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City prioritizes replacement of two bridges

WORTHINGTON -- During its final meeting of 2016, and with three council members completing their tenure, the Worthington City Council voted Tuesday night to prioritize the replacement of two bridges within city limits.

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Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle (second from right) presents recognition plaques to outgoing City Council members (from left) Rod Sankey (2013-2016), Diane Graber (2013-2016) and Scott Nelson (2009-2016) following the council's last meeting of the year Tuesday night. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - During its final meeting of 2016, and with three council members completing their tenure, the Worthington City Council voted Tuesday night to prioritize the replacement of two bridges within city limits.

The bridges - one on Fox Farm Road and the other on 10th Avenue over Whiskey Ditch - have sufficiency ratings of 62.8 and 63.6, respectively. Bridges with ratings of less than 80 are eligible for bridge bonding when money is available.

City Engineer Dwayne Haffield said while bridge bonding money wasn’t authorized last year - and may not be approved by state legislators in 2017 - there is interest in getting the bridges replaced.

“We’re trying to get the bridge money if we can so we don’t have to use our municipal state aid,” Haffield said. “We do need to take this step; we’re not sure where that bridge bonding will be.”

The council previously approved replacement of the 10th Avenue bridge, but Haffield said the project is hung up in the permitting phase.

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“We can’t permit until we get a target funding date,” he said. “We want to see if there’s any hope for this bridge bonding money.”

Councilman Mike Harmon said he wants the city to prioritize replacement of the 10th Avenue bridge.

“It’s an eyesore - it’s a safety hazard,” Harmon said. “It’s an absolute public embarrassment to have a bridge like that in this town.”

Despite the bridge’s appearance, Haffield said with a sufficiency rating of 63.6, it’s not a “slam dunk” for funding.

“It would take a 50 (rating) or lower to get funding for replacement,” Haffield said. “If this bridge bonding doesn’t look like it would come from this session, we can talk about going to state aid.”

If that’s necessary, Haffield noted the earliest the bridge could be replaced is 2018.

“I’ve heard more comments on that 10th Avenue bridge and it’s very worthy to get it replaced,” Mayor Mike Kuhle said. “I think for now we need to pursue that bridge bonding, but we need a work session in the new year to see about those two bridges. Council needs to prioritize these projects.”

In other action, the council:

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  • Authorized an easement on the former Prairie View Golf Links property for the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District to create a trio of sediment ponds and an iron sand filter on the site to target water quality improvement.

There was discussion between council members on whether to authorize the minimum easement, which provides enough space for construction and long-term maintenance, or to authorize the maximum easement, which would include land for future storage of clean-out material from the ponds. Haffield said providing the maximum easement would save the city in trucking clean-out material off site in the future.
Despite comments from Kuhle, Scott Nelson and Rod Sankey about favoring a maximum easement, council member Larry Janssen moved to set the easement boundaries at the minimum amount, saying the council could always expand the area at a later date if necessary.

“Once there’s an easement on that land, you tie that up forever,” Janssen said. “An easement can put a cloud on your property. I don’t think you want to put a cloud on that property right now.”

Nelson, meanwhile, said it would be better to maximize the easement now so the city doesn’t have to “fight someone later on” about where to put the clean-out material.

“I’m just not seeing the positives in minimizing the size of the easement,” Nelson said.

The vote was ultimately in favor of setting the minimum easement for the project, with a second vote authorizing the release of $170,000 in Clean Water Partnership fund reserves to meet the required 25 percent local match for the project.

  • Approved resolutions establishing the city as the sponsor for a Transportation Alternatives Program funding application. The project involves construction of two trails, from Prairie Elementary to Knollwood Drive and from Cecilee Street to Minnesota 60. TAP funding for the projects is estimated at slightly more than $229,000, with the local cost estimate of $100,300. District 518 has authorized to pay 50 percent of the local share on the trail from Prairie Elementary to Knollwood Drive.

  • Authorized a grant agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for use by the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force.

  • Accepted donations of $2,300 from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation, $1,000 from Bedford Industries and $200 from Mike Woll Investments to purchase snow grooming equipment to establish a 1.5-mile trail in Olson Park for walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and other activities. The city’s public works department will maintain the trails, as time allows, throughout the winter months.

  • Approved the third reading of an ordinance authorizing Sunday on-sale of intoxicating liquor and established the license fee for Sunday liquor sales of $200 per year. Since liquor licenses are renewed on July 1 of each year, the Sunday liquor licenses will be prorated from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2017, at which time businesses can apply for the full-year license.

  • Approved an interfund loan for relocation of Worthington’s municipal liquor store. The 10-year loan, at 3 percent interest, will be repaid with profits earned from liquor sales.

  • Approved a professional services agreement with TSP, a Sioux Falls, S.D.- based architectural, engineering and planning firm, to refine the design, prepare construction documents and assist the city in obtaining competitive bids to renovate the former Dollar General store on Ryan’s Road into a municipal liquor store. The cost for services is $64,450, which will come from the liquor store fund.

  • Approved a professional services agreement with Midwest Engineering, Worthington, to perform a topographic survey of the new liquor store site at a cost of $2,500.

  • Approved applications for Sunday on-sale intoxicating liquor licenses to Great Life Golf & Fitness, The Tap, The Ground Round Grill & Bar, Mini Market Lupita, El Mexicano No. 3 Restaurant, La Azteca Restaurant, VFW 3958, Historic Dayton House, Elks Lodge, Eagles Aerie 3282, Long Branch Saloon and Hy-Vee.

  • Approved an application for an off-sale beer license from Nakorn Chommes, the new owner of Top Asian Food, Inc., 312 10th St.

  • Approved an application for a lawful gambling permit from Worthington Okabena Windsurfers to conduct a raffle on June 10, 2017, on Sailboard Beach.

  • Recognized council members Scott Nelson, Diane Graber and Rod Sankey for their service to the community. Nelson served eight years on the city council, while Graber and Sankey each served a four-year term.

Nelson said he ran for city council because he wanted to see something done with the North Industrial Park. He encouraged the council to continue working on the industrial park and said he appreciated representing the city of Worthington.
Graber offered her thanks to everyone from city staff to employees.

“It’s just amazing how much work gets done in this city by city employees… ,” she said. “I do feel that there were many things accomplished in the last four years that we don’t always recognize. In order to get tasks done, the council has worked with many entities and many funding partners to accomplish the goals … of the city.”

Sankey thanked the voters who elected him four years ago to the city council.

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“The last four years have been great; we’ve accomplished many things,” he said.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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