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MN West to lease old fire station

WORTHINGTON -- The former fire station in Worthington has a new tenant.

During the regular meeting Monday night, the city council approved a lease/purchase agreement with Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

"We're really moving forward with a user that's ideal," Council member Mike Woll said. "To see some expansion in our community, I can't be more thrilled."

The agreement is contingent upon the rezoning of the area.

"We have to get zoning approval to offer higher educational classes there," Minnesota West President Richard Shrubb said earlier Monday. "Apparently, it's not zoned for that. We don't want to lease it or buy it and then find out we can't teach there. The lease/purchase agreement from the city is going to say we will lease it and purchase it contingent upon zoning approval."

The needed zoning was read for a second time Monday night, with one more reading needed to approve the change.

"There is a procedure of reading it three times at public meetings and I think tonight will be the second reading," Shrubb said. "We need one more after that and then the zoning commission meets in January."

The city approved the lease for $10,026.24 for the 7,833 square foot building in the upcoming year.

However, the lease is more of a formality as the city hopes to sell the building to the college for a price of $200,000. There are still steps needed until a sale can be finalized, including notifying surrounding neighbors.

"If we can't get this thing through the community, we might as well demo the building," Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said.

Earlier in the day, it looked as if the agreement wouldn't come to fruition because of the late timing. But later Monday, the item was back on the agenda.

"We can do the lease/purchase agreement contingent upon zoning approval," Shrubb said. "Initially we thought it was too much of a barrier to proceed, but if we can do it contingent upon zoning, we'll be able to have it back on the agenda (Monday).

"It's very good news. We might be able to work this out sooner than I had hoped."

Council member Lyle Ten Haken expressed his pleasure with the college being able to use the building.

"I am really pleased to see this educational opportunity happen in our community one way or another," he said. "I think it's beneficial. We've been lacking, I think, somewhat in the trades. We have some trades stuff around us in Jackson and Canby and so forth. To have this program here in Worthington I think speaks well of our institution."

The college has done research as to what the best programs are to add to the building.

"That's what our market analysis tells us that Worthington needs, automotive repair and cosmetology," Shrubb said. "Automotive can really go a couple different ways. It could be mechanical repair or it could be body repair. We're willing to go either way with that, whatever it seems like would be the greatest demand. Our other market research is cosmetology. Those are the two programs we want to put in the fire hall."

Even though the fall semester is months away, the college has already been working on scheduling for the 2013-14 school year.

"Right now is when we're finalizing teacher assignments into the curriculum, especially with a new facility like that," Shrubb said. "There are things you have to do to get the facility itself ready. This is last November and we can do it in late November.

"We can plan for that with the optimistic hopefulness that we'll get zoning approval. If and when we get zoning approval, we can plug the classes in very quickly."

There won't be much work needed on the structure.

"The building looks like its excellent shape," Shrubb said. "The city has done a nice job of taking care of it. The work we would have to do would be repurposing. Anytime you put in a brand new function in a place you have to repurpose the structure."

In other business, the council approved the proposed sewer service charges for 2013. The average residential user of 4,250 gallons per month would see a $.03 increase in their monthly charges. The total revenue in 2013 is proposed to be $33,307.58 more than in 2012.

The city also awarded a bid for $2.7 million general obligation sales tax revenue bonds to BOSC, Inc. with an interest rate of 1.1918 percent.

Another general obligation bond of $2.57 million was awarded to UMB Bank with an interest rate of 1.2897 percent.

The council addressed the agreement with the Worthington Area YMCA for services related to the center for active living. The previous agreement, which was in July, 2011, was structured for a position that raged from 15 to 20 hours per week. The council approved that position to become full time. The full-time employee will be paid by the city in the amount equivalent to all other full-time YMCA employees.

The council approved a change order for the Center for Active Living. The change order consisted of seven items, which will decrease the cost of the construction by $1,322.50.

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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.