by Frances Edstrom

Bravo to Chamber of Commerce

Bravo to the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce for taking notice that the Riverbend Industrial Park has become the Riverbend Retail Park.

In a letter to City of Winona Director of Development Judy Bodway, Chamber president Della Schmidt wrote that "The City will be faced with inquiries for land uses that may or may not conform to the community expectations that have been created for the Riverbend Industrial Park."

The Chamber further offered to work with the City and the Port Authority to produce guiding principles for the development of the area, saying, "We place significant importance on job creation and the growth of the manufacturing sector."

We welcome this letter for several reasons, one of which is that it signals that the Chamber is reestablishing itself as an advocate for the interests of the business community and the economic health of the community at large.

It is important that the City be put on notice that its actions have a direct impact on the economic well-being of the existing business community, and the viability of specific local businesses. Perhaps in the meeting between the Chamber and the City, it will be pointed out that jeopardizing individual existing businesses, who currently employ many Winonans and pay considerable amounts in taxes, for the sole purpose of filling up empty land, is self-destructive.

It is refreshing as well to have the Chamber suggest publicly that until now the development of the Riverbend land has been done without prior input from the community at large and the businesses affected by it.

The City's circling the wagons around the decisions made by its development arm, refusing to enter into public dialogue, will, we hope, come to an end.

We thank the Chamber of Commerce for rising to the occasion and taking a major step to regain its rightful position as a major player in the community.

Boo to Winona County

I'm trying to decide whether astonishment or anger is the better response to the latest facilities snafu in Winona County government. Sentence-to-Serve personnel were used by the County to demolish the walls of the shooting range in the basement of the Winona County Jail, which resulted in enormously elevated levels of lead dust. This action is not only unfathomable, given laws about hazardous waste abatement and the potential harm the lead dust could cause to these workers, but could well put the county in the midst of a lawsuit.

The County Commissioners, at a meeting on December 28, 2003, gave the go-ahead for the project. The $45,000 the county saved by using Winona County Facilities Manager Pam Wolf as general contractor and Sentence-to-Serve personnel for the project seems inconsequential now. Someone "” Wold Architects, County Administrator Robert Reinert, Jail Administrator Steve Buswell, and most certainly Wolf "” should have known "” by testing or at least by conjecture, since it was a shooting range "” what was in the walls before any demolition was begun.

But instead, according to a letter from Winona City employee Keith Nelson to Winona County Administrator Robert Reinert, it was City of Winona police personnel who suggested that lead levels might be elevated, and it was the City of Winona that brought in the Institute for Environmental Assessment to measure these levels. You can see those results on page one.

We leave it to the courts to decide liability.

But what should concern us is the fact that this happened at all. It should alert the County Commissioners that county employees who are to be involved in such projects need to be better educated and qualified, and that more oversight is needed.


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