City council OKs McMIllan Street plans
WORTHINGTON — After an extended discussion, the Worthington City Council approved McMillan Street resurfacing plans Monday that include a multi-use walk and bike trail and an 8-foot sidewalk.
The layout was the preferred plan voted on by various interested parties, including nearby business owners and members of the Active Living Plan Steering Committee.
Council member Alan Oberloh disagreed with the preferred plan, proposing five-foot sidewalks and no multi-use trails. He argued it would be better to create a multi-purpose trail that goes between Ace Hardware and Karl’s Carquest out to Ryan’s Road in the future.
“I think we serve all the businesses out there a lot better than serving one that’s directly up on McMillan,” Oberloh said. “Let’s serve them all and get the traffic really off the road and put them on a dedicated trail.”
Council member Larry Janssen argued that a bike lane was not needed for the intersection, as he said bikers can ride on sidewalks or the road.
“I don’t think the public understands that a bicycle has a right-of-way; it's a state statute,” Janssen said. “And they can be on the road — they can drive in the driving lane.”
Council member Amy Ernst said safety should be a top priority for bicycle traffic on the road.
“I think, overall, we want to look at the safety for the most people who are out there,” she said. “And I don’t know that the majority of people who I’ve seen on bikes on McMillan would be safer on the street versus on the sidewalk, because a lot of times they’re out there at night when you can’t see. It’s kind of scary.”
Mayor Mike Kuhle argued that the council should vote for the steering committee plan, while city Engineer Dwayne Haffield added that there was virtually no support from public input to put bicyclists on the road.
The motion passed, with Oberloh as the lone council member not in favor.
Another debate took place over the interfund loan passed to pay for Buss Field renovations. The council set the terms of the loan as 15 years at zero percent interest during its Oct. 10 meeting.
Oberloh said the council should change the terms to a 10-year loan with an interest rate of two percent for an amount not to exceed $1.2 million, which was the original recommendation from city staff. The money comes from the Parks and Recreation fund. Oberloh stated that paying the money back with interest would help keep the fund true.
Kuhle argued that the money being paid in interest was unnecessary tax-levy dollars.
“We’re just charging ourself,” Kuhle said.
Council member Chad Cummings agreed with Oberloh, challenging Kuhle’s argument.
“I do that to myself in my business,” Cummings said. “If one of the partners borrows money to the company, we charge back interest, so that it keeps that fund true.”
A motion to reconsider the terms of the interfund loan was voted down 3-2, with Cummings and Oberloh in favor.
The council also approved its 2017 legislative priorities. Leading its list is securing construction of the final leg of the Lewis & Clark water pipeline to the city. The city also asked that the state extend the current local option sales tax, which funded the Worthington Event Center and renovations at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
The city also requested additional Local Government Aid (LGA). Worthington received $3,406,166 LGA funding in 2002, significantly more than the $3,177,946 it received in 2017.
"We'd like to return to those 2002 levels," Steve Robinson, city administrator, said. "We've gone backwards quite a bit."
Council member Mike Harmon added the legislature needs to follow through on the 2016 bonding bill it failed to pass.
In other news, the council:
Approved a grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to help purchase a new tractor and airport radio at Worthington Municipal Airport. The total cost comes to $64,023.24 — the grant will pay 80 percent of the cost.
Appointed Gary Oberloh and Jessica Velasco to the planning commission.