Senior center tops discussion at Spring Fling forumCity council continues to scope out options
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It has been a topic of discussion for the Worthington City Council for several years, but the message to more than 150 seniors gathered for a Spring Fling Thursday was that the process to find a new location for a senior citizen center in the community continues.
“We’re back to trying to find a location,” Mike Woll told the group of Nobles County seniors gathered over lunch at Worthington’s American Reformed Church.
Woll was joined by fellow aldermen Lyle Ten Haken and Bob Petrich in a noon forum to highlight local issues. While the senior center discussion dominated the forum, other issues included how the money from the sale of the hospital will be spent, and the potential for a local option sales tax.
Lyle Ten Haken said that after hearing a presentation regarding the work RSVP does, he wants to find a location that will be able to meet the needs of the senior population — a place to play cards or pool, offer senior dining and provide space for seniors to gather.
“There are all kinds of things seniors are involved in in our community,” Ten Haken said. “We’re trying to get our arms around that. ... Be patient with us, as we’re looking for a good place for you.”
Petrich said the council is looking at options that will not only provide space for senior dining and activities, but a place that can be used for family reunions and golden wedding anniversaries.
“I would say that next year we’re really going to have something we can sink our teeth into,” said Petrich of the ideas that have been tossed around.
One individual in the audience asked if the former K-Mart building at the Northland Mall could be used for a senior center, and aldermen have heard similar questions about the former McDonald’s property.
Woll said that even before he joined the council, the owners of the mall had been approached. The response at that time was the mall wanted to maintain a strictly retail setting. Woll also stated that the building is large and would need a lot of work, and then there would also be the rent fees on the facility.
As for a local option sales tax, Woll explained that many communities have used the method to fund needed items.
“For us, it’s a half-cent sales tax that would be used for brick and mortar construction,” Woll said. Projects identified for funding would be an event center, senior center and improvements to Memorial Auditorium.
“The reality of the situation is there’s no free lunch,” added Ten Haken. “It costs money (to do projects), now how do we pay for it?”
By establishing a local option sales tax, the aldermen said the shoppers who come to Worthington will be helping to pay for the projects with the items they buy.
“We could spread that cost out to other communities to help pay our bill,” Ten Haken said. “More people helping to pay the bill means a smaller bill.”
It was pointed out that non-taxable items, including food and clothing, would remain untaxed if the local option sales tax was approved. There would also be a maximum tax added onto vehicles purchased within the community.
In regard to the transfer of Worthington Regional Hospital to Sanford in July, each of the aldermen said the money the city will get from the sale will create a legacy for the community. During a special meeting Thursday morning, the City Council discussed establishing a health care foundation with more than $5 million of the $21 million the city will get from the sale.
The aldermen assured those gathered Thursday the city would not go out and spend the money just because it has it.
“We’ve heard from so many people to be smart about it and don’t go out spending money,” Ten Haken said.