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Council discuss plans for old fire station

WORTHINGTON -- As the new fire station project moves closer to its scheduled October completion date, Worthington City Council members began discussion for the soon-to-be former facility Monday during their regular meeting.

The two primary options are to re-use the building or dispose of it. City Administrator Craig Clark explained that while the topic of re-use was considered by city departments, there was a lack of interest due to the layout of the building, which lacks in operational staffing efficiency and storage space.

The city's Department of Public Works considered re-use of the fire station for housing of the city's park operations.

"The goal for public works to make us most efficient is to put us under one roof," said Jim Laffenzen, the city's director of public works. "To move to that building is not going to solve efficiency efforts."

Laffrenzen said the existing fire station would lack space to accommodate the Department of Parks and Recreation's equipment.

With regard to the building's disposal, Mayor Alan Oberloh said there were too many uncertainties pertaining to the zoning classification to declare it as surplus.

"I don't think it would be in our best interest to dice it up at this stage of the game," Alderman Lyle Ten Haken said.

The fire station is cur-rently located in the R-4 -- medium density residential zoning district. Brad Chapulis, the city's director of community/economic development, explained several civic entities -- such as churches, schools and public museums -- would be permissible in the area.

"It kind of limits us and that's OK if we know that it will be limited," Alderman Mike Woll said. "Or do we look to expand or have some potential capabilities?"

Chapulis said rezoning the area to B-2 -- central business district was possible, but it would not be feasible for residential area(s) that border the fire station.

"We have to be clear what zoning classification it has before we declare it surplus," Oberloh said.

"It may be advantageous for us to move a piece of property," Ten Haken said. "But I think it would be really disingenuous of us to say, 'We have to move a piece of property now so maybe we should change to zoning to make it more palatable to potential bidders.'"

Chapulis suggested two other alternatives for consideration.

"We could rezone it and accept all other land uses that are allowed within that boundary," he said. "Number two is we could do a text amendment that would add additional permitted use or permitted by special use, but that would impact the rest of the properties that are zoned the same."

In other business, council:

* Approved the participation of a job creation program launched by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. The city's partnership level will be $1,000; the amount will be from the city's unreserved undesignated reserve fund.

The Economic Develop-ment Partnership Program is a result of collaboration with Greater Minnesota cities, business leaders and the chambers of commerce across the state.

Locally, the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and the Wor-thington Area Chamber of Commerce were involved in the process. The program focuses on starting a job training program, Greater Minnesota intern tax credit, expansion of the Angel Investment Tax Credit and seeking new funding for the interchanges and infrastructure needs of Greater Minnesota cities.

* Provided a summary of City Administrator Craig Clark's performance evaluation. The evaluation was conducted in a closed session at the Feb. 13 regular city council meeting. Oberloh commented that Clark's review was favorable.

* Approved the construction of a loading pad and storage building stemming from a memorandum of understanding between the City and Arnt Aerial Spray-ing, which was approved by council members in September 2010 and amended in June 2011.

The building will be constructed at 24 feet by 30 feet for the storage of agricultural chemicals. The apron will serve as a loading pad for the chemicals into spray places. The project is estimated at $134,000 and is eligible for 50 percent of funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony may be reached at 376-7321.