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Council approves 'Y' redevelopment

WORTHINGTON -- A specific purpose for the former Worthington Area YMCA building has not yet been decided, but council members have taken the first step to ensure that it houses something -- and that something will likely serve a public purpose.

The Worthington City Council on Monday approved a contract with the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) in the amount of $34,000 to develop a plan for the property, located downtown on 11th Street.

The contract will outline the scope for redevelopment, identify an end user for the property -- a senior/community center is still in the running -- and establish cost estimates for the project.

The project timeline in the partnership's proposal is an aggressive one, with demolition starting as soon as June 2010 and completion of the facility slated for March 2011. The tight timeline is driven by the $1.7 million in state Redevelopment Grant Program funds the city hopes to apply for -- the first application deadline is Feb. 1, and applicants are required to commit to a specific project that serves a public purpose.

"What's important for council to decide tonight is are we committed to the public purpose," City Administrator Craig Clark said. "I don't think we're 100 percent locking ourselves down to the senior center tonight."

SWMHP staff member Lisa Graphenteen said the partnership has worked on non-housing related redevelopment projects before, such as the ongoing redevelopment of the former Central Elementary site. She said the state funds could cover up to 50 percent of the city's property acquisition and demolition costs if the grant is awarded. There is still no set purchase price for the facility.

Council members questioned whether the city would receive the grant, and some said they would have to move ahead even without the funds.

Graphenteen said the grant is sometimes given to city-driven projects, but preference is usually given to private undertakings. If the city's application is rejected in the first round of funding, council could apply again in August -- but that would mean paying to heat the building through another winter.

As part of the plan, the partnership would serve as the construction manager, serving as the "eyes and ears" of the city council during the project, said SWMHP project director Jorge Lopez. "We will be managing not just the general contractors, but architects (and others)," he continued.

Lopez said the SWMHP would work with city staff to determine multiple options for use and layout of the building.

In other business, the council on Monday:

- Approved the 2010 fees for the City of Worthington Aquatic Center, the proceeds from which will be returned to the YMCA for operation of the aquatic center. Some of the fees for Worthington residents are as follows: youth summer swim pass, $60; youth day fee $4; family summer fee $125; family day fee $14.

- Received a report from Director of Public Safety Mike Cumiskey about his department's biennial liquor control compliance check. Of the nine liquor establishments checked, four sold to an underage patron. The percentage of establishments passing the compliance check has improved since 2007, Cumiskey said.

- Approved the Zuercher Technology proposal in the amount of $500,000, with $15,000-$18,000 yearly maintenance fees, for the Computer-aided Dispatch/Records Management System/Mobile Computing project. The project has been in planning since 2005, and the Zuercher proposal was approved by the Nobles County Board of Commissioners at its Dec. 22 meeting.