Osky delegation talks transportation at state capitol
Oskaloosa Herald, The (IA), 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--DES MOINES -- State lawmakers could "Note the Difference" in the capitol rotunda Tuesday morning as a delegation of local business and government officials traveled to Des Moines to talk about the community and transportation issues.
Members of the Mahaska Community Development Group set up tables and displays highlighting Oskaloosa while the Oskaloosa High School String Ensemble performed for those stopping by to talk Tuesday morning during Oskaloosa Legislative Day at the capitol.
"We're focusing on transportation," MCDG Executive Director Andrew Jensen said. "Improvements to Highway 63 is something we want to put out in front of people."
Jensen said the visit to the capitol is "a big marketing day" for Oskaloosa and the delegation's theme is "Note the Difference."
Jensen said the delegation would talk about existing and planned transportation projects, local manufacturers, the area's fiber-optic communications systems and Oskaloosa's cultural attractions.
There were about 20 local business and government representatives in the Oskaloosa delegation, Jensen said.
Delegation members planned to talk to Iowa Department of Transportation commissioners Leonard Boswell and David Rose. Also, the group was slated to speak to Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, as well as Debbi Durham of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Jensen said.
Jensen said delegation members will discuss topics such as Highway 63 improvements, the northwest Oskaloosa bypass and an east side bypass as well as the regional airport.
Mahaska Health Partnership CEO Jay Christensen was part of the OCDG delegation.
"My role today is to support the Highway 63 Coalition," Christensen said.
Christensen said he usually discusses health care topics with legislators at the Eggs & Issues forums.
"It's all economic development," Christensen said of Tuesday talking points. "Any economic development helps those who provide services."
Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt said he jumped at the chance to come to Des Moines Tuesday to talk about Oskaloosa.
"This is an opportunity I welcome," Krutzfeldt said.
Krutzfeldt said the Legislative Day is a time to talk to state lawmakers about the importance of the Oskaloosa area to the state economy.
There are several area manufacturers that export their products -- which is important to the overall state economy, he said.
Also, the diversity of area manufacturers is important to the state, he said.
"We are a big piece of the grand strategy," Krutzfeldt added.
Krutzfeldt said that the cooperation between government entities economic development projects such as the regional airport is a point to emphasize to lawmakers. The cities of Oskaloosa and Pella teamed up with Mahaska County to get the regional airport project off the ground and into the federal study phase. Also, the northwest Oskaloosa bypass is in the NEPA study phase due to cooperation between local governments, he added.
Former state Rep. Eric Palmer was at the capitol Tuesday on a personal note.
"I'm freelancing today. I'm here to see my daughter," he said. "My daughter, Tori, is playing in the orchestra."
DOT Commissioner Leonard Boswell talked about the transportation projects around Oskaloosa.
"I understand the projects they're working on," he said. "I was in on it when I was a member of Congress."
"It's a needed project," Boswell said of Highway 63 improvements.
Intermodal transportation projects such as the regional airport and Highway 63 improvements will save taxpayer money, he said.
Boswell said that in his opinion, the Highway 63 improvement project is "in a favorable position."
"It just needs to keep moving," he added.
Infrastructure and economic development go hand in hand. It is better to complete infrastructure improvements now because they will just be more expensive in the future, he said.
There are a lot of companies in the Oskaloosa-Pella area that rely on transportation infrastructure.
"It needs to be done," Boswell said of infrastructure improvements.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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