So there I am, coming back from Grand Rapids, 2 to 73 to 35, and on 35, it’s around 11 a.m., and about 8 miles north of Hinkley there’s a “bear wtih a customer” ahead so I look in the mirror to move over into the hammer lane, and while looking left, who do I see, out in the hammer lane going north, in a big white truck with familiar lettering on the side…

Ray's truck.jpg

He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!

Micheletti Trout Lake.jpg

Tom, don’t you get that you’re doing my advertising and rallying the troops and fundraising for me?

Over the last five years, I’ve marveled at the carefully orchestrated work of lobbying art that is Mesaba. After reading Harvard’s “Financing IGCC – 3 Party Covenant” it’s even more of a marvel. It’s phenomenal, the most amazing house of cards I’ve ever seen, and I am in awe of the job that Micheletti’s pulled off. But when I see him throwing a hissy fit like he did again today, I wonder how he did it! Once again, in public, at today’s Trout Lake Township regular meeting, he took the mic from Mike and announced that he wouldn’t take questions from me, ostensibly because I’m a lawyer representing people on this issue. The crowd was not impressed, to put it mildly, and were standing up for me, and he had about 80 guys in seed caps that were ready to throttle him. One guy said the same thing that another said at the Progressive DFL caucus last time he blew: “What have you done that’s got him so afraid of you?”

Heaven forbid I should politely raise my hand to ask Mike what part of the corridor would be shared pipeline and transmission… and they obviously had worked out ahead of time that they would not “allow” me to speak. Dog, get a life, guys…

The strong support I got from the crowd is part of what makes this work so rewarding. The other rewarding thing was that those who attended had obviously done their homework, and knew enough to ask about the expected market for this electricity, options as landowners, and even line losses! It was such a thrill — it didn’t matter that I was incapacitated with this creeping crud and could barely quack out a Donald Duck impression — they did all the work, knew the issues, and expressed it showing they’d put some thought into it. Like wow!

Special thanks to the Trout Lake Town Board for hosting this meeting so that township residents could learn about Mesaba infrastructure coming through the township.

Micheletti Trout Lake Wadley.jpg

Jones salmela.jpg
The Jones “farmstead” in Nerstrand

There goes Doug Jones, the “farmer” of Nerstrand with too much time and money on his hands, wailing about those “frivolous” lawsuits. Sorry, Doug, but the Judge said public participation was important and specifically that it was NOT the sort of suit that demanded sanctions. Once again, the Judge did not declare this suit frivolous! What about that don’t you and the attorney representing Rice County understand?

Through Rice County’s actions lately, it seems to me they are indeed getting the message that they must follow the law — and they would not face 10 very specific counts of violations if they would follow the law! So if they are getting the message, and are now following the law (as they did with the Keven Green Nerstrand development), the suit did achieve something. But if Judge Wolf’s statement that “the county is already required to follow the law” and subsequent dismissal gives the county tacit approval to continue in its illegal ways, they’ll get sued again. If courts don’t care about a consistent pattern of violation of laws by a county, fine, we can sue them one by one, over each issue — in this case there were ten specific counts — and the message I take from this Order is that we’re supposed to sue about the specific issue, so get ready for ten times the suits!!

Here’s the Judge’s Order. Download file

The Judge was pretty clear:

The undersigned is mindful that citizens have the right to contest the actions of elected officials and that a lawsuit, not and then, unfortunately is part of being an elected official. The Defendants have failed to show that Planitiffs actions have been such that sanctions should be applied. The granting of sanctions is a harsh remedy and should be applied sparingly so as not to stymie citizen input. This case is not one where sanctions should be applied.

… something’s happening here, and you don’t know what it is… do you… Mr. Jones…

Wasted money

To the editor:

Twice again, Rice County taxpayers are paying for frivolous actions by liberal activists. Isn’t anyone in Rice County government standing up for the taxpayers?

* First — Once again, Carol Overland sued Rice County on behalf of her group, Rice County Land Use Accountability Inc., a for-profit company whose public records give no indication that it is owned by or represents any Rice County citizens or land owners.

Rice County District Court Judge Gerald Wolf rejected her first suit as frivolous, and now dismisses her amended suit for not showing that the county violated any environmental law.

Unfortunately, Judge Wolf also dismissed Rice County’s requests that Carol Overland personally pay Rice County’s costs to defend itself, now totaling about $30,000. Rice County’s insurer will pay this cost but the cost probably will come back to Rice County in future insurance premium increases and Rice County taxpayers will again have paid for Carol Overland’s lawsuits.

