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Board to explore old pool site for library

County officials will pursue the potential to build a new library at the site of the former outdoor municipal pool in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to pursue the former outdoor swimming pool site as their first choice for the development of a potential new Worthington branch library.

0 Talk about it

Told in advance of the vote that the action would not be for discussion of need or size, Nobles County Library Director Julie Wellnitz asked that commissioners narrow the site options from four to a maximum of two.

An overwhelming majority of respondents who attended town hall meetings in July or visited the county's booth at the fair were in favor of the former outdoor swimming pool site, she said.

In all, 62 public comments were gathered at three town-hall meetings last month, and another 208 comments received at the county fair earlier this month. Wellnitz said the "vast majority of input has been in favor of a new library."

The project has been discussed since 1997, when the current library received an ADA upgrade, including the installation of elevators. Talk resurfaced in 2007, and again in 2009 when a needs assessment was completed.

"There have been other opportunities to glean public input, such as the public hearing last fall and the surveys that were completed during the needs assessment in 2009," Wellnitz reminded. 

Of the 270 combined responses received in the last month, Wellnitz said 115 were in favor of building on the former outdoor swimming pool site near the intersection of Liberty Drive and West Lake Avenue. The former Campbell's Soup site came in second with 48 favorable comments. The Lampert Lumber site was selected by 40 respondents; with the public works site getting 26 responses. The remainder of the comments were general in nature or did not support any of the four sites. Four comments requested the library issue be brought to a referendum.

To view all public comments collected, click here

Based on the responses, the former Campbell's Soup site would be the alternate, although commissioners decided Tuesday not to eliminate the public works and Lampert Lumber locations at this time.

While the next step for the county is to delve into costs for the former swimming pool site, Commissioner Matt Widboom wanted assurance that Tuesday's vote wasn't the last time the commissioners would have a say in whether to move forward with the project.

"Once we have a true cost identified, would it come back for a final vote of commissioners?" he asked.

County Administrator Tom Johnson said there could be several more discussions regarding the library project before the board votes on whether to build a new facility and how it will be funded.

Board chairman Bob Demuth Jr. said there may be some obstacles in obtaining the former swimming pool property based on the way the E.O. Olson Trust was established. The trust gifted the land to the city of Worthington for use as a green space and recreation.

"If some red flags come up that make that site unlikely, then we'll look at that second site," Johnson added.

Commissioner Marv Zylstra believes the former pool site is the most appealing for a new library building, especially with the new bike paths created in that area. He also referenced the public request to the city to build a new outdoor swimming pool, adding that perhaps the Campbell's Soup site would be the better location for the facility

Commissioners Gene Metz and Don Linssen both said the county should focus only on the former swimming pool site at this time.

Widboom said he'd support Tuesday's motion as a way to get an idea for the project's cost, but "I do have a lot of reservations attached.

"There's so many unknowns and unclear things to me as to who's going to be a part of this library process," he said.

In other action, the board:

* Received an update of RSVP programming in Nobles County. In 2012, the agency had 443 volunteers who logged more than 51,300 hours in 56 different locations within the county.

* Received an annual report from Amy Woitalewicz of the Southwest Initiative Foundation. The county is asked to support SWIF with $6,410 for 2014. That money is matched by the McKnight Foundation and assists the agency provide programming.

* Approved a conditional use permit for Ryan Thier, Rushmore, to construct a 66- by 724-foot cattle confinement building with a concrete pit below in the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 26, Olney Township.

* Received a budget request of $40,000 from the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation. This is an $8,000 increase over 2012.

WREDC director Abraham Algadi said the agency's current budget "allows us to exist." He said there's a lot of opportunity that exists in the community, from filling vacant buildings to promotion and marketing.

"All of those demand of us an investment," Algadi said.

* Approved the renewal of a lease agreement with the State of Minnesota for space in the lower level of the Government Center for driver's license testing. The amended contract includes a reduced rate for the space, dropping from $15 per square foot to $13 per square foot.

* Completed a six-month performance evaluation of Johnson in closed session. It was announced that the proceedings were taped, and the tape will be sealed.

* Approved a 2013-2014 contract renewal between Nobles County Community Services and Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center for 72-hour holds. The contract is set at $975 per day, an increase of $25 per day from the last contract.

* Approved the county's revised mission statement to read, "In cooperation with our citizens, we improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities by fostering a healthy economy and environment."

* Appointed Zylstra to the Community Leadership Team that will oversee and guide implementation efforts of the Statewide Health Improvement Program.

* Approved the reappointments of Mike Carlson and Jay Mickelson to four-year terms on the Red Rock Rural Water board.

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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