Though Minnesota's lawmakers can't agree on much this session, it appears state legislators want to come together to help the city of Madelia recover from a fire that burned down much of its downtown business district this past winter.
Separate measures in the House of Representatives and Senate are scheduled to go before lawmakers this week. Madelia legislation is a part of the House and Senate's respective tax bills, and a $100,000 bonding project to help rebuild city infrastructure is part of the Senate's bonding bill.
Reps. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, and Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, introduced a bill at the end of March calling for a 15-year property tax exemption and an increase in Local Government Aid.
The bill's Senate companion, carried by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, didn't include the property tax exemption but keeps the LGA increase, which would provide $1.2 million over the next 15 years to Madelia.
"We rally when it comes to a disaster," Rosen said.
The measures come after a fire claimed nine businesses and seven buildings. All but one business reopened in another local location while rebuilding takes place as of last month.
Madelia's business community is seeking help from state and federal resources to offset the cost of rebuilding the downtown area. Local business owners testified before the House Ways and Means Committee last month the new buildings would likely cost twice as much to rebuild — about $4 million — as they'll be worth.
In addition, businesses estimate they will have to pay a combined $80,000 in property taxes once the project is finished, which is almost eight times more than they previously paid.
The Senate will likely vote on its tax bill on Wednesday, and the House is expected to address its tax bill this week as well. Cornish said last week he expects the details to get worked out in a conference committee.
There could be more aid from the state for Madelia in the future. Lawmakers may give the Region Nine Development Commission, which is working on Madelia's rebuilding effort, funding for future economic development — with the expectation that money goes toward Madelia.
"You can't give it to (businesses) directly in appropriations, so this is the best way where they'll hopefully be able to follow it up," Cornish said.
Regardless, area lawmakers expect the state to help Madelia this session. Several said they've been approached by plenty of their colleagues and other Capitol workers who ask about Madelia, or who share stories about their ties to the community.
"It's kind of like all roads lead to Madelia," Rosen said.