* Second — Similarly, Bruce Anderson of RENew Northfield, was quoted in the Northfield News about his latest windmill project: “This will not cost the taxpayers anything.”

For starters, Bruce asked for and is going to receive $6,500 from Rice County to study his own windmill project! The grant was proposed by county Commissioner Jessica Peterson and seconded by Commissioner Jim Brown. Clearly, for starters, this latest pursuit of “free” money will cost Rice County taxpayers $6,500.

If Rice County ordered a $2.5 million windmill and if it qualified for recently enacted federal bond funding with 0 percent interest, federal taxpayers will pay the interest rate subsidy. And if the windmill fails before the bonds are repaid and after the warranty expires, will Bruce Anderson and RENew Northfield guarantee Rice County taxpayers aren’t stuck with the bill?

Doug Jones


Ballad of a Thin Man

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you’ll say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You raise up your head
And you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says
“It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?”
And somebody else says, “Where what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God
Am I here all alone?”

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, “How does it feel
To be such a freak?”
And you say, “Impossible”
As he hands you a bone

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you
And then he kneels
He crosses himself
And then he clicks his high heels
And without further notice
He asks you how it feels
And he says, “Here is your throat back
Thanks for the loan”

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word “NOW”
And you say, “For what reason?”
And he says, “How?”
And you say, “What does this mean?”
And he screams back, “You’re a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home”

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around
You should be made
To wear earphones

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Dick Day.jpg
From City Pages, The Republicans bliink on taxes

Let me see if I understand this — the state Senate Minority Leader is finally exposed as having paid his wife over $58,000 over the years out of campaign funds, and from what I can see there was no withholding (!) for his wife and his other employee, Tom Neuville’s kid, and Day’s whining and moaning, the Owatonna Paper joins him in making excuses and comforting noises, and now the DFL Senate candidate is bending over backwards to distance himself from this legitimate and well documented issue. HUH??? What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s Dick Day’s 2005 Campaign Finance Report
Here’s Dick Day’s addendum to his 2005 report

Not only is Janet Day on the payroll, but so is Luke Neuvilleneither had any withholding from their pay! (Luke Neuville obviously related to Sen. Tom Neuville!) There is no record of payments to IRS or MN Dept. of Revenue.

Here’s Christian Sande’s 2005 Campaign Finance Report that shows how withholding should be documented

Seems to me this is a legitimate issue that Day must address — his whining about being exposed is diversionary.

Here’s the April 15 article from the Owatonna paper:

Sen. Day under fire for putting wife on payroll

Press staff writer

OWATONNA — State Senate Minority Leader Dick Day has denounced DFL claims that the Owatonna Republican acted improperly by paying his wife for work she has done for his political campaigns.

Day was responding to a demand made Thursday by the DFL Party chair Brian Melendez that the senator return $58,800 he paid his wife between 1995 and 2005. Melendez said it was unethical for Day to pay his wife Janet for “constituent services” — a claim that Day firmly rejected.

“It’s one of the most mean-spirited things that’s ever happened to me in 28 years of political life,” Day said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I pay her like $400 a month. It probably amounts to about $4 an hour for what she does.”

The payments to his wife were legal, Day said, adding that he has filed reports detailing the payments every year.

“If I thought something was illegal I wouldn’t put it in a campaign report for 10 years running,” Day said.

But in a statement released by the DFL Thursday, Melendez said, “Senate rules don’t allow for Senator Day to hire his wife or relatives to work in his Senate office at public expense. Minnesotans need to question why it is permissible to use taxpayer dollars to pay his wife for alleged campaign work.

“We demand that Senator Day return to Minnesota taxpayers the $58,800 he funneled back into his own household,” Melendez said.

Melendez could not be reached for comment Thursday.

However, DFL spokesman David Ruth said Thursday that the Minnesota Department of Revenue reimburses up to $50 to donors for contributions to state campaigns. So, according to Ruth, taxpayers are paying Janet Day for her campaign work.

Day responded by saying that his wife was not paid by taxpayer money. Only a third of his campaign money came from people whose contributions are reimbursed, Day said, and that his wife’s salary did not come from that money. However, both the reimbursed and nonreimbursed money is held in the same account.

Day said many state senators have a senate office in their district where work is done. Day said he doesn’t have a local office, so work is done at home.

