Walz calls Virginia’s effort a model of advocating for state funding

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Gov. Tim Walz says the successful effort to get funding for a new public safety building in Virginia is a model of how to advocate for your community.

Walz visited the Virginia Fire Department on Thursday as part of his tour to prepare the next bill to fund construction projects around Minnesota. The 2020 bonding bill included $9.5 million for a regional public safety center and training facility for police and fire in Virginia.

Approval of the funding came after a local group called The Friends of Public Safety joined with local leaders to advocate for the project.

EARLIER REPORT: Friends of Public Safety: Virginia Citizens, Officials Push for New Building

"They made the case that the Virginia Fire Safety building, a beautiful historic site, and absolutely non-functional for public safety. The folks in here that have made this work for all these years are absolute geniuses to make that happen," Walz said.

Walz praised Virginia’s bonding proposal as a "model of how you safeguard taxpayer dollars."

"They made the case that this facility should have been. We made that case to the rest of the legislators, and this ranked very near to the top, and it was funded accordingly," Walz said.

Mayor Larry Cuffe said the upgrades will ensure that the city’s 38 firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s will have a functioning place to live and work.

"I want to spotlight the community of Virginia. They are the ones who really pushed this forward, they’re the ones who made the phone calls, called the legislators, went everywhere — door to door — raised money for funding for advertisements," Cuffe said.

Walz’s "Local Jobs and Projects" tour is taking him to sites being considered for the 2022 bonding proposal. Before Virginia, he visited the Brainerd area to stop at a site proposed for air tankers and wildfire fighting that failed to make the cut in the 2020 bill.

"In 2019, we noted that we needed to have better infrastructure if we had a bad wildfire season. Well of course that happened this year, so I hope it gets in," Walz said.

Walz kicked off his tour with a stop in Duluth on Oct. 14. Members of the state House and Senate have also been taking tours of their own.

EARLIER REPORT: Duluth is first stop on Walz’s tour of projects seeking state funding