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Three northwest colleges could get millions in bond money

Gov. Mark Dayton’s $986 million bonding proposal announced last week includes three projects in northwestern Minnesota that total more than $15.8 million.

They are:

  • $10 million for a new wellness center at University of Minnesota-Crookston.
  • $5.9 million for an aviation program building project at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls.
  • $400,000 for the city of Fosston for a reconstruction project on Second Street South.

Making the governor’s list does not guarantee funding, however.

The state Senate and House also will submit bonding proposals. The final bill requires a 60 percent supermajority in both houses.

The proposed UMC wellness center carries a price tag of about $15 million. Local funding, including some combination of private donations, student fees and other sources, is expected to make up the difference, according to college officials.

The current wellness center, which officials say is too old and outdated, was built about 30 years ago, with some areas as much as 80 years old.

Thirty years ago, UMC was a two-year junior college with about 850 students, of which about 350 lived on campus. Today, it has about 1,000 on-site students, with about 700 living on campus.

The project ranks third on the UM Board of Regents’ list of Top 5 funding priorities.

Aviation program

The $5.9 million proposal at Northland would be used to build a state-of-the-art unmanned aerial systems training facility at the school’s aerospace campus, located at Thief River Falls Regional Airport.

The project includes the new 20,400-square-foot building, plus the remodeling of 5,500 square feet of existing space. It would replace two older buildings and provide an on-site laboratory for the school’s new composites training center.

The facility is needed, officials say, to meet today’s technological standards for the school’s aviation maintenance technology, unmanned aerial systems and UAS imagery analyst programs, according to Curtis Zoller, associate dean of aerospace programs.

“This lab is a critical element for our program,” he said.

Northland has trained mechanics for more than 50 years. The program recently was expanded to provide training in repair of composite materials, such as those used to build today’s small airplanes.

The school also has a partnership with Cirrus Aircraft to provide graduates qualified to work with composite materials used by the company. Cirrus’ component parts are built in Grand Forks and are shipped to Duluth for assembly.

One project that was not included in the governor’s bonding proposal was $1.9 million for Thief River Falls. The money, if approved, would be used to design and build a sanitary sewer system and utility improvements for a regional development center.

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Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.