State records show that between 1995 and 2005, Janet Day received $58,800 for “constituent services.” Last year, she was paid $4,400 for work she did from February to December, according to the records.

On March 24, Day received a request from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board asking him for clarification of what was meant by “constituent services.” Day responded by detailing her duties, saying she reads and summarizes information from four area newspapers, sends letters and cards to constituents, attends meetings and functions in the district which he is unable to attend and takes telephone calls.

“In the course of constituent phone calls, Janet receives information from constituents and assists them with their concerns, including contacting state agencies,” Day said in a letter to Joyce Larson, compliance officer with the board.

Larson said Thursday that it was common for the board to request legislators to clarify expenses.

But Melendez said in his statement that Day should not have hired his wife to do the work.

“Senate Rules don’t allow for Senator Day to hire his wife or relatives to work in his Senate office at public expense,” said Melendez.

Ruth stated that Melendez based his comments on an employee legislative handbook.

But according to Jeanne Olson, executive director with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, nothing in state statutes prohibits hiring relatives to work on a campaign.

State campaign finance law allows funds to be used for wages and fees. It doesn’t define who can get a check, but makes clear the money “may not be converted to personal use.”

In a well-timed advisory opinion unrelated to the Day matter, the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reiterated Thursday that a campaign committee can’t give compensation to a candidate running for office.

In 1998, the Day campaign paid Day himself $2,500 for caucus leadership expenses and mileage. Larson said legislators are required to keep receipts and records of expenses for four years. They don’t need to turn all the receipts and records in, but they could be audited.

Day said he doesn’t deduct mileage most years, but does once in a while.

Day is hardly alone in employing a relative who is paid through campaign funds.

Ryan Kelly managed father Randy Kelly’s mayoral campaigns in St. Paul. And Attorney General Mike Hatch, a DFLer, hired his nephew, Joe Hatch, as a campaign “contractor,” paying him more than $67,700 between 1999 and 2003. In his gubernatorial campaign this year, Hatch’s niece Kari Erickson is on the payroll.

Ruth declined to comment on the Hatch or Kelly examples.

Here’s the April 15 Barb Perkins editorial in the Owatonna paper:

Day should give the money back

Mr. Bowmanâ??s letter to the editor in the Waseca County News on March 29, stated that In 2005 Senator Dick Day paid his wife $4,400 for â??constituent servicesâ? from his campaign. Campaign funds are reimbursed through the contribution refund program from state tax dollars.

I am trying to restore faith in my elected officials after the big state shut down this past summer, and then I came across that letter. I think Mr. Bowman has a legitimate concern. 2005 was not the first time Sen. Day has paid his wife.

Over the past nine years he has paid her a hefty sum of $58,800 a total of amounts that appear on his Campaign Finance Reports. Again, campaign funds are reimbursed through the contribution refund program from state tax dollars. Werenâ??t there other people or organizations that would have happy to assist Sen. Day In his campaign and make that kind of cash?

Paying your relative with tax dollars is wrong, and understandably people are going to be upset. A politician paying their spouse for â??constituent servicesâ? does not appear to be a common practice with other elected officials â?? Where are the checks and balances? I thank Mr. Bowman for bringing his concern to forefront. I too would ask Sen. Day to do the right thing, pay back not just the $4,400 but the entire amount of $58,800.

Barb Perkins


Here’s a follow-up in the Owatonna paper:

Day questions motives in family pay allegation

Press staff writer

OWATONNA — While she says she has no political affiliation, the woman who laid groundwork for DFL accusations of impropriety about a Republican state senator’s campaign payments to his wife does have DFL connections, according to the senator.

Many of the campaign reports showing that Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, paid his wife Janet for campaign work were brought to light by Barb Perkins, an Owatonna resident who stated she is neither a Republican or Democrat and that she has voted for Day in the past.

However, Perkins is the sister of Nancy Prehn, the Waseca campaign manager for Day’s democratic opponent Jeremy Eller.

“It seems like it’s kind of orchestrated,” Day said Saturday. “I can’t imagine that seven months out these people are being so negative when people want us to run positive races.”

Both Eller and Perkins said that they do not know each other.

State DFL chair Brian Melendez released a press release earlier this week calling on Day to return $58,800 Janet Day was paid for campaign work over 10 years.

Prehn said she did not know about the DFL press release ahead of time. Asked whether it was OK to pay relatives for campaign work, Prehn said she had no comment.

The Dick Day Volunteer Committee paid Janet Day about $400 a month for constituent services which included answering phones, scheduling appointments, filing and summarizing news. She was paid $4,400 in 2005.

