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City council meets with HRA to clarify appointments

WORTHINGTON -- City Council members met with Worthington Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) staff members Monday night to clarify the recent appointment of two additional councilmen to the HRA Board of Commissioners.

Council members approved the appointment of Alderman Lyle Ten Haken and Mike Kuhle for the HRA Board of Commissioners during regular council meeting Jan. 23. The third and current HRA board member is Alderman Ron Wood.

"There are three councilmen on the HRA board. Our bylaws say that we can only have one," said HRA board chairperson, Marge Larson.

HRA executive director Rosie Rogers added the bylaws do not allow "city officers" to be an HRA commissioner. A special request was made to accommodate the appointment of Ron Wood several years ago.

City Administrator Craig Clark cited information received from the city's attorney that council members could be appointed as citizen members for the HRA board.

"They're elected by the community as a whole so they're definitely citizen members," Clark said.

Both Kuhle and Ten Haken were in agreement that their priority is to improve the number of housing units.

"I have no special agenda," Kuhle said.

As of Monday's meeting, Clark will reconfirm if Kuhle and Ten Haken's position as city officers conflicts with the HRA bylaws.

Apart from providing low - to moderate income housing in the city, the HRA conducts a Section 8 voucher program which extends to seven counties -- Nobles, Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Lincoln, Lyon and Redwood.

"If the city has all the control, I don't want to see all the other areas lose out," said HRA Section 8 Coordinator Deb Thompson.

"It would be one thing if taxpayers in the city of Worthington were paying for actions to take place in Lyon County, but this is all federal money," Wood reminded. "I can assure you that there is no reason we would want to change that."

In an unrelated matter, Rogers expressed her concern about a presentation by Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP).

"The presentation was a proposal from them that we transfer ownership of the housing authority to Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership," Rogers said. "It reflected to help housing authorities who are in a shortfall."

Rogers explained she had heard rumors about SWMHP representatives communicating with the city staff about the proposal.

"I'm not the least bit interested in raping the system and taking management-type jobs out of the community," Mayor Alan Oberloh said. "I do appreciate the work that the housing partnership has done. We've done some awfully nice projects and top quality housing units because of working with them. I see us working together."

Council members and HRA members were in agreement that a transfer of ownership was not necessary but a collaboration of resources with SWMHP would be more feasible.

"We're all shooting for the same goal," Clark said.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321