City agenda includes planetarium

The City Council has approved the city's federal legislative agenda - a list of funding priorities that calls for $4 million for the planetarium, among other things.

The proposed Minnesota Planetarium and Space Discovery Center will top the New Central Library at 300 Nicollet Mall. If funding is secured, the planetarium is scheduled to open in 2009.

The planetarium will feature a five-story domed structure that will be planted on the western side of the new library. It will be equipped with a fiber-optic star projector capable of simulating day and night skies, and an observatory with remote telescopes and an orbiting satellite.

At an Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting on Feb. 21, Eugene Ranieri, director of the city's Office of Intergovernmental Relations, noted that the city's federal funding request comes as legislative earmarks for Minneapolis projects have been on the decline.

Members of Congress have been pressured particularly to cut back on earmarks for special projects - known as pork-barrel spending - in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the ongoing war in Iraq.

Besides $4 million for the planetarium, the city's federal legislative priorities for fiscal year 2007 include $1.25 million to phase out the city's Combined Sewer Overflow system - pipes that collect both sewage and stormwater runoff.

The federal legislative agenda also calls for $3 million for the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone - a federally designated zone that include the city's most economically distressed neighborhoods. Since 1999, the city has received $26.9 million in Empowerment Zone funding to invest in affordable housing and a variety of economic development programs.

Other top priorities outlined in the federal agenda include:

– $15 million for a regional water system interconnect, which would provide a backup of the Minneapolis and St. Paul water systems in the case of a natural disaster or security problem;

– $6 million to build a new emergency operations center;

– $6 million for the city's Traffic Management Center;

– $4 million for public infrastructure for the upper Mississippi River;

– $2 million for parkway lighting around the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway - a roughly 50-mile loop around the city;

– $850,000 for a gunfire detection system; and

– $500,000 for preliminary engineering and planning for a pedestrian bridge across Hiawatha Avenue near the 46th Street light-rail transit (LRT) station.

The full Council approved the federal legislative agenda Feb. 24.