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Council brings back Local Harvest; introduces new officer

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council approved Monday a five-month lease on the Prairie View Golf Links clubhouse for Local Harvest, a fresh produce business owned by Jill and Jake Cuperus. The Cuperuses will lease the building from mid-May...

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington City Council approved Monday a five-month lease on the Prairie View Golf Links clubhouse for Local Harvest, a fresh produce business owned by Jill and Jake Cuperus.

The Cuperuses will lease the building from mid-May through mid-October. The two farmers opened the store last summer at the same location.

 

The rent rate is set at $500. Last year, it was set at $1,000. Council member Alan Oberloh was confused on why the rate had been lowered so much.

 

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“I’ve known Jill since she was in kindergarten,” Oberloh said. “This is not about her, it’s that we’ve established the rent rate at $1,000. Is there a reason it’s been cut in half?”

 

Jill Cuperus said she and Jake used the cart shed last year and would not be doing so this year. Since they are also interested in using less of the green space and will have to endure nearby construction that wasn’t a nuisance last year, she thought the 2017 rate should be lower.

 

Oberloh suggested a compromise in which the Cuperuses pay an extra month of rent, from the first of May to the end of October. However, the council went forward with a vote on the original plan of mid-May to mid-October at $500.

 

The council voted 4-1 in favor of the lease, with Oberloh the lone objector.

 

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In another agenda item, the council welcomed the Worthington Police Department’s newest officer - Micah Mesman. An Edgerton native, Mesman graduated from Edgerton Public School in 2008 and studied law enforcement at Alexandria Technical College, from where he graduated in 2010.

After graduation, Mesman joined the National Guard. He was deployed from May 2011 to April 2012 for Operation Enduring Freedom. He also spent time working at the Clay County Jail before he was offered a job at the WPD.

Members of the council congratulated Mesman on his position.

In a later vote, the council approved a letter of engagement to hire lobbying firm Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick, P.A. to push the city’s bill to extend the local options sales tax.

The original legislation allowed for the tax being in place for 10 years or until it collects $6.3 million, whichever occurred first, for the construction of the Worthington Event Center and renovation of Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.


Under the proposed bill, the city would have the ability to extend the current local option sales tax for the full 10 years, by ordinance, despite having hit the $6.3 million goal ahead of schedule. If the tax is extended, the city would collect an estimated $1.5 million over the next two years.

Oberloh questioned the need for the lobbying firm, as he said many city officials such as City Administrator Steve Robinson have already traveled to St. Paul to push bills.

 

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“I just wouldn’t put the money in and have Steve do it himself,” he said.

 

Robinson said since this is an unprecedented piece of legislation, the city and legislators who support the bill were looking for insight on how to get it passed.

Oberloh spent significant time in St. Paul lobbying during his time as mayor. He pushed the initial local option sales tax when it was not a popular idea.

 

“At the time it was basically unheard of,” Oberloh said. “They were not giving local option sales tax at that time period.”

 

Robinson explained that the firm would help monitor the bill as it goes through the legislative process, while city officials would still testify on behalf of the need for the bill. He said the bill has gone through the Minnesota Revisor of Statutes and hopefully will be introduced by next week.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the agreement to pay the firm a maximum of $3.000 for its work throughout the legislative session.

 

In a separate vote, the council agreed to have the city pay 50 percent of the cost of the Prairie Justice Center garage addition. Nobles County will pay the other 50 percent. The county will front the cost of the construction, and the city will begin repaying in 2023 until the garage is paid off.

The WPD requested an expansion of the garage to accommodate more vehicles. The current garage has six spaces shared between the police department and the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office. The addition will increase the total number of parking spaces to 18.

 

Police Chief Troy Appel said a big reason for expanding the garage was to make the job safer for officers.

 

“Clearly there’s more risk for law enforcement in the present day than there ever has been,” Appel said. “With the garage addition, it creates a safer routine for the local officers. Officers currently have to come and go from the PJC in an area that’s fully accessible to the public.”


Appel also cited the bitter northwest winds that at times disrupt cameras and other equipment on WPD vehicles.

In other news, the council:

  • Lifted the maximum limit on the number of private docks allowed on public property and raised the permit fee from $135 to $150. Last year, 13 residents were allowed to be dock permit holders.
    "I think setting a number is ridiculous," council member Chad Cummings said.
  • Introduced Chris Kielblock as the honorary council member.
  • Decertified Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District #8. The district was created to help finance improvements to the site of Willow Court Townhomes, a 24-unit rental housing complex.
  • Approved the extension of the Event Center’s hours to 5 a.m. for the ISD 518 prom on April 28 and 29.
  • Granted a temporary on-sale liquor license to Avera Medical Group Worthington for its annual wine-tasting event at the Daily Globe’s Women's Expo event, scheduled for March 25 at Minnesota West.
  • Granted St. Mary's Church an exemption from lawful gambling permit for its May 7 raffle.
  • Adopted the City of Worthington 2017 Legislative Priorities, which include Lewis & Clark funding, an extension of the local option sales tax, increased Local Government Aid, a transportation bill and bonding bills to support infrastructure in Greater Minnesota.
  • Announced that the city’s 2017 Local Board of Appeal and Equalization has been scheduled for 9 a.m. May 11 in the Nobles County Commissioners Room. The Nobles County Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 13 in the Nobles County Commissioners Room.
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