Perkins said she began looking into Day’s campaign finance records after reading a letter to the editor in the Waseca County News.

“I think that if you have to pay your wife to support you, why should anyone else?” Perkins said.

It is not illegal to pay relatives for campaign work under state law. However, DFL spokesman David Ruth and Day disagreed on whether it violates Senate rules.

Perkins said she would not have a problem with the payments if they weren’t coming back to a legislator’s own household.

Reports have shown that payments to family members are common among DFL candidates as well. Ryan Kelly was paid to manage his father Randy Kelly’s DFL campaigns for mayor of St. Paul. Joe Hatch, the nephew of Attorney General Mike Hatch, was hired as Hatch’s campaign contractor and received about $67,000 between 1999 and 2003.

Ruth said the DFL payments were acceptable because they were not coming back to the candidate’s household.

Eller said that his wife, sister and mother are assisting in his campaign, but that they are not paid.

“We both have a desire to be leaders for the community and help the communities any way we can,” Eller said of himself and Day.

Day said when the Legislature reconvenes Tuesday he will investigate whether there are Democratic legislators who also have relatives on the campaign payroll.

And a bizarre editorial from the Owatonna People’s Press:

Too early for mudslinging

April showers have brought early mudslinging to the Senate district 26 campaign.

Last week, allegations arose against incumbent Dick Day, R-Owatonna, that stated payments to his wife totaling $58,800 for campaign work over the last 10 years were unethical.

It shouldnâ??t come as a surprise to learn that the allegations were brought forward by someone with ties to Dayâ??s opponent, Jeremy Eller, DFL-Faribault.

If, as Day claims, the payments to his wife are legal â?? and it does seem odd that after 10 years of reporting them someone is finally raising the issue â?? this issue should die and maybe even an apology will be offered. Wouldnâ??t that be refreshing?

If, however the allegations are valid, then Day should have an opportunity to pay back the money without any retribution since he was upfront in the first place by claiming his wifeâ??s payments on his financial reports.

Anyone who knows Day knows that, like it or not, he is very upfront with what he does and that he does not duck questions when asked.

We hope that this is not the beginning of the mudslinging on petty issues and that both candidates will focus on the real issues leading up to Novemberâ??s election.

So if no one complains and he does it for a long time, it’s OK? Oh, right… and when Rep. Ray Cox loaned his campaign nearly twice the allowed amount, by an outright loan of $5,000 and then paying nearly $4,000 in campaign debt, totalling nearly $9,000, because no one filed a formal Complaint, it’s OK?? …and about IRS withholding, because Day’s wife and Tom Neuville’s son are obviously employees and not independent contractors — wasn’t lack of employee withholding the issue that was regarded as enough of a problem to keep Lani Guinier off the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t it receive the same scrutiny here?

And an even more bizarre one from Sen. 28 DFL candidate Jeremy Eller in today’s Faribault paper distancing himself from this issue:

Let’s move on

To the editor:

My committee has been campaigning on the issues of transportation, education, health care and jobs. I am a leader who cares about the needs of my district first and foremost and will continue to focus on the issues that affect this district.

I read the article in the Waseca paper and made the decision that we would not touch this issue. I am sick and tired of negative and bullying campaigns and this is why I issued a statement to Owatonna People’s Press reporter Jason Kroeker. I informed Mr. Kroeker that this will not become a campaign issue for my committee. We are campaigning on the issues of highways 14 and 60, education, and a leader who will listen.

Mrs. Perkins, one of the individuals who wrote a letter to the editor commenting on the Day situation, is related to one of my coordinators. Although I instructed my coordinators to not get involved with this issue, Mrs. Perkins has the right to voice her opinion. Yes, it makes it harder for me to run a positive campaign because of who she is related to; however, I served this country so that everyone including Mrs. Perkins could observe the right to freedom of speech.

I will continue to run a campaign that will demonstrate that I’m a better leader that will spend more time worrying about my district first and foremost; while also ensuring that we properly fund our education system; ensuring that we have good paying jobs within our communities; finding a viable solution to our health care crisis; and having a leader that will listen and fight for the constituents that we are elected to represent.

