Rural cities like Marshall have a tough road to hoe when it comes to getting money from the state. Cities competing for bonding dollars are like hyenas fighting over a zebra carcass, and traditionally larger cities and metro areas walk away with the most meat.
Gov. Mark Dayton made that much clear in 2012 when he made his list of recommendations for bonding money. His list last year included $27 million for a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints, $25 million for renovations at Nicollet Mall, $25 million for expanding the Southwest Corridor Light Rail, $35 million for the expansion for the Rochester Mayo Civic Center and $7 million to repair a dolphin tank at the Minnesota Zoo. The dolphins ended up getting $4 million of a $496 million bonding bill.
The dolphins are gone now. Semo, a 48-year-old male bottlenose now resides at Six Flags in California. Allie, a 25-year-old female, is swimming happily in a zoo in Illinois.
BTW: The Minnesota Zoo has permanently closed its dolphin exhibit.
The city of Marshall, however, is not closed. Gov. Dayton should know as much, as he just spent a couple days here last fall for the Governor's Pheasant Opener. City leaders in Marshall looked at that event as the perfect opportunity to roll out its really special carpet and give Dayton reason to keep Marshall in the back of his mind the next time bonding dollars go up for grabs.
By all accounts, Gov. Dayton walked away impressed with what he saw. He saw a community that works together to get things done. He saw oodles of support for a new regional amateur sports facility. He even got to see me again.
But judging from a recent sound bite I heard earlier this week, I'm not sure he was sold on Marshall - at least to the point where he considers the city worthy of a few million dollars.
Dayton spoke briefly about bonding during an interview and mentioned a few cities he wants to provide bonding for in the next cycle.
Marshall wasn't one of them.
This by no means kicks Marshall out of the running for some bonding dollars, maybe he was just spitballing, but it makes me wonder if all the hammering city leaders did last fall made a dent. It would be a shame if it didn't.
In the game of bonding, the city of Marshall has swung and missed three times. Twice it had put in a $4 million request to the governor and Legislature for money for the sports complex. And last summer, the little city that could came up empty in its pursuit of a portion of the $47.5 million in bonding that was handed out by the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Dayton is a strong supporter of projects in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud - cities bigger than Marshall - but who's to say Marshall doesn't have as much going for it as they do? The state would be wrong to overlook the commitment Marshall voters made in December when they approved a local sales tax option to subsidize the costly facility.
Marshall, which has been going after bonding dollars for both the sports complex and MERIT Training Center for years, isn't necessarily more deserving of bonding money than those three cities, but bonding dollars should be spread out more evenly.
Let's be honest, no matter how much growth Marshall experiences, it will always be considered very rural, and those cities are not; that's why this is an uphill battle and always will be. Going purely off recent history, Marshall appears to have as much chance at getting bonding money in the future than Lance Armstrong does at passing a urine test. Neither proximity to the Cities nor population are in our favor.
The sports complex project is a costly one - some will argue, too costly, but it will move ahead with or without financial help from the state. Still, sports complex supporters owe it to residents here to keep pestering the Legislature like a hungry mosquito - any financial help they can get to defray a $12.9 million bill will go a long way.
Maybe someday the governor and our elected officials will get tired of dealing with us out here in the sticks and instead of swatting us away will throw us some money.