Public meetings planned next week in Brewster, Adrian
WORTHINGTON — Bringing city, county, school and township leaders together in a spirit of cooperation is the premise behind a pair of meetings scheduled next week in Nobles County.
Organized by Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, with support from Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark and Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Manager Abraham Algadi, the meetings are hoped to generate positive discussion on a variety of topics, from housing and transportation to connectivity and consolidation.
City and township clerks, mayors, administrators/coordinators, school board members and Minnesota West officials have been invited to explore ways of collaborating and improving service to constituents. Members of the public are welcome to attend as well.
Johnson said the informational meetings will include details on the Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency (SCALE) that focuses on governmental leadership and efficiency.
“(We will) highlight a couple of their accomplishments and try to get buy-in,” Johnson said.
Nearing his first anniversary as county administrator, Johnson said his goal is to develop a strategy that is mindful of taxpayer dollars, reduces duplication and seeks the best way to provide services.
“There are opportunities everywhere,” he said. “If you get a good contingent supporting the different projects, such as roads and bridges, you have a stronger voice in the state.”
He pointed to some positive changes already taking place locally, such as the county working with Worthington Public Utilities to address fiber needs for computer systems, and the city and county sharing snow removal responsibility on the new walking/biking trail in Worthington.
In the future, Johnson wants to see more collaboration on projects, such as a proposed new highway shop in Adrian and the potential for a consolidated public works facility in Worthington.
“I think there are opportunities in the future for public works to consolidate with the county, city and state,” he said. “We all have big shops in prime commercial and residential areas. Co-locating would save everyone money. There’s separate piles of salt and sand, separate fueling systems — there’s just not a lot of shared services.”
Finding and addressing efficiencies in government isn’t something that can be done overnight, but the meetings next week — on Tuesday in Brewster and Thursday in Adrian — could be the first step in that direction.
Johnson said SCALE began informally in the mid-1990s, and they’re just now starting to see the effectiveness of those years of visioning. Scott County, on the fringe of the Twin Cities metro area, is five times the size of Nobles County, with many residents commuting to the metro for work.
“They have more population, more money and more resources at every level,” Johnson said. “Part of our challenge is we’re all so busy doing what we’re doing. It is a big commitment if you really want to make it effective.”
While time is a major factor, trust is equally as important in collaboration. Johnson said people need to look at possibilities as addressing the greater good.
“Everything we can do to save taxpayer dollars … is going to benefit our citizens,” he added.
Johnson said the county is poised for continued growth. With the completion of Minnesota 60 in Worthington, in close proximity to Interstate 90 and a railroad system, he said, “We’re set up to do as much as we choose to do.”
Initiating the conversation and bringing governmental bodies to the table, Johnson said, can make for a stronger voice in addressing major issues, from the Lewis & Clark water project to housing needs, broadband and job growth.
“We’ve got the potential here,” Johnson said. “I just can’t imagine how we couldn’t do it if we work together. We’ve got to figure out what the biggest hindrances are and start fixing them.”
The meetings in Brewster and Adrian will follow the same format. They each begin at 5:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the meeting will be at the City Hall, 246 10th St., Brewster, while Thursday’s meeting will be at Countryside Inn, 208 N. Louise Ave., Adrian.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.