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City Council makes change to tax abatement proposal

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council went back to the drawing board Monday night and changed yet again a proposal to abate taxes on new home construction within the city limits.

As it stands now, the abatement would be offered for a maximum of three years, and would be available to an individual building a single-family home of any value on an existing bare lot in the community. Previously, the proposed tax abatement would only be offered on homes with an assessed market value of $200,000 or more. The original proposal was also for a period of five years, but that was reduced during a Nov. 28 meeting with representatives of Nobles County and Worthington School District 518.

The move by the council comes less than a week after Nobles County Commissioners rejected the tax abatement proposal on a 3-2 vote.

"We know the county is out, and the school, at best, is iffy," said Mayor Alan Oberloh. "Do we still see a benefit?"

There was discussion about taking the new proposal to the county to seek approval, although the aldermen were in consensus to move forward and see how the school board votes on the matter.

"This proposal, all it's doing is trying to jumpstart economic development," said Alderman Mike Kuhle. "We're always involved in housing projects below $200,000. We went down to three years just to give it a shot."

Alderman Lyle TenHaken said the council put its stamp of approval on it and it should move forward. He said he was disappointed that the county did not support the proposal.

"The county looked at losing revenue under this proposal and I think that was a misinformed approach," he said. "I would like to see us move forward if we can get the school district to move along with it."

It was Alderman Mike Woll who proposed eliminating the $200,000 requirement from the abatement plan. He also said the three-year rather than the five-year abatement plan was more sellable to city, county and school district leaders.

In other action Monday, the council:

* Approved a contract with Dakota Golf Management for management of Prairie View Golf Links for 2012.

* Accepted a liquor store feasibility study, which looked at the potential revenue increases if the city were to relocate the liquor store to a more business-friendly area of the community. No action was taken on the report, and more information is needed about potential sites, building size and costs.

* Approved a resolution finding Mediacom in violation of the city's franchise agreement because it has not submitted franchise fee payment history to the city. The resolution gives Mediacom 30 days to cure the violations.

* Authorized staff to negotiate a contract for continuation of architectural services on the new fire hall. A new contract is needed because the current architectural firm has decided to cease operations. The architect the city had been working with from that firm is going into business for himself and will continue to provide services to the city.

* Conducted the first reading of an ordinance amending city code regarding liquor being sold to minors and the options businesses have if they are in violation of the law. Current code states that the business can either pay a $500 fine or have a weekend license suspension. The amendment will allow for those businesses, in lieu of the fine or weekend suspension, to purchase a card reader that would scan and identify an age violation. The liquor committee will make suggestions on which card reader establishment would need to purchase.

* Conducted the third reading of an ordinance amending city code pertaining to storm water rates. The annual fee per acre for residential property is $228.

* Approved the adopted budgets of Worthington Public Utilities for water, wastewater and electrical rates. The average customer will see a 33-cent-per-month increase as a result of budget increases.

* Approved 2012 license and renewal applications.

* Approved decertification of Tax Increment Financing District No. 7, which stretches from Diagonal Road to JBS, on the north side of Oxford Street, and south of Oxford Street in some areas. The district was set up in 1983 and redeveloped in 1986. The TIF District was allowed to remain in place for 25 years, and it was required the district be decertified by the end of this year.

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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