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Council gives FOTA grant, loan

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WORTHINGTON — Judie Wendt-Johnson said the Friends of the Auditorium is in a financial bind.

“Over the last 17 years, I have been involved with the Friends of the Auditorium. I’ve witnessed a lot of wonderful things we have done for the auditorium and I want to continue that from this point on,” she told the city council during Monday’s regular meeting. “Yes, we are in a big pickle, there is no doubt about it.”

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Wendt-Johnson and Candace Joens spoke on behalf of the Friends of the Auditorium (FOTA) to ask for money to cover current bills as well as a loan for future bookings.

“Our attendance is down,” Joens said. “Either it’s an economic thing or an age thing, whether it’s the right shows… We have a lot of initiatives underway, but unfortunately, we are in kind of a desperate financial situation. We are coming forward to ask the city for assistance.”

The council unanimously approved both a $20,000 grant and a $16,000 booking loan to the FOTA. The funds will come from the impact funds of the sale of the hospital. The money was passed under the condition that a management plan showing relationships between the city advisory board and the FOTA be completed by July 1.

The FOTA is the group responsible for booking many of the shows at Memorial Auditorium throughout the year. They were asking for a loan of $2,000 each for eight show deposits to be used for future performances.

Memorial Auditorium has two shows remaining in which it could generate income: “Gone Country” and a performance by Lorie Line.

“We would love to fill the auditorium for both shows of ‘Gone Country’ and Lorie Line and we wouldn’t have to be having this discussion,” Joens said. “But it may not happen.”

Joens and Wendt-Johnson said the auditorium is not booked for the remainder of 2014 or into 2015.

“We should, by now, be finished booking everything,” Wendt-Johnson said.

Council member Mike Kuhle said the auditorium was a vital part of the community.

“It’s an amenity we just finished sticking $2 million into to expand the time frame that we could use this,” Kuhle said. “It sounds like you have a plan in place.”

In other business, the council had a public hearing on the improvement of Okabena Street by the water main extension. The council unanimously passed the project to the next step of preparing plans and getting bids. The total cost of the project is approximately $225,000.

“That’s a lot for a project of this length,” said Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield. “But we do see some adverse conditions there.”

A total of 11 percent of the project’s cost will be assessed to property owners with the rest falling onto the city.

The council also authorized the Worthington Police Department to enter into a grant agreement for purchase of equipment for the Emergency Response Unit. The grant was for $8,500 and is a 50 percent match to city funds budgeted for 2014.

Scott Gigrich, the city’s code enforcement officer/housing inspector, gave a presentation on the rental properties he has inspected. Within Worthington, there are 1,411 rental units, and 619 units have been inspected. Of those, 473 received a certificate of compliance.

The meeting began with the recognition of Worthington High School senior Anthony Luft. Luft recently won his second consecutive Minnesota state wrestling title.

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.

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