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Martin County still pursuing new jail funding

FAIRMONT — Martin County continues to look for state funds to help with a $40 million Justice Center.

County commissioners this week heard from Robert Long of Larkin Hoffman Attorneys of Bloomington. He has been representing a $20 million state bonding request for the county. Long noted the recent failure of the Legislature to pass a bonding bill.

“I wish I could give you some big news, but the truth is that the Legislature adjourned at midnight on Sunday night, which is the end of their regular session, and they did not complete a bonding bill at all,” he said. “We know that the House bill, which was authored by Rep. Mary Murphy of the Democratic majority, was in excess of $2 billion. That bill contained $2.1 million for the Martin County Justice Center.

“That’s not the total that we asked for, the $20 million, but because of competition in the budget, they clipped that number.”

Long said the $2.1 million figure is not desirable, but it is a chance to get a foot in the door for future requests.

“The argument we heard for why the $20 million wasn’t available was that the overall number of requests that came in was too high,” he said.

“Then that bill got voted down on Saturday, which typically happens. Then it switched over to the Senate side, where Sen. Dave Senjem brought in a Republican bill for $998 million and, unfortunately, the Justice Center was not included in that smaller bill. That doesn’t mean it won’t get included, but it wasn’t at the time.”

Long has been working with state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, and they both complimented Sheriff Jeff Markquart and Auditor/Treasurer Jessica Korte on their involvement.

“Jessica wrote a very nice letter at the request of Sen. Senjem, laying out the argument for why the Martin County property taxpayers could not handle a full local levy for the full jail,” Long said. “Unfortunately, that did not get in the second bill, which also got voted down.

“Even though there’s a majority vote in both chambers, a bonding bill takes 60 percent, a super-majority, to pass. So it always requires a bipartisan vote. So the Senate bill was defeated also.

“What we assume will happen now is that there will be an agreed-upon amount. It appears that there will be a special session of the Legislature. I believe there will be a bonding bill taken up at that special session. We’re still in it, we’re still fighting for that money, and I think we still have a chance.

“At the very minimum, we’re still hoping to get the $2.1 million that was in the House version for the pre-design, design and preparation costs. The difference would be that we would ask that they would strike the requirement of a local match. So that’s what we’re trying to accomplish going into this special session.”

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