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County supports trail system connecting schools

WORTHINGTON -- A vision of connecting a trail system between Prairie Elementary, Worthington Middle School and Minnesota West Community and Technical College received support from Nobles County Commissioners during Thursday morning's board meeting.

Stephen Schnieder, director of Nobles County Public Works, told commissioners of plans to apply for a federal Safe Routes to School grant program. The program encourages ways to get children walking or biking to school and, at the same time, create a safe way for them to do so.

While the program is directed only toward schools with students in grades kindergarten through eighth, Schnieder said there may be a way to get Minnesota West involved because of its plans to relocate the Worthington YMCA to the college campus. Grant funding would pay up to 80 percent of the infrastructure costs for the trails, with the remaining 20 percent -- along with all engineering and design fees -- coming from local funding sources. If trails were constructed to the college, those would need to be funded entirely by local dollars.

"To be competitive in the grant application process, we'll need matching funds from the city, school district and county," said Schnieder, adding that a master plan will need to be created to improve the chances of getting funding.

Schnieder reported that a committee is being formed to plan the trail system, including where it will be placed and how it will be funded.

"With the YMCA building out there (on the Minnesota West campus), we're going to need some walking trails to get from the schools to the Y," said Commissioner Diane Thier. "We all want the kids to be safer out there, and we all hear that kids are getting fatter."

Thier said the day may come when some city school bus routes are eliminated, forcing more children to walk to school. Having a trail system in place will allow them to get to and from school safely.

In addition to funding a trail system, Schnieder said he would like to get funding for radar speed signs placed along Nobles County 1 near the school in Brewster. The signs would be solar powered and alert drivers to their speed in the posted school zone.

Schnieder said the grant application will be submitted in early 2007 for possible grant funding in 2012.

In other action, the board:

- Declared as surplus property a 1976 Schmidt snow blower in the public works department. The snow blower was purchased in the early 1990s and is no longer used by the county as it does not operate on existing equipment.

- Approved a tax abatement/reduction for Kevin and Kami Lease property at 1244 Oxford St., in the amount of $748. The reduction is based on an entry error that caused the Leases to pay taxes on 40,000 square feet of parking lot space instead of 4,000 square feet in both 2004 and 2005.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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