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City may sell sewage facility

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council voted Monday night to take the first step in examining the feasibility of selling the city's industrial wastewater treatment facility. JBS has expressed interest in owning the plant, and is the facility's primary user.

City Engineer Dwayne Haffield presented information from Wenck Associates of Windom and Flaherty & Hood P.A. on the technical and legal issues of pursuing a sale of the property. He said there have not been many instances in which a company wants to purchase a treatment facility.

"The moving of wastewater plants from public to private ... is very rare," said Haffield.

The first step in the process is to determine the value of the property. Haffield recommended the city move forward with Wenck Associates to complete an initial valuation of the parcel.

If JBS is amenable to the value placed on the facility, the city would then enter a second phase, which would include a more detailed site visit and plant evaluation, doing an expanded cost estimate and developing the selling and permitting strategies before presenting a final report.

"It just may not go past Phase I -- it may be out of the ballpark," said Haffield. "The first step is to get the estimate."

Honorary Council member Mike Hokeness suggested the city consider the value of the loss of control over the facility, if it were to be sold to a private business.

Haffield said a private company would still be required to comply with state and federal environmental regulations.

"There should be some comfort by this community ... that the regulations by the state, by the environment are the same," said Mayor Alan Oberloh. "I don't think there is less that they have to do as a private owner."

Alderman Mike Kuhle raised concern about the lost revenue from the permits issued for use of the treatment facility.

"I want to make sure we're getting a good value for this," he added.

The council approved hiring Wenck Associates to determine a value of the property. Expenses will be paid for with wastewater treatment funds.

In other action, the council:

- Voted unanimously to withdraw a grant request to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for financial assistance with the conversion of the former YMCA into a proposed senior and community center. The action was taken after council members expressed concern with the restrictions of the grant and the potential to receive less than $88,000 in state funding.

- Authorized the advertisement of bids for a 4,400-square-foot addition to the Memorial Auditorium. Bids will be accepted through Feb. 18, for consideration at the Feb. 22 council meeting.

The readvertisement for bids comes after the city rejected all bids received in late April 2009. In that process, all bids came in higher than the engineer's estimate.

City Engineer Dwayne Haffield said the scope was tweaked in an effort to "scale back some of the costs of the project." The new estimate is approximately $1.93 million. Four alternate bids will also be taken for items including installation of a patterned carpet in the lobby, etched glass in the stair and balcony rail system, etched glass panels in the front windows of the new addition and in two of the main level replacement windows, and reconstruction of the existing parking lot.

- Approved a resolution formalizing a no parking zone along Ryan's Road, from U.S. 59 to Ray Drive. The action is another step in the city's process of moving toward the installation of traffic lights at the intersection of U.S. 59 and Ryan's Road.

- Approved a recommendation of the Worthington Rediscovered Committee to reimburse Ray Harchanko up to $5,950 for the demolition of a condemned house at 612 Humiston Ave.

- Approved Mark Shepherd and Jim Malters as the city attorney and assistant city attorney, respectively, for 2010, approved the appointment of Janice Oberloh to a one-year term as city clerk, and elected Lyle Ten Haken as Mayor Pro-tem for the year.

- Set 7 p.m., the second and fourth Mondays of each month as the regular City Council meeting time and days.

- Designated the Daily Globe as the official newspaper for city business.

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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