WORTHINGTON — In a 3-2 vote Monday afternoon, the Nobles County Library Board agreed it will be “all in” in regard to the proposed W.E.L.L. (Welcome, Education, Library and Livability) project.
The vote was taken during a special meeting, scheduled just one day before Nobles County commissioners, the Worthington City Council and ISD 518 Board members gather to vote on an architect to develop schematic designs for a collaborative facility on the former Campbell Soup property along Worthington’s Second Avenue.
Library Board members Peg Faber, Mary Ingenthron and Charlene Wintz voted in favor of moving forward, using the board’s recently compiled guiding document as a guide for architects to consider during the design process.
Board chairwoman Kathy Craun and member Marlene Greve voted against the motion, both citing concerns with the location — adjacent to the railroad — as their reason for not wanting to take the next step.
“I can work with almost all of the other (sites),” Craun said. “We looked at this site early on. It was part of the five sites (identified). I don’t know what is the ideal location. I’m just really concerned about that site.”
Prior to the vote, there was considerable discussion about the guiding document, a 15-page report identifying the library’s needs and concerns about the proposed site, as well as some clarification.
Craun said mandatory vapor testing on the Campbell Soup site would only be required during construction — something that wasn’t made clear in the guiding document.
Then, there was clarification on the document itself.
Is it a guide comprised of suggestions from the library board, or is it a list of must-haves, Commissioner Gene Metz asked.
“If this is an absolute must-have, versus a guidance that’s negotiable, then it changes the whole thing,” said Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson.
Metz said he thought it was early in the process for there to be “absolutes”.
“I’d like to see what the other groups have — if they have some absolute locked-in items that they must have,” he said.
Metz told the library board if it was locked into the guiding document, he wasn’t sure the county would go in on the vote with the city and the school board on Tuesday.
Craun said the library board was directed to say what it needs in a new library facility. That was the point of the guiding document and the list of eight items. She said county commissioners interpreted the list as demands.
“I said they were our needs,” she added. “I thought the intention was to take what we needed — what was most important to us — and document them.”
Library board members each commented on the guiding document, saying it includes things that “are a must,” while there may be room for negotiation on some points.
“There are some things in here I think we absolutely have to have,” said Faber. “The safety. … We need to know how many people come in for reporting. Our (own) entrance is very important. Those, I think, are musts.”
Wintz said she believes the architect hired (a decision may come at Tuesday evening’s collaborative meeting) will do everything it can to work with the library board on its needs.
“I think we have a really good chance here to go forward and get a new library,” she said. “I think the guiding document is a guide. I think it’s possible we can compromise.”
Tuesday’s county, city and school board meeting to discuss the W.E.L.L. project will begin at 7 p.m. in the Worthington High School Media Center (please enter through the front entrance through the media center door.).
On the agenda is an overview of the W.E.L.L. project and action taken to date by each entity. There will be a review of the position of the library board, the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and the Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation, as well as a review and discussion of a bonding request.
A request will be made for a letter of commitment from each entity, with proposed action by ISD 518, the city of Worthington and Nobles County on formal commitment to the project. Also, the city will be asked to commit property to the project at no cost to the county or the school district, and also to commit funds to the construction of a new library.
Finally, the agenda includes a recommendation and approval of an architect to begin designing the project.