Jeremy Eller
State Senate District 26 candidate

This is that strange theory that it is “negative and bullying campaigning” to disclose a serious infraction of an opponent. Doesn’t Eller have the fortitude to stand up and be heard on an ethical issue like this? This isn’t a case of Steve Sviggum and Ray Cox in the Rice Co. dump whining about pie, which is perfectly legal (even the Northfield News had to admit it, and probably regretted their encouragement of Sviggum’s antics) but a complaint about funnelling taxpayer funded campaign donations (Day took $16,318 from PCR program in 2004) to a family member and not withholding as should be done for an employee (as other campaign committees do). So Eller, should others have to do the heavy lifting to keep Day on the up and up? Why back away rather than acknowledge the problem that it is? Why not address whether there’s a tax, Social Security and Medicare withholding issue? Hmmmmmmmmmm…


And here’s from today’s Waseca County News, a rehash of the “DFL asks for payback; Sen. Day questions motives” in the Owatonna paper and the Eller editorial that’s also in Faribault, here are more:

Compelled to write

To the Editor:

Due to the recent actions of my elected State Senator, I, Barb Perkins, who is Nancy Prehn’s sister, who’s Jeremy Eller’s Campaign Manager for Waseca County, am compelled to write this letter to the editor.

Recently I read a letter from a citizen expressing concern about Senator Day’s Campaign Finance Report. Characteristically, Sen. Day replied to the citizen’s letter lashing out with harsh words of criticism. At that point I researched public records discovering this has been an ongoing practice by Sen. Day for 10 years. This practice may be legal but seems unethical. I sent to the editors of various local papers, my documentation, and my letter asking for Sen. Day to do the right thing, return the money back to the state. I did this in April 5, 2006; to date the Owatonna Peoples Press is the only one that has printed my letter, which was printed in an untimely fashion on 4/15/06 and this is a daily paper! A follow up story ran on 4/16/06; Senator Day comes out swinging, saying it was “orchestrated.” I wonder was this censorship or who orchestrated what? I freely gave the information to the reporter at Owatonna People’s Press during two separate discussions that Nancy Prehn is my sister. Sen. Day chose to be in the public eye, that being said, his actions are observed, questioned, admired and most often scrutinized.

Sen. Day has managed to once again side step the real issue; he paid his wife with taxpayer’s money.

I’m an individual with a mind and voice of my own just asking for accountability. Fortunately, we all have the First Amendment Right, and even though Nancy Prehn is my sister, it does not take that right away from me!

Barb Perkins

And from Pam Seaser, whom Dick Day paid for accounting work:

Democrats’ solution

To the Editor:

Democrats’ solution: Fire Dick Day’s wife. Hire someone at $10 an hour ($1,000 a month). Rent office space in Owatonna $500 a month.

Provide a phone, Internet service, office supplies, and utilities at $200 a month. All of this totals $1,700. Or keep his wife who answers the phone after 5:00, holidays, plus weekends and gets paid $400 a month. Do the math. I think Dick knows how to spend his own campaign money wisely. I should know. As his treasurer, we have been reporting this information, as is required by law, since the first day Dick took office. It is disappointing that Democrats are trying to manipulate something that is perfectly legal and ethical instead of trying to do what Dick and Janet have always done—tirelessly serving the citizens of Dick’s district in the most cost effective manner.

Pam Seaser

And last but not least:

Full disclosure

To the Editor:

Full Disclosure: I’ve never met Barb Perkins, and have briefly met Jeremy Ellers while working on another campaign, and Nancy Prehn was a client of mine regarding the Simon Industries power plant. My most recent encounter with Sen. Dick Day was when he introduced and promoted exemption of the Simon Industries power plant from utility personal property taxes without first consulting with the county and township to get their approval of loss of millions in tax revenue — and local governments made it clear what they thought of that exemption.

I read the article about Dick Day’s payment of campaign funds to his wife, and it seems you’re all missing an important aspect of this. Anyone can hire whoever they want to do just about anything, and as I see it, whether Day hired his wife or not isn’t an issue. However, tax withholding is an issue. I was recently comparing the Campaign Finance reports of DFL Secretary of State candidates, and noted that those reports reflect state and federal withholding and Social Security and Medicare payments for campaign workers. Shouldn’t Day’s reports also reflect these payments? $400 a month is not a lot, but $58,000 over time is, and under the IRS rules even $400 a month is subject to withholding. My memory is foggy, but didn’t that little matter of employee withholding keep Lani Guinier off the Supreme Court?

Carol A. Overland

More Mesaba news

April 15th, 2006


Trout Lake Township has invited an Excelsior Energy rep to make a presentation about infrastructure that is planned to go through the township, pipeline and transmission. Residents have learned about it and aren’t too happy and need more information. See ya there!

