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Board sets February referendum date

Council meeting decides budget items

WORTHINGTON — More budget decisions were made Monday morning during a special city council meeting, though the meeting was continued until Wednesday morning in order to resolve remaining issues.

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Among items left to discuss Wednesday include transfers from the liquor store to the general fund, entry sign cost and health insurance increases. Council members on Monday made decisions on storm water rates and zoning fees, as well as on Prairie View Golf Links mower and golf cart leasing.

City Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield began Monday morning’s discussion on the storm water budget. He said that if the city opted to not increase the rates, approximately $30,000 would go into reserves for capital improvements. The council recently heard a proposal to help mitigate some of the flood plain in Worthington —some of the costs of that project could come from that fund.

Council member Ron Wood reminded the council the electric rates may be increasing because of a higher transmission cost. The council ultimately decided to keep the storm water rates the same.

“If we can pull that off and bond for it and the whole community pays, we can show the community has a benefit as a whole,” Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said. “I’d rather see this left alone, unless you’re telling me inflation is swallowing up what we have in this account. If keeping it at zero can still work and add to it as it has, I’d leave this one alone.”

Oberloh said the city should be on the lookout for homes that come for sale in areas where some may have to be removed.

“We have a great plan in front of us, but I think there’s a lot more conversation so we make sure we’re not going to promise something that won’t happen,” Wood said. “What I’m saying is the outcome may not be what we envisioned.”

Oberloh said that even if the flood plain is reduced, that doesn’t mean there won’t be water in people’s basements. However, he wants to move the process forward.

“I’d like us to be proactive on this and keep the ball rolling,” Oberloh said. “There is phasing that has to be done.”

Council member Diane Graber asked how the public would perceive an increase.

“That’s why it falls on you guys as a policy issue — we don’t see it as black and white,” Haffield said. “You do have to promote it as we’re building toward these goals.”

Haffield said he hopes to bring the flood mitigation master plan back to the council for approval in November.

“It depends on how fast you want to move,” he said.

Oberloh said he wants to start asking for money from the state and federal levels.

“I want to, in February, be able to go to St. Paul and advocate for a plan that will take most of this community out of the flood plain,” he said.

In another matter, Tom Jansa from Dakota Golf Management presented a plan for a lease for golf carts for Prairie View Golf Links.

The council decided with new E-Z- GO electric carts. At the end of the five-year lease, there is a buy-back option from the company, which would decrease the amount of the lease.

PVGL was also approved for a new mower. The financing for the mower will be internal.

Council member Mike Kuhle questioned why local dealers hadn’t been contacted.

“Were there any local vendors invited to participate?” Kuhle asked.

“There are no local vendors that carry this piece of equipment,” said PVGL superintendent Kevin Black. “Jacobson is out of Sioux Falls — is that local enough for you?”

“I think it’s a fair question,” Kuhle said. “It’s not really meant to be a laughing matter. We need to look at our local vendors as well.”

The council also approved doubling the zoning fees across the board. Before it can take affect — on Jan. 1, 2014 — the council would have to have three readings of an ordinance. The fees haven’t been changed since the 1990s, and the result would be an estimated $1,000 to $2,000 increase in revenue.

Additionally on Monday, Worthington Fire Chief Rick Von Holdt was in attendance to discuss a new fire truck. He fielded questions about the need for a new truck and the possibility of townships covering part of the cost. The consensus at that point was to work with Worthington Public Utilities on the possibility of upsizing a new tanker truck it was planning on purchasing.

However, later in the meeting, WPU General Manager Scott Hain reported that truck would be used nearly every day by WPU employees, which would limit the use by the WFD.

“It doesn’t look like that’s going to work,” council member Scott Nelson said.