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Editorial: Water before books

The need for water in southwest Minnesota and a long-discussed new Nobles County Library should have little or nothing to do with each other, but that all changed last week.

A referendum on November’s ballot that would have sought the public’s support to use Worthington’s former pool site for potential development of a new public library became a thing of the past last week. That’s when the Nobles County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the city of Worthington not to include the referendum on the ballot, agreeing that moving the Lewis and Clark water project forward with additional funding is more important.

The decision to revoke the referendum shouldn’t have been necessary, of course. Participants in Lewis and Clark paid their designated shares for the project long ago, but the federal government has simply failed to provide the funding it promised. As a result, the Minnesota Legislature — sparked by efforts from our district lawmakers — came up with a plan to keep the project advancing, but with local governments allocating more dollars for continued expansion via the issuance of bonds.

We understand the need to put the library on the back burner for now, since any new precise local costs for water remain a mystery to be unraveled. We would be remiss in noting, however, some questionable — additional — rationales expressed by county commissioners in voting to do away with the referendum. A lack of new library support from outside city limits, the cost of the ballot measure and the Worthington City Council’s non-unanimous vote on the ballot question are not reasons to withdraw the library issue from the ballot, in our eyes. The first two should have at least been considered initially; as for the third, it still passed, didn’t it?

Yes, adding water is critical to our entire region’s future. But we hope the need for a new library isn’t forgotten or dismissed.