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City council passes resolution supporting local businesses

Worthington City Hall
Worthington City Hall. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — A resolution in support of the reopening of local businesses was approved Monday night by the Worthington City Council, and additional council action may be possible later this week depending on decisions made in St. Paul.

The council voted 4-1 to support the resolution, which urges Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders to permit establishments such as restaurants, hair salons and “other places of public accommodation” to reopen while following specific public health and safety protocols. The resolution was brought forward by councilman Chad Cummings in the wake of Walz’s decision last week to allow for the reopening of Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store as an essential business.

“We have many businesses that have come to me that are struggling very hard,” Cummings said Monday. “Some don’t know if they’re going to be able to reopen now or even in the future.”

Cummings said Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson acquired a resolution from another Minnesota community and drafted one for Worthington.

“Legislators have asked cities to put forward resolutions to support local businesses,” Robinsion told the council.

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“I think this is a great resolution,” Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle praised. “I thank council member Cummings and our city administrator for putting this together.”

Council member Larry Janssen, however, didn’t quite share in the enthusiasm.

“I do empathize with you on this and with the people, but we have a governor and I think we need to listen to him first,” said Janssen, noting that Walz would likely make an announcement as to whether or not Minnesota’s current stay-at-home order — which is set to expire May 18 — will be extended.

Cummings reiterated that the resolution was “not an action” or an attempt to “override” any gubernatorial decision, but merely a request.

“On the Senate floor (Monday), Sen. (Bill) Weber and others voted for a very similar resolution … to send to the governor in the same fashion,” Cummings said. “They’re doing that because they’re hearing the same things we are here.

“If you can sell 18 flavors of root beer and a Curly Wurly candy bar (at the candy store), why can’t some of our businesses do what they’ve asked?” he asked. “This is just lending support to our business community before we lose some of our business community.”

Councilman Alan Oberloh suggested the council take the resolution a step further, noting his fear that Walz would soon extend the state’s stay-at-home order. He said he observed packed parking lots at local big-box stores over the past weekend.

“People are shopping,” Oberloh said. “It’s absolutely absurd that you can buy a pair of shoes or blue jeans in a big store, but not in a small store.”

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Oberloh posed the possibility of stating in the resolution that all businesses be allowed the opportunity to open on May 18. After Kuhle posed the possibility of passing an initial resolution — and then having a special May 18 council meeting to consider further action — council member Amy Ernst suggested a meeting this Friday, as the governor will have likely made an announcement on the current stay-at-home order by that date.

Council members agreed to meet at 4 p.m. Friday to discuss a new resolution on reopening in the event Walz extends the stay-at-home order. If local businesses are given the go-ahead this week to reopen, that meeting would not take place.

The resolution, which also asks the governor to lift the stay-at-home order while also requesting those who are sick or have vulnerable immune systems to continue remaining at home, passed on a 4-1 vote, with Janssen opposed.

Public works

Council members also approved a pair of change orders pertaining to work on the Beach Nook trail in Centennial Park, as well as building construction at Buss Field and Centennial Park. Though he voted to approve the Beach Nook trail change order (in the amount of $10,000), Oberloh expressed displeasure that the related work was completed without council consent.

“I wish we would’ve been informed ahead of time,” he said. “This action by a city employee … is just wrong. The idea is in the future, let’s not have these things happen.”

Plans for parking lot improvements at both Slater and Ludlow parks were also approved Monday night with authorization to begin advertising for bids.

Community/economic development

The council approved a conditional use permit for properties at 1207 and 1209 South Shore Drive for Rodney Obermoller, who plans to construct a two-unit 1,654-square-foot duplex with two 672-square-foot garages at the site. The decision concurs with last week’s Worthington Planning Commission recommendation.

Also given the go-ahead was a conditional use permit for an approximately 905-square-foot video scoreboard at Trojan Field. The council’s unanimous approval echoed last week’s planning commission recommendation.

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Additionally, council members approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and Community Asset Development Group (CADG) of Chaska on the development of a multi-family housing project in the city of Worthington. It would be located south of an easterly extension of Darling Drive and north of a westerly extension of Cecilee Street.

Under the terms of the memorandum, the city will provide community support for the project; establish a “pay-as-you-go” housing tax increment financing district to provide financial support for the project; enter into a development agreement whereby the city rebates to CADG 90% of the annual tax increment generated by the project for up to 25 years based on need; negotiate a purchase agreement for the property in good faith to ensure the financial viability of the project; and assist CADG in preparing any necessary grant applications for the project.

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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