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Council hosts special meeting

WORTHINGTON -- Budget discussions for the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation (WREDC), the Municipal Liquor Store and other city entities were the focus of city council members during a special meeting Tuesday morning at City Hall.

Chris Witzel, interim manager of WREDC, and Glenn Thuringer, the organization's previous manager, presented the group's budget plan for next year.

Also discussed was the future of the Bioscience Conference, an annual WREDC spring event.

Explaining how the conference got its start, Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark said, "With our strong agricultural economy in Worthington, bioscience was targeted as a growth sector for our community."

The council and the WREDC board will decide in the coming months whether the event will be continued.

"There's a couple of different ways people are looking at it on the WREDC board," Clark said. "We put a lot of effort into it, and continuing the event is important. (But) it obviously takes a lot of time and resources to make it happen."

Witzel said that Minnesota West Community and Technical College faculty have expressed interest in sponsoring the event.

"With Glenn's departure, continuing the conference is something we should be looking at," said Clark, adding that the interest shown by the college is a good sign.

In other news, Dan Wycoff, manager of the liquor store, told council that business is good.

"The economy is not affecting liquor sales," Wycoff said. "This is a meat, potato and beer town. Once people know where to get their beer, they will keep coming back."

The council granted $258,500 to go toward repairs in the store, including replacing a walk-in cooler.

Regarding employees, Wycoff proposed keeping three full-timers and adding six part-time workers. The plan would improve customer service and reduce the chance of theft, he said.

In addition to liquor store discussions, Worthington Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield presented the street and airport budget, which was approved.

Most of the airport projects will shift into preservation mode for a while, he explained.

"It's up to a good quality now, so the goal is to keep it there," Haffield said.

He also elaborated on the city's storm water management plan.

The goal is to determine the best way to deal with environmental compliance and localized flooding issues, Clark explained.

"Part of the way we treat the water to make sure our lakes and streams stay clean is by sweeping the streets," Clark said. "We have to make sure we dispose of it in the proper manner."

Regarding a permanent place for disposal of materials collected by street sweeping, Clark said: "That's something we're going to have to look at moving forward, even past 2013. "In the near term, we're going to put in roll-off trucks and landfill it."

Councilman Mike Woll suggested looking at bonds as part of the plan.

"One issue with bonding is you would then be committed to more aggressive land acquisitions," Haffield said.

As part of the storm water management plan, Haffield said rate increases will likely be needed, along with using some of the department's reserved money.

"You can justify a rate increase because we're hitting reserves," Haffield said.

Woll agreed, saying a rate of 3.95 percent should be pushed.

"It's not going to go away," councilman Lyle Ten Haken said. "It will get more expensive the longer we wait. The reality is this is going to be an expensive project. A more aggressive approach would benefit us in the long term."

"(Rate increases) would affect any commercial, industrial or multi-family unit," Clark said. "We have rates for all of those classifications that will be brought forward in November."

Haffield also gave an overview of state aid projects slated for next year, including one on 10th Street and First Avenue Southwest.

Additionally, plans for two new city signs --to be placed at city limits on the north and south side of Minnesota 60 -- were discussed.

"We're coming up with designs and plans for what size it will be," said Clatk, adding the project will be advanced next year.

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.