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SWMHC gets boost from Nobles County

WORTHINGTON -- A revised plan that would relocate Southwestern Mental Health Center (SWMHC) offices into a new Worthington facility boost got a significant endorsement Tuesday morning from Nobles County Board of Commissioners.

The commission unanimously approved a motion of intent that would allow Nobles County to participate in the proposed project by way of a $500,000, 30-year, 1-percent loan, with the understanding the plan would be presented in satisfactory fashion to the board at its next meeting. Commissioners had declined last month to participate in the plan to build a new SWMHC building, but got on board Tuesday thanks to a proposal that allows greater debt-service ability.

"Scott (SWMHC Executive Director) Johnson has been looking at low-interest loans from all the counties, as well as the city of Worthington," Commissioner David Benson explained Tuesday morning during a late addition to the board's meeting agenda, prior to the motion of intent vote. "The smaller communities are looking at $150,000 to $200,000 loans, 1 percent for 30 years."

Benson handed out statistics to fellow commissioners that showed how Nobles County utilizes a much larger share of SWMHC than the other counties -- Cottonwood, Jackson, Pipestone and Rock -- served by the agency.

"I'd really like to have us look at $500,000 as a long-term loan," Benson said, adding, "I think they (other counties) are basically waiting for us to step to the table."

Commissioner Diane Thier quickly indicated her support for $500,000, 30-year, 1-percent loan, saying the terms were much more agreeable than those of a grant option proposed earlier. Commission Marv Zylstra was also eager to support moving the planned project forward.

"In my mind, we've been having this discussion for five or six years, and this is the best option we've come up with," Zylstra said. "I think we need this type of facility. I think this conversation has gone on long enough, and I think it's time we do something."

Benson and Thier both confirmed that Rock County had already committed to the project. Commissioner Robert Demuth indicated he wanted to hear the plan presented anew by Johnson.

"I'd like to put all the pieces together to make an informed decision," Demuth said.

Johnson brought forth a plan to county commissioners in September that called for construction of a 14,000-square-foot facility, with a total project cost of $2.5 million, at the corner of 12th Street and Fifth Avenue. The agency was working with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership on a modular-type building.

It was not clear at Tuesday's meeting if there were changes to the facility plan. Still, the commission opted to move forward the motion of intent in advance of learning any new specifics.

In a separate matter Tuesday, Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder told commissioners that inspection of bridges required for the county's condition rating has begun. In particular, timber bridges are being examined, and Schnieder indicated that the closure of a bridge in Graham Lakes Township, located on CSAH 18, could be announced by the end of the week.

"We're going to see another east-west bridge in our county that's closed," Schnieder said, who also noted that a bridge located on the south side of Leota could also soon be closed depending on the results of further examination. "We're finding different levels of deterioration in these timber pilings, so we might some postings changing.

"The state, at a meeting last month, informed us that there is bonding money available for bridges," he added. "We'll be working on getting these bridges eligible."

In other business Tuesday, the commission approved:

* A request from Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening to declare three squad cars as surplus so they can be sold at an auction later this month.

* A request from the city of Round Lake to close CSAH 21 and Nobles County 51 from 3 to 4 p.m. Nov. 26 for a parade celebrating Round Lake Winterfest.

* A conditional use permit for Mark Knips of Adrian, who plans to construct two open concrete feedlot runoff storage containment containers. The containers will be 120 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep, they will be located on a 20.53-acre tract in Lismore Township.

* A motion authorizing the county's administration to enter into an agreement with Nobles-Rock Community Health Services for available registered nurse and public health nurse staffing time for the remainder of 2011.

* A new four-year term for Bill "Brock" Brockerg as the county's veterans service officer.

* A motion to include a single-page, two-sided letter with property tax statements being sent this fall that explains how the state's replacement of its Homestead Market Value Credit changes the way county taxes will be calculated for 2012.

The commissioner also entertained a presentation from Southwest Minnesota State University President Ron Wood and Southwest Small Business Development Center Director Liz Struve that requests a county investment of $3,000 for the center. The board took no action on the matter.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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