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County may run TAC

WORTHINGTON -- With MRCI's contract with The Achievement Center set to expire Feb. 28, 2009, Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed the feasibility of taking over the program and operating it as a separate entity alongside the Developmental Achievement Center.

Bob Schreiber, director of the DAC, said there are both advantages and disadvantages in taking over TAC, which has been losing a large amount of money on an annual basis.

"There'd be more work opportunities," said Schreiber, of the potential to utilize the 127 individuals now served at TAC.

"I think if The Achievement Center was run by a local entity again, it would be a positive," Schreiber said. "If there's a way that the DAC can help and assist in this manner ... we're certainly open to help."

Approximately 34 percent of TAC's clients reside in Nobles County. The concern is that if an agency doesn't take over the program -- and that is highly likely considering the agency is operating at a loss -- those clients would leave the county.

In an update submitted to commissioners earlier in the month, Schreiber said, "I think from a client service perspective, the operation of TAC by the DAC would be a great advantage. I think this program could be operated in a positive light fairly easily, however the funding needs to be adequate and workable and the county needs to make a long-term commitment if this service is to remain in Nobles County."

County Administrator Mel Ruppert said the county had a couple of options -- it can either do nothing and let TAC close and be forced to place clients elsewhere; or begin planning for DAC to bid on the request for proposals in hopes of having a seamless transfer on March 1, 2009.

Commissioners opted to set up an advisory committee to further discuss the request for proposals.

If the county were to submit a proposal, it would need to act fairly quickly.

"By December 1, someone has to sign on the dotted line for the RFP (request for proposals)," Schreiber said. "That's kind of D-Day for The Achievement Center, as I see it."

In other action, the board:

  • Received a request from Gene Foth, coordinator of the Manna Food Pantry, to increase the county's appropriation to the food shelf from $2,000 annually to $5,000 annually.

    Foth said usage at the food shelf has increased 167 percent from 2006 to 2008 -- going from 7,630 individuals from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2006, to 12,792 individuals for the same time period in 2008. Of those utilizing the food shelf, 46 percent are children ages 0 to 16; and 49 percent are in the age range of 18 to 64, otherwise known as the working class poor.

    So far this year, the pantry has distributed 711,825 pounds of food, compared to 265,110 pounds of food distributed in the first eight months of 2006.

    "The need is real and it is there," Foth said. "If you can meet my request this year, it would be appreciated."

    After fielding questions from commissioners, Foth said approximately 95 percent of the individuals who use the food pantry reside in the city of Worthington, yet the Worthington City Council does not give an annual appropriation to the pantry.

    Commissioners took Foth's budget request under advisement.

  • Received a report from Glenn Thuringer, manager of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Authority, regarding the promotion of a land give-away in Worthington's bioscience park.

    "I think we do need to move forward with this -- we've got the infrastructure out there," said Commissioner Marv Zylstra. "I would cooperate with the other agencies involved."

    The county, along with the city, WREDC and the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission are all partners in the bioscience park venture.

  • Approved a conditional use permit for Mark Van Essen to construct a 100- by 384-foot total confinement building, with a concrete pit below, to house a dairy in the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 8, Leota Township.
  • Approved a conditional use permit for Steve Eernisse to conduct a gun repair and sales business in Lot 6, Block 1 of the Hofkamp First Addition in Leota.
  • Approved a conditional use permit for Gary Reker, applicant for Ray Braun, to open a new gravel pit in the southwest quarter of Section 35, Little Rock Township.
  • Appointed Tim Taylor of Adrian to serve the remainder of a vacant term of the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed board, and learned that one more member is needed to serve.
  • Approved contracts with the Andrew Titus and Vajgrt law firms to provide legal counsel to parents in CHIPS (Child in Need of Protective Services), permanency and termination of parental rights cases.
  • Authorized an agreement between the county and the engineering firm SEH to continue efforts to revamp the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center.
  • Set 9 a.m., Oct. 7 as the date for a public hearing with affected property owners along Judicial Ditch No. 8, along U.S. 59, north of Worthington. Public Works director Stephen Schnieder said material has settled in the bottom of the ditch and it will need to be cleaned out and the walls of the ditch reinforced. He estimated the total project cost at about $10,000. The public hearing is needed because the cost of the project will need to be assessed to the property owners who benefit.
  • Approved the purchase of crushed concrete aggregate at a cost of $25,000, with the funding coming from Public Works reserve funds. The aggregate will be applied to Nobles County 61 this fall to serve as part of a base needed for future paving of the roadway.
  • Received an update from Karen DeBoer on the Joint Powers Transit Authority. The entity operates the Heartland Express in Nobles County and also provides subsidized taxi service through the Worthington Taxi Service.
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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