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E.O. Olson Trust awards grants

WORTHINGTON -- The E.O. Olson board of trustees approved a pair of grants totalling $46,000 after hearing requests from Nobles County Pheasants Forever and the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District during a Wednesday morning meeting at Worthington Ci...

WORTHINGTON - The E.O. Olson board of trustees approved a pair of grants totalling $46,000 after hearing requests from Nobles County Pheasants Forever and the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District during a Wednesday morning meeting at Worthington City Hall.

Members of the trust typically meet once per year to hear requests for funding on projects that target water quality.

The trust was established by Eric (E.O.) Olson in August 1964, when the Worthington man deposited $322,980.80 in First National Bank of Minneapolis to establish a trust fund. Two-thirds of the money was dedicated to protecting and improving water quality, with one-third going into a scholarship fund for the local community college.

Since the fund was established, the board of trustees has been frugal with its finances, choosing to spend only the interest generated on the account. The board is comprised of two representatives from the Nobles County Board of Commissioners (Don Linssen and Bob Demuth Jr.), the mayor of Worthington (Mike Kuhle), the president of the Worthington Public Utilities Commission (Gary Hoffman) and an at-large member (Jack Sliver).

Sliver, who serves as chairman of the E.O. Olson Trust, said Wednesday the board has $86,175.76 available to spend on local projects. He said he had hoped more entities would come forward with requests for funding to benefit clean water.

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Nobles County Pheasants Forever president Scott Rall requested $15,000, or about 11.5 percent of the approximately $130,000 needed to purchase an 18-acre parcel in Section 22, Bigelow Township, from Alesha Andrade. The parcel is located within the city’s wellhead protection area, and is one-eighth mile from one city well and within a quarter-mile of two other city wells.

Rall said the Conservation Reserve Program contract on the property expires this year, and Pheasants Forever wants to purchase the land to ensure that it stays in perpetual grass cover. Once the organization buys the property, it would be transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and become a wildlife area.

Kuhle said it is important to protect the city’s wellhead - even with the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System coming to Worthington.

Rall said whatever isn’t raised through contributions from other entities will need to come from Nobles County Pheasants Forever’s coffers. Hearing the trust had a larger sum of money available, he asked the trustees to consider a larger donation. Ultimately, they approved a $20,000 contribution toward the project.

Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator, asked for up to $55,000 for expenses that may exceed what the watershed district budgeted for the Prairie View project. He won’t know if the budget is sufficient or if more money will be needed until after the May 5 bid opening on the project, but engineering and dirt moving costs are expected to be over budget.

“We believe the cost of excavation is going to go up considerably,” Livdahl said. “We expect the costs are going to be higher and the engineering costs are higher.”

He said the estimated cost to local partners has gone from $107,000 to $162,500, which has already eaten up the contingency funds built into the budget.

“I’m asking the Olson Trust board to consider helping pick up some of that additional cost on the site,” Livdahl said.

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The Prairie View project includes the expansion of three existing ponds on the former golf course and the addition of filter benches to remove approximately 30 percent of the phosphorus (945 pounds) per year from water before it flows into Lake Okabena. At the same time, it’s estimated the project will stop 123,000 pounds of sediment from reaching the lake on an annual basis.

“It’s upstream of everything,” Livdahl said. “Cleaner water going into (Lake) Okabena makes cleaner water going into (Lake) Ocheda makes cleaner water going into our wellfield.

“I think this fits really well into the mission of the Olson trust,” he added.

The trustees voted to award the OOWD $26,000, with the idea that if the watershed district needs more money, a second meeting of the E.O. Olson Trust could be called after the May 5 bid opening.

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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