Olmsted County Commissioner met with area lawmakers this morning at the Capitol for an update on some of the county's legislative priorities.
One key area of concern is the county's quest to get $6 million for a steam line project from the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy plant to Rochester Community and Technical College. Dubbed the "Green Pipes" project, the proposal would get $5 million from the state in the Senate bonding bill. But no such luck in the smaller House bonding bill — the Green Pipes project was left out.
So as a House and Senate conference committee meets to hash out differences, county officials were keen to learn whether the Green Pipes project would make the cut.
Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, who serves on the conference committee, said she is optimistic the project will get bonding money.
"The odds are good," Lynch told commissioners.
Meanwhile, county officials also voiced concern that a deal to have the state take back responsibility for housing short-term offenders may not happen. That would come after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty voiced support for the state taking back these offenders to help cash-strapped counties faced with housing these offenders.
County administrator Dick Devlin told lawmakers that the Olmsted County jail was housing more than 180 offenders this weekend and capacity is 200 to 210. If the state fails to take back responsibility for housing short-term offenders, it means the county may have to start paying to house inmates elsewhere or consider building a new jail.
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said it is unclear what is going to happen with this issue. But if the legislature balks at the $8 million price tag for the state, then she said she will try and pitch a compromise floated by local officials. That plan would allow certain well-behaved inmates the chance to get out of prison early and counties would be responsible for probation of these inmates. In exchange, the state would take back responsibility for housing short-term offenders.