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Council accepts grant from WRHCF

Ana anthony/Daily Globe The Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation presented a check of $111,712.64 to the city's parks department Monday afternoon. Shown are, front (from left): Worthington Parks and Recreation Advisory Board President Ryan McGaughey and Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation Executive Director Robert Demuth Jr. Middle: Foundation board members Dawn Gordon, Jason Vote and Paula Chapulis, Worthington Director of Public Works Jim Laffrenzen. Back: Foundation board member Erlin ...

WORTHINGTON -- A grant of $111,712.84 from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation was accepted by the Worthington City Council at its regular meeting Monday.

The grant will be used to fund various improvements for city parks to meet standards for public playgrounds addressed in League of Minnesota Cities findings. Slated to undergo improvements are Intercity, Orchard Knoll and Pleasant parks.

"These parks will offer a healthier lifestyle for many years to come," said Robert Demuth Jr., executive director of WRHCF.

Alderman Lyle Ten Haken expressed his concern about the decision to replace equipment at Pleasant Park, which is owned by Worthington School District 518.

The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had initially discussed removal, but not replacement, of park equipment at Pleasant Park, but after determining that there was strong support from the surrounding neighborhood, chose the replacement option.

Another issue relating to park improvements was the plan to remove the tennis court at Orchard Knoll Park due to low usage. A concerned resident in attendance at Monday's meeting advocated for maintaining the tennis court and suggested adding a pickleball court on the existing tennis court. Pickleball, he said, is a sport that has been gaining popularity among seniors.

"I think it (tennis court) is used more than the board knows," he said. "Why wasn't there a survey taken to see how much it was being used?"

For the tennis court to meet the standards for public playgrounds, cracks on the court surface need to be sealed at a cost of about $1,000 annually.

Council members discussed the idea of having tennis court users convene at the new courts now under construction at the middle school.

"If we can get by for $1,000 doing it (sealing the cracks) and pacify the people there and their children, I think it's money well spent," Mayor Alan Oberloh said.

After elaborate discussion, council members approved an additional motion to temporarily seal the cracks on the tennis court next spring and add stripes on the court for pickleball.

"We do that and don't spend a major amount of money until we can further assess the tennis court usage," Ten Haken said.

In an unrelated matter, council approved a lease agreement with University of Minnesota Extension Service for 2,500 square feet of office space in the Biotechnology Advancement Center.

The one-year term allows the Extension Service exclusive use of three classrooms for at least 120 hours a year including technology access.

The university has the right to extend the lease for five two-year extensions.

The city will be responsible for taxes, snow removal, trash, recycling services, window cleaning, maintenance, signage, general liability insurance, and custodial and utility expenses.

"I'm no expert on leasing arrangements, but this seems to be really slanted in favor of the tenant," Ten Haken said.

Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Glenn Thuringer stressed the importance of retaining the presence of the extension office.

"They were going to be relocating to the second floor of the Minnesota West facility in Jackson," he said.

Oberloh stated his concern about the difficulty in estimating a monthly cost for the Biotechnology Advancement Center, primarily because it is a new facility that has not been occupied yet.

In other business Monday, the council:

* Heard final assessments on the city's public improvements -- paving, sanitary sewer and storm water improvements.

* Approved a request from Southwestern Mental Health Center Inc. for a contribution of $30,000 through the city's Worthington Rediscovered program with the requirement that the garage cannot be used as living quarters. The money will help fund renovations on a house that will be redeveloped into a single family home.