Thursday April 20, 2006
Trout Lake Town Hall on Co. Rd. 10
7 p.m. or earlier if they finish with township business

For more Mesaba information, go to

And the Mesaba project has made the news:

Pull the plug on Excelsior Energy



More reasons not to back the Excelsior Energy coal gasification plant: As restrictions on eminent domain are being considered in the State Legislature, the Mesaba project comes along using public tax dollars and eminent domain to obtain the land. This whole project will be tied up in the courts forever as lawsuit after environmental lawsuit are filed. As the state tries to clean up its air and water, here comes a proposed project which may emit airborne mercury to further taint our fish, and perhaps heavy metals in effluent water to eventually wind up in the Mississippi River where Minneapolis and other communities get their water supplies. Not to mention going back on an agreement with the Trout Lake Association to route excess Canisteo Pit water through Trout Lake.

Time to pull the plug on the Mesaba project before serious public money in taxes and court costs are wasted. There are better and less expensive ways to create good jobs.

Tim Zoerb
Eden Prairie

And in the Duluth newspaper:

Measure would help coal-to-gas plant

DEVELOPMENT:Two legislators from Grand Rapids are looking out after two major project in the region.

Minnesota state legislators from Grand Rapids are seeking more help for Excelsior Energy Inc.’s plans to build a power plant fueled by gasified coal.

Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, and Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, have introduced legislation that would relieve the company from paying personal property taxes on about $750 million worth of equipment it plans to install near Taconite. Tom Michelleti, Excelsior’s co-chief executive officer, expects his company to spend about$1.5 billion to put up the first of two units to be built on the site in phases.

The Grand Rapids legislative contingent also is seeking bonding money to help cover the cost of new infrastructure to support both Excelsior’s proposed power plant and Minnesota Steel’s proposed steel slab mill.

Itasca County has requested $56.6 million to help with the expense of extending sewer lines, natural gas pipes, water mains, roads and railroad spurs into the area.

Dave Christy, Itasca County’s highway engineer, said the power plant would require about $55 million in infrastructure alone, and the steel slab mill would take$59 million. By building a system to serve both large industrial projects jointly, however, the cost could be reduced to$92 million — a savings of$22 million, he said.

Itasca County’s request for state bonding assistance has received a lukewarm reception in the Legislature. The Senate has proposed providing $20 million for industrial infrastructure, and the House has proposed$9 million. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has called for $7 million in aid.

The county still has a bit of time to enlist additional help if legislative support for its infrastructure request comes in shy of its mark. Christy said the county could approach Iron Range Resources, the federal Economic Development Administration or the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for money.

Minnesota Steel plans to begin construction of its mill in 2007, and Excelsior aims to start groundwork in the first quarter of 2008.

Even though it appears unlikely Itasca County’s bonding request will be fully funded, Micheletti said any support is better than none.

“Every dollar is important when you’re undertaking a large project like this,” he said.

Regardless of what happens with bonding money, Solberg said he remains optimistic about relieving Excelsior of personal property tax obligations associated with the construction of the power plant at Taconite.

He said more than 20 other personal property tax exemptions have been granted for projects across the state. While taxes on Excelsior’s equipment at Taconite would be exempted if Solberg’s bill succeeds, the company still would pay property taxes on the real estate it owns.

Excelsior previously had obtained legislative relief from personal property tax to build on land formerly occupied by LTV Steel Mining Co. in Hoyt Lakes. But when other redevelopment plans for the area began to emerge, the company shifted its focus to a location north of Taconite. As the original legislation applied only to the previous site, Saxhaug and Solberg have proposed companion bills that would amend the old bill, tailoring it to the Taconite location and extending the timeline to allow for construction of the first 500-megawatt unit by no later than Jan. 1, 2010.

Even if the state Legislature approves personal property tax relief for Excelsior, the company will need to negotiate a host-community agreement with local government representatives before the exemption takes effect, Micheletti said. A host-community agreement sets forth a reduced payment to be made in lieu of personal property taxes to support the county, schools and any other local entities that rely on property taxes.

Rusty Eichorn, chairman of the Itasca County Board of Commissioners, said he and his colleagues remain supportive of the request for granting Excelsior personal property tax relief.

Micheletti anticipates Excelsior will employ about110 people in the first unit of its Taconite power plant and about 200 people when the second unit is completed. During construction, the project could create work for about 1,500 people.