Candidates tout city’s accomplishments in forumWORTHINGTON — In an hour-long forum that ended 10 minutes early, incumbent candidates for city office touted recent council accomplishments. Their challengers, meanwhile, highlighted past business ownership and willingness to listen to citizens’ concerns.
WORTHINGTON — In an hour-long forum that ended 10 minutes early, incumbent candidates for city office touted recent council accomplishments. Their challengers, meanwhile, highlighted past business ownership and willingness to listen to citizens’ concerns.
During the forum, moderator Chad Cummings posed several pre-submitted questions to Worthington City Council candidates Ron Wood (incumbent, running unopposed in Ward 1), Mike Kuhle (incumbent, Ward 2) and Roger Nelson (former Ward 2 councilman and Kuhle’s challenger), as well as incumbent Mayor Alan Oberloh and challenger Carol Culver.
The Tuesday night event was hosted by Minnesota West Community and Technical College and organized by the Government Affairs Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Cummings began the forum by tapping into one of the council’s hot button issues — the sharing of resources, including staff, golf professionals and groundskeepers — between the Worthington Country Club and city-owned Prairie View Golf Links.
Kuhle said PVGL needs to reduce its operating cost, and both courses should share resources and be better marketed to potential golfers.
“I think it’s an excellent idea to share resources,” said Nelson, adding the area was “probably a little overbuilt” in terms of courses while noting improvements in water quality that PVGL provides to Lake Okabena.
“We want to become a destination, and we have to have amenities in order to do that,” said Oberloh. “I think it behooves us to keep them both viable.”
Culver’s answer was shortest of all, but drew a few chuckles from the crowd.
“I agree with all of them,” she stated. “But I don’t play golf.”
Candidates were asked whether the city should continue its policy of providing health insurance to those elected to city office, especially as state aid cuts to cities loom.
Though several candidates said they got their insurance from outside sources anyway, several agreed it was an expense worth considering. Culver said it wasn’t a cost the city should assume.
“I wholeheartedly agree this is a legitimate cost to look at,” Kuhle said. “But having said that, I don’t believe our current compensation package is excessive.”
Council members are currently paid $6,000 per year.
Ending the forum with another big topic, Cummings read another citizen’s question: “Why do we need a hotel attached to a convention center? Perhaps we could have had a senior center be part of the convention center.”
“The committee went out and looked at all of the options,” Wood said. “The stand-alone events center equals a significant cost for the city, which is an increase in property taxes.”
“The convention center is a good thing because it will draw a lot of money and visitors,” Culver commented, suggesting seniors could get involved with decoration or maintenance of the facility.
The convention center construction was to be funded through a half-cent local option sales tax that voters approved two years ago. But the major change in lending rates that followed caused previously interested developers to back out.
“I don’t think a hotel is necessary,” Nelson said. “I think if the private industry was going to step forward on a hotel, it would have happened already.”
In their closing statements, the candidates brought focus to the city’s recent victories — municipal airport improvements, hospital sale funds for projects, the new Hy-Vee Food Store and building of the Southwest Mental Health Center downtown.
“I think we should share a sigh of relief that we live in this community,” Wood concluded. “A lot of communities around us are in very dire straits.”
“I think you all think I sound very inadequate and haven’t got any background, but what I have done is observe,” Culver said. “I think there’s a lot of you out there that have ideas and I don’t think you’re having a chance to be heard.”