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Board addresses signs and library

WORTHINGTON - Nobles County Library Director Julie Wellnitz and Plum Creek Library System regional director Mark Ranum gave a presentation to Nobles County commissioners during the regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Wellnitz started by sharing some statistics.

"We had 1,632 people in last week, from march 11 through March 16," Wellnitz said. "We had 175 kids come to the library to participate in youth room programs and activities last week. Another stat we pulled from the year 2012, we averaged 44 new patron registrations every month. Library usage is definitely changing, but it is not decreasing."

Ranum explained those numbers were close to the same as in 2009.

"But you also see the number of library cards issued," Ranum said. "You have more people jumping into the pool, but the pool can only hold so many people per day or per week or per month in terms of the services that you offer."

According to Ranum, having more people without adding space limits the services the library can offer.

There was also discussion about the Plum Creek offices being in a new building.

"Plum Creek Regional Library System has been in Worthington since the late '70s and certainly has no intention of leaving, so we would like to be a part of the project for a couple different reasons," Ranum said. "No. 1, we think it benefits the patrons of the library when you have delivery services happening in the same facility.

"We also have some technology services that we think would be good to incorporate."

Ranum stated that by having Plum Creek in the project, "Nobles County would have a much greater chance of getting funding out the grant project."

Plum Creek needs an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 square feet of office space, but may not cost as much per square foot.

"I understand the advantages of having Plum Creek in regards to cost efficiency, service to patrons and the high-speed Internet," Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. said. "We have two tenants that the county subsidizes and frankly get free rent. Has there been any discussion about Plum Creek paying market value for the square footage, since it would be the county checkbook that would have to build it?"

"The discussion at the Plum Creek Regional Library board is more focused on the opportunity for partnership and waiting to see what the project looks like and what the county's needs are at the time - whether that's rent or some portion of market-value rent," Ranum said.

"Until we know exactly where you're at, I don't think the Plum Creek board could make that kind of commitment at this point."

Rural signage

Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder reported the feedback from townships regarding rural address signing.

Five townships haven't responded to two different requests. Eleven were in support of the signs, while four were against.

"I think we've given them ample opportunity to express their opinion," Schnieder said. "I did have one township, I should note, that said they don't want their signs in their township. They took a pretty strong stance that 'not only do we don't think you should do it, but we don't want them.' I think if we go ahead, we still want to do it countywide, regardless that they don't necessarily want them."

According to Schnieder, that specific township felt the money should be spent in other ways.

"They feel the money should be spent to do other highway improvements such as replacing bridges or something like that to put the money to better use," he said. "However, for the money we're talking about, it would maybe pay for one bridge or possibly half of a bridge in some cases. Or, we could maybe overlay one mile of road. In comparison, it's not going necessarily going to get a lot of road improvements done by not doing this type of a project."

Schnieder estimated each sign would cost between $80 and $85, meaning the total cost would be approximately $215,000.

"I'm hoping I'm on the high side," Schnieder said. "The money is planned to come from the reserves from the environmental services office. They have some reserves that are not targeted for any particular program. We felt that this would fall into a good program that would be serving a county-wide basis."

Schnieder also brought forth two projects where bids were received.

The first, a bridge over Kanaranzi Creek, was awarded to Henning Construction of Adrian for $337,025. The total was about 8 percent lower than what was anticipated.

The second was overlay on County State Aid Highways 7 and 14, plus Nobles County 57. That bid was awarded to Central Specialties Inc. of Alexandria for $2,417,205.64. The bid was about 1 percent more than anticipated.

In other business, the board:

- Approved a conditional use permit for Marlyn Nystrom and Jeremy Peters to construct a 36 feet by 45 feet building to be used as an auto repair shop. The building is located on Grandpa's Fun Farm at 31462 Read Ave.

- Approved the conditional use permit for Sy Lonneman to build a 51 feet by 192 feet confinement barn that would house 1,200 animals. It would be located in the southwest quarter of Section 31, Olney Township.

- Approved a credit card for County Administrator Thomas Johnson.

"The limit is $2,500 -- you won't be going to Mexico with that," Demuth said.