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Old Worthington outdoor pool site gets OK for potential new library location

WORTHINGTON — The First National Bank in Minneapolis, the trustee for the E.O. Olson Trust that owns the land where Worthington’s former outdoor swimming pool was located, has notified the city it has no interest in the land. The notification opens the door for Nobles County to pursue the land for possible development of a new Nobles County Library.

The former pool site has been at the top of the list of potential sites for the library since public informational meetings were conducted nearly a year ago.

First National Bank notified Worthington’s city attorney Mark Shepherd of its non-interest in the site.

“The bank called and said they determined they had no interest with the (property) and they are following up with a letter,” explained County Administrator Tom Johnson in a meeting Friday morning between county, city and school officials. “Basically, that means as soon as that letter arrives, we need to sit down with you guys and discuss a referendum.”

The official letter will be sent to Shepherd outlying the trust’s decision.

“Once this letter comes and this is a done deal, now it’s planning for the referendum,” Johnson said, adding he isn’t sure if there are any conditions with the decision. “We really can’t do much until the voters tell us to.”

Added Johnson: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to spend money doing any design work until we know. We’ll probably spend a little money and put together some kind of a diagram to assure people that it fits in the site and isn’t some ugly old facility.”

In January, the city council directed Shepherd to seek an opinion from the trust. At that time, the city was not committing to using the land for a library, but to find out if it could be used. 

The email answers that question.

“It’s good news,” said Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark. “It gives the city flexibility to accommodate the potential for the county’s new library. We can move it forward for consideration by the voters.” 

Johnson said the community will decide.

“The community gets to decide whether it’s good news or not,” he said. “Ultimately, it has to go to referendum.”

A referendum is required by city charter because the land is being altered from its intended purpose as park space.

Clark said he doesn’t see a reason why the library issue couldn’t be on November’s ballot.

Through public feedback, the county narrowed the options for sites to the former outdoor pool site. Between town-hall meetings and a booth at the county fair conducted late last year, 115 of 270 responses were in favor of that site.

Even if it passes a referendum, there is still work to be done.

“It still has to go through the commissioners for final approval and what level of funding the county is willing to put forth,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of work even after the referendum, should it pass.”

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