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Lack of quorum hinders council

WORTHINGTON — With two of the five members absent and no quorum, the Worthington city council could not take any action during Monday’s regular meeting.

According to the city’s charter, “four members of the City Council shall constitute a quorum.” Only three were present at Monday’s meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

“This will be an informational meeting, we can’t take any action tonight,” Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said to begin the meeting. “You can be missing the mayor and one councilman, but we can’t be missing two council people. We will go ahead with the presentations we have.”

Council members Ron Wood and Scott Nelson were absent on Monday night.

The meeting will continue at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

While no action was taken, the remaining members heard a presentation from Abraham Algadi, Manager of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC) about the Nobles Home Initiative in an effort to deal with the city’s housing needs.

“What I’m about to present to you is not new,” Algadi said. “Many of you on council, mayor, staff, have been dealing with it for quite some time.”

A housing study done in 2013 showed that Worthington needed approximately 500 units by 2020.

The initiative, Algadi said, is aimed to give 100 percent tax abatement from the city, county and school district for new residential construction for a five-year period.

Within the first year, Algadi said he estimates $5.5 million worth of construction would take place. That would include 40 multi-family units, three to six condo-style and four single family homes.

“Housing has a really healthy trickle-down effect,” Algadi said. “It would help the other retail and service sectors.”

Algadi and members of the WREDC in attendance spoke for more than a half an hour. The council asked questions about the time frame and when exactly the valuation would be established on a project.

“It’s interesting that we’re getting engaged into the debate at this level right now,” Algadi said.

“We don’t have anything else to do,” Oberloh replied.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson was also in attendance and spoke on what the county had decided in an earlier county commissioners meeting.

The commissioners approved the concept of the initiative, and the WREDC will present to a committee of the school board today.

“I was hoping tonight, we would approve it, I don’t know if there is a way for you guys to do that,” Algadi said.

“We can’t even pay bills,” Oberloh said. “We can Wednesday night though.”

“We have builders waiting in the wings,” Algadi said. “We are really anxious to engage the school and see what kind of initial feedback we can get from their committee. We are hoping they will approve it.”

The council could not formally approve the request for a five-year tax abatement. However, Oberloh said he didn’t think that would be a problem when official action could be taken.

“It was a couple years ago when we approved it the last time, the needs have gotten greater, not less, so I don’t know why we wouldn’t,” Oberloh said. He added there were only two new members on the council from when a similar proposal was approved, and Rod Sankey and Diane Graber — the newest members — both said they had no issue with the program.

In another presentation, Cheryl Glaeser, a Program Officer from the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF), gave an update on the past, present and future of the organization.

According to documents provided by Glaeser, SWIF has awarded 60 loans totaling more than $2.8 million to businesses in Nobles County since inception. In the same time period, SWIF has awarded 350 grants totaling nearly $1.9 million to benefit Nobles County.

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