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Congressman Nolan visits PR

Heidi Karasch, owner of Black Swan Cooperage in Park Rapids, gives a tour of the barrel making facility to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan Wednesday. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

By Anna Erickson

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., visited Park Rapids Thursday to hear from local officials about what they need from him in Washington, D.C.

Nolan said visits like the one he made Wednesday in Park Rapids are helpful for him in creating priorities for the 8th District. He also had praise for the area.

“Park Rapids is one of the most vibrant communities I’ve seen in quite a while,” he said. “Everyone I meet here really wants it to grow and prosper.”

One of his priorities is to get more money back to Minnesota from Washington, D.C. Right now, Minnesota sends about $65 billion a year to Washington and gets back about $45 billion.

“I want Minnesota to get back more of its fair share,” Nolan said.

After visiting with St. Joseph’s Area Health Services officials and attending Rotary Wednesday, Nolan sat down for a round table discussion with other leaders in the area to hear their concerns.

Broadband access in rural areas has been a growing concern.

Nolan said this issue affects him personally where he lives and he wants everyone to have access.

“It’s such an integral and valuable service for many people,” he said.

Deane Johnson, who is involved in recreation and trail activity in Hubbard County, shared information about efforts made to create a spur bike trail to Itasca State Park. Tourism is important to Park Rapids and the purpose of the spur is to connect more areas of the county and region.

Along with the Heartland Trail, county commissioner Kathy Grell, said the county is working on a recreational plan. The county wants to commission a study and promote economic development and tourism.

Alan Zemek, representing Armory Square and the Upper Mississippi Center for the Arts, briefly described the project and the potential regional impact. He said funding efforts are underway and could use any and all help.

Aquatic Invasive Species was discussed at length.

Dan Kittilson, president of Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations, said that Hubbard County COLA has been a leader in efforts to stop the spread of AIS.

“Our waters are our biggest economic asset but the current funding mechanism isn’t sustainable,” he said.

Currently the county, townships, city and lake associations fund inspections and education efforts.

Nolan said that he too recognizes the economic impact of AIS and that it’s a statewide issue because many rivers and lakes are connected.

The New Market Tax Credit was briefly discussed. It’s a federal credit that helps provide funding for local projects. It has helped several projects in the area including St. Joseph’s Area Health Services and DaVita.

Nolan said he wants that program to continue.

Park Rapids Area Schools superintendent Lance Bagstad said that everyone has a vested interest in educating children in the county.

Park Rapids School District receives about $900,000 in federal funding. Broadband access for students and special education are ongoing issues for the district, he said.

Bagstad emphasized the importance of financial aid for students and also wants to make sure that while districts have to meet certain state and federal standards, they also need local control.

Veterans Service Officer Greg Remus said he wants to see more regional support for veterans. He knows of some veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who need help but are not willing or unable to drive to St. Cloud or Fargo.

“If we could have a counselor come here to meet with veterans and offer services” it would benefit many veterans, Remus said.

He also said homelessness is a problem among veterans in the area. Money to help veterans in this situation is only going to larger cities while veterans in rural areas are in need as well.

Ed Ranson, with the Hubbard County Development Achievement Center said that compliance and regulation is costing his agency time and money.

Jim Wallace, president of Citizens National Bank, said that community banks are being punished for the economic downturn in 2008. He would like small, local banks to regain some of the control they used to have.

Nolan also toured Black Swan Cooperage. Owner Heidi Karasch showed Nolan and his staff the entire process of making a barrel.

Nolan and his staff will take with them the comments and information they received from Park Rapids officials. They are also continuing to gather feedback.

A member of Nolan’s staff will be at Park Rapids City Hall from 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 to listen to constituent concerns.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561