The Free Press of Mankato, Feb. 7
Blow to city beyond loss of buildings
Main Street. The heart of a town. Doesn't matter what the actual name of the main thoroughfare is in a place, everyone knows what you mean when you talk about a small city's Main Street.
So when Madelia on Wednesday suffered the loss of a third of its Main Street businesses — which were on aptly named Main Street — everyone knew instantly what a tragedy it is to the city of about 2,300.
The loss of eight businesses is a huge blow to Madelia economically. Not only can the owners not do business, but their employees are out of jobs and residents can't get goods and services.
Recognizing the significant impact of the widespread damage, the region is rallying to help raise funds.
The governor visited Madelia on Friday and said he would help expedite as much as possible on the state level and even gave out his home phone number.
And folks in Madelia do need quick answers from local government officials as well. If business owners are going to stay, they need to get back to business as quickly as possible and know that the new building — with higher tax implications — will be affordable.
Another positive note is that legislative leaders support including public infrastructure needs in a bonding bill.
Yet, beyond the financial blow, beyond the loss of historical structures, lies the loss of so much more. A section of the town that is the artery of its very life is missing.
A small city Main Street is where you shop, get a haircut, see your dentist, grab a bite to eat, have a drink. But it's so much more than that. It's where you run into your neighbors, acquaintances and friends. It's where you catch up on news and, of course, gossip. It's where those who live out in the country come to escape isolation for a bit.
Main Street is where people connect with not only services, but with each other.
The uplifting element hidden in all of this devastation is that there was no loss of life in the enormous fire. And the promising part of this scenario is that the people who make Madelia the town that it is are still there. They can't all gather at some of the familiar spots for a while, but they will work hard to rebuild their town.
The structures may be missing but the community is intact. And with help and support from the state and the greater region, Madelia can be as strong as ever.
Post-Bulletin, Feb. 7
Broadband needed for crucial connections
Tuesday's snowstorm disrupted lives as schools closed and travel became treacherous. However, those able connect with their others via the Internet likely had a competitive edge over those who could not.
Too many in Southeast Minnesota remain cutoff without available Internet service, and others lack speeds needed to conduct business or meet the bandwidth demands of some services.
In Wabasha County, for instance, 15 percent of households reportedly lack any broadband access. In Olmsted County, more than 42 percent of households do not have access to Internet speeds recommended as minimum by Minnesota's broadband task force.
Some parts of Southeast Minnesota are on the verge of seeing improvements thanks to three projects receiving portions of the $11 million in state broadband grants awarded last year.
As the state's broadband task force noted recently, however, it's not enough to keep the state, its residents and its businesses connected and competitive. The task force is suggesting the Minnesota Legislature increase grant funding to $200 million, double what Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested.
It's time to get serious about expanding broadband connections and speeds in the state. We encourage Dayton to adjust his expectations upward and lawmakers to take a close look at what can be done to meet such expectations.
It isn't just about staying connected during a Minnesota snowstorm, it's about being connected to business and educational opportunities, which are needed for growth in our local and state economies.
Minnesota Daily, Feb. 8
Renovate state pipes and sewers
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has spurred a national debate about the tremendous disparities in water quality across the United States. National coverage of the issue has also driven many communities to speak out about their own water crises.
While problems in Minnesota certainly haven't been comparable to the situation in Michigan, it has nevertheless become evident that our state is long overdue to remodel its pipes systems and restructure its sewage systems.
Recently, Gov. Mark Dayton put forth a plan that would focus efforts on sewage and water projects, especially the protection of groundwater and lakes. Dayton pleaded for the state Legislature to allocate a substantial portion of the budget to execute his plan. He argued that in many rural areas of Minnesota, small towns do not have the capacity to restructure their water systems themselves. State aid would provide resources to address some of these concerns.
We believe the Legislature ought to support Dayton's work. In order to ensure safe public access to clean water, it is essential that Minnesota's government provide adequate resources to support repair and renovation initiatives.
Furthermore, we also urge homeowners with homes built before 1986 to independently check the quality of the water they receive. The Minnesota Department of Health recently published a statement saying that although municipal water tests rarely show signs of heavy metals like lead and arsenic, the pipes of many houses have nonetheless shown strong levels of decay, sometimes resulting in lead-positive tests.