Old pool site re-emerges as contender for new library location
WORTHINGTON -- The former outdoor swimming pool site in Worthington has resurfaced as a surprise option in the ongoing discussions regarding construction of a new branch of the Nobles County Library.
The site had once been discussed for its potential development of a new library, but withdrawn when it was deemed it did not fit with the public parks and recreation space as outlined by the E.O. Olson Trust, which owns the land. Recently, however, descendants of E.O. Olson sent a letter to the county stating their support for the property to be developed for a library.
With the site back on the table, it quickly rose to the top of the list of four potential sites -- at least among two Nobles County commissioners. Other sites in consideration are the former Campbell's Soup property, down the hill from the new fire hall; the Lampert Lumber site across from Worthington's Post Office; and the county's Public Works building at the intersection of Diagonal Road and Clary Street.
"It's construction-ready, there's a series of bike trails that are being built around there and I think they could tie into that site," said Commissioner Marv Zylstra of the former outdoor pool site, saying it would be his top site choice for a new library.
Commissioner Don Linssen also put the site at the top of his list.
"It would be my first pick," he said, adding that alternative sites on the Lampert Lumber property and county public works property would be his second and third choices, respectively.
Board chairman Bob Demuth Jr. was also intrigued with the newly available option.
"The pool site has got me a little excited, in a good way," he said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Matt Widboom said rather than make a personal ranking, he wanted to get input from the public.
"I truly value the ranking of the citizens of the city more than I do mine," he said. "I really think we need to present, at this point, an opportunity for the citizens to weigh in."
Commissioner Gene Metz agreed, saying he wanted to hear from the public and whether they will "buy-in" to the project.
In the end, the consensus was to bring the four options to the public for feedback before a decision is made. A public informational meeting is planned for mid- to late July, with a display to be included in an informational booth during the Nobles County Fair in August.
Nobles County Library Director Julie Wellnitz said the former pool site is a "beautiful location," but she didn't want to say, at this point, if it should be chosen.
"I would really be happy with any of them," she said, adding that when she first moved to Worthington, the former pool site was the option with the most positive support from the public.
Since the pool was a late addition in the consideration, Wellnitz said soil samples have not yet been tested from the site. However, since there was a pool there, she said engineers are "quite confident it wouldn't require extensive remediation."
Steve Johnson, of Vetter-Johnson Architects, is the lead architect on the library project. He said each of the four sites has its advantages.
The Campbell's Soup site, while it would offer library patrons a beautiful view of the lake, would require a lot of pre-construction work because of soil contamination issues. The Lampert Lumber site would cause delays because the business would need to relocate, and the asking price for the property may also be prohibitive. On a positive note, the site is considered to be at the crossroads of the downtown area. The public works site, not too far from downtown, would require the county to construct a new public works facility elsewhere.
The schematics presented at Tuesday's board meeting are not library designs, but rather fit plans that show how a library building, parking lots and green space could potentially look on a particular site.
The sites under consideration all meet the land needs -- a minimum of 2.6 acres -- for a new 24,000-square-foot library facility, with an option for another 3,000 square feet of space to house the Plum Creek Library System. Wellnitz is hopeful a site can be determined by early fall, with construction to begin in the spring of 2014.
Wellnitz said the Friends of the Library and the Nobles County Library Foundation have been collecting donations for the new library, but many are hesitant to give until they are certain a new library will be built. Once the county decides on a site for the building, she said those fundraising efforts would be ramped up.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.