ELLSWORTH — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday released his fourth and final list of projects he has identified for inclusion in a proposed $2 billion bonding bill this legislative session. Making the list are the W.E.L.L. (Welcome, Education, Library and Livability), a collaborative project of Nobles County, the city of Worthington and Independent School District 518, and the Ellsworth City Hall.
Under the governor’s proposal, the W.E.L.L. would receive the full amount requested — $16 million — which would come in the form of a grant through general obligation bonding.
G.O. bonds would also be used, in Walz’s proposal, to entirely fund the $1.345 million request from the city of Ellsworth to help fund reconstruction of its city hall.
Wednesday’s announcement came one year to the day that Ellsworth’s 104-year-old city hall building was destroyed by fire.
Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said Wednesday that the W.E.L.L.’s inclusion in the governor’s proposal was “phenomenal news.”
“It’s just another huge step,” said Johnson of what has already been a lengthy process to get three entities collaborating on a building project. “I’m excited. We haven’t given up on this project because it’s a good project for the community.”
Johnson said he has maintained conversations with local representation, including District 22 Sen. Bill Weber and District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, on the W.E.L.L. project. He said he hopes the county can get another visit with the House and Senate bonding committees during the legislative session.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis-based architectural firm hired to design the collaborative building will be in Worthington Feb. 6-7 to kick off an in-depth planning session.
“They want to meet with all of the involved folks who want to reside in that building,” Johnson said. “They want to see how they can accommodate the space — what can be shared and what can’t.”
The plan is to have the size and scope of the building determined before the legislature acts on a bonding bill. The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 11.
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