Don't get together in a group. That's how this stuff accelerates. So please, do your best, for St. James, for your family, for friends, for your neighbors, for your community, for the state of Minnesota, and the United States."

The next St. James City Council meeting is scheduled for December 1st.