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Public works to public library? Board considers transforming building

A proposal to remodel the Nobles County Public Works building on Diagonal Road into a new Worthington branch library is the latest suggestion coming out of discussions by county officials. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- In the continued search for a new site for the Worthington branch of the Nobles County Library, county administrator Tom Johnson said one perfect site hasn't been found -- but there is a new idea.

Johnson suggested during Tuesday's board of commissioners meeting that the county's public works facility on Diagonal Road could be remodeled for use as a library. The current office building and household hazardous waste facility were constructed in 2002, with other buildings on the site dating back to 1950.

Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said while he was surprised initially to learn of the idea, it does have some merit.

"It's probably not such a bad idea," he said following the meeting. "When they first built the building in 1950 ... there was an elevator a block away. Now we're in the middle of a residential area -- it's quite out of place in its current location."

Johnson said, too, that there are a lot of trucks that come and go from the site, and there may be potential for the county to collaborate with the city of Worthington on a co-located public works facility on the edge of town. The city's public works department is also located along Diagonal Road, several blocks northwest of the county's site.

Schnieder said moving the public works department would create efficiencies. Currently, the county keeps its plows in a building south of Shine Brothers, while its rock and gravel is stored at a different site along Crailsheim Drive. As for a shared site with the city's public works department, Schnieder said it could work. They already share equipment from time to time.

"If we were to rebuild, they would move us out of the residential area and go to a more appropriately zoned area," Schnieder said.

Before that discussion advances, however, Vetter-Johnson Architects will do a cursory study on the public works site to examine the feasibility of remodeling the offices into a new library. The architectural firm designed the public works facility, so it already has much of the information to complete the work.

"I think there is some merit in looking at a public works building, but it's also going to slow up the library project," said Commissioner Marv Zylstra. "My constituents wouldn't want to see us level that (public works) site and start with something new."

Johnson said the site is "pretty large" and offers options. The public works facility is comprised of two lots that equal more than 361,000 square feet, or approximately 8.3 acres. There is currently access from both Diagonal Road and Clary Street.

Nobles County Library Director Julie Wellnitz said following Tuesday's meeting that she appreciates the commissioners' diligence to find a suitable location for the library.

"I appreciate that the county administration and the county board are considering all possibilities," she said. "I feel it demonstrates their dedication to finding the most cost-effective and accessible site to the core population of Worthington."

In other action during Tuesday's board meeting, commissioners:

l Scheduled a county road tour with Schnieder to look at roads and bridges slated for reconstruction or replacement. The tour will follow the April 23 board meeting.

- Approved a resolution of support sought by the Association of Minnesota Counties asking for increased transportation funding. Due to more fuel-efficient vehicles, fewer new vehicles sold and people driving less, the gas tax has not generated enough revenue to complete the necessary transportation projects.

- Approved plans for an alternative work schedule and flexible work schedule in Nobles County Community Services. The plans will now advance to the labor attorney for comment. These policies will allow employees in community services to shift work schedules if they have night or weekend work obligations.

- Accepted a $3,132 grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. The funds will be used to help eliminate health disparities in refugee and foreign-born individuals in Nobles County.

- Presented the March Excellence in Performance award to Nobles County Correctional Officer Joe Welnetz.

- Approved a $1,000 sponsorship for the Regional Bioscience Conference April 18-19 in Worthington. This money was set aside in the county's budget.

- Approved the 2013 beer and set-up license for Dakota Golf Management, which operates Prairie View Golf Links in Worthington Township.

- Designated commissioners Zylstra and Gene Metz to serve on a task force to update Nobles County's water plan. The plan is a collaborative project of Nobles County, the Soil and Water Conservation District and local watersheds.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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