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Tax to be on ballot

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Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

It's official: There will be a local option sales tax question on the City of Worthington's general election ballot this November.

Council members voted unanimously Monday night to authorize the placing of a city question ballot before voters at the general election Nov. 4, and approved the form of the question ballot. The action came near the conclusion of a meeting that exceeded three hours in length and concluded a discussion of issues pertaining to the planned Minnesota 60 bypass of Worthington.

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In approving the question ballot's wording, council members considered four choices that were prepared by City Attorney Mark Shepherd. Interim City Administrator Gary Hoffmann, who presented the action item before council, said he recommended the third option -- the one council members ultimately approved, with some minor revisions.

The city question ballot reads:

"To vote for a question, completely fill in the oval next to the word "YES" for that question. To vote against a question, completely fill in the oval next to the word "NO" for that question.

"May the City of Worthington, Minnesota impose by ordinance a sales and use tax of ½ of 1 percent for the exclusive purpose of paying the costs of a community center complex and for renovations to the Memorial Auditorium which tax shall terminate 10 years after the date of initial imposition of the tax or when the City Council determines that the amount of revenue received from the taxes to pay for the projects equals or exceeds $6 million?"

"It gives us a time limit, it gives us the dollars. ... It's just more complete than the other ones," Hoffmann said of the preferred option. "You're just being more open to the public."

The city had to receive permission from the Minnesota Legislature to offer the question ballot to Worthington voters. Council members approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which would give Ruhr Development of Plymouth exclusive right to negotiate with the city on its proposed event center project, in June -- an action taken following 1½ years of meetings by the Event Center Committee, which worked on behalf of the city to explore the feasibility of such a facility's construction. Among the determinations for the facility is that it be located within the Prairie Expo First Addition.

Alderman Lyle Ten Haken noted that none of the four wording options included specific mention of a long-discussed senior center facility. It was noted, however, that the city was mandated by the state as to what could be included on the ballot, and Ten Haken stressed that the senior center is still being considered as part of a community center project.

With regard to Minnesota 60, Peter Harff of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), who is serving as project manager for the highway's four-lane expansion project, discussed preliminary designs and offered other information about plans for the road. The project is scheduled to be constructed in three phases: Bigelow bypass to Nobles County 10, July 2010-October 2011; Nobles County 10 to Nobles County 35, April 2011-October 2011; and Nobles County 35 to Interstate 90, April 2011-October 2012.

The bulk of Harff's discussion with council concerned the location of the proposed Minnesota 60 road to the south at Lake Street. Two diagrams were presented, and Mayor Alan Oberloh and other council members offered numerous comments and suggestions.

At one point, Alderman Mike Woll asked Harff what he thought -- outside of his MnDOT capacity -- of the potential for too many access points.

"You are much better served by limited access (to the city)," Harff said. "It keeps the road operating better, it keeps it safer for people getting on and off the road.

"We're pretty flexible," Harff added later, after hearing numerous comments. "We want to resolve it quickly and we're ready to sketch some things out."

Representatives from Shine Brothers, currently located along Minnesota 60, were also in attendance at the meeting, as a newly proposed route would avoid negatively impacting that business.

Additionally, council members -- following a presentation from Harff -- voted to deny a sound barrier through the Morningside Drive neighborhood, instead opting for consideration of a proposed combination barrier of vegetation and fencing. A committee of city residents and MnDOT staff will be formed.

Also granted preliminary approval by the council were three road changes resulting from Morningside Drive and East Avenue no longer accessing Minnesota 60. MnDOT plans to connect Nobles County 35 to Circle Drive at State Avenue, connect East Avenue to Douglas Avenue with a low-speed curve and extend Douglas Avenue through to Nobles Street.

A multi-use trail from Douglas Avenue, as well as trail or sidewalk in the Oxford Street to Armour Road area, is also being considered by MnDOT -- proposals that received preliminary council support.

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