WORTHINGTON - Worthington is on track to offer a lot of new outdoor fun by Memorial Day.

The Worthington City Council unanimously approved to begin advertising for construction bids for its new Beach Nook at Centennial Park during its Monday meeting.  

Considered a priority project, Worthington Public Works Director Todd Wietzema said the design phase has been completed. Demolition of the current Beach Nook, as well as utility work and groundwork for the new structure, is slated to begin this fall. The contracted completion date is anticipated to be mid-May, which is synchronized with the anticipated completion of the city’s approved new splash pad.

The new Beach Nook will feature men’s and women’s restrooms, a year-round family restroom, indoor and outdoor showers, storage areas, a concession area, a patio and solar power to decrease the electrical usage.

Bids will begin being advertised today and will be opened and considered Sept. 6, with anticipated council action on Sept. 10. The city’s goal is to have the project fully completed during the offseason.

Council members also approved contributing an additional $5,000 to the Worthington Cemetery Association. The city and Nobles County have now each contributed $10,000 this year to the association to assist in operational shortfalls.

While the council unanimously approved the contribution, several voiced concerns that in doing so, it may become an assumed budget item.

“Is there a plan in place to try and generate money than the simple letter that (funding) has decreased and decreased,” council member Chad Cummings said. “If there’s no plan or no try at a new fundraising source or increased efforts, this is a continual, and sooner or later it becomes a budgeted item.”

Council member Alan Oberloh shared Cummings’ concern.

“As of today, if we approve this, I’m not certain that in our next budget cycle they won’t be back for an additional $10,000,” he said. He added that he’d like to see new planning attempts to remedy the shortfall and to make the cemetery self-sustaining.

City Administrator Steve Robinson noted that the cemetery association board is on a volunteer basis.

“I think you’re seeing all they have to offer,” Robinson said. “The expectation that this board is all of a sudden going to raise all these additional funds or implement these sales projects, I think that’s a lot to ask of these individuals.”

Considering the cemetery operates at an annual expense of about $60,000, council member Mike Harmon said it made more sense for the city to contribute $10,000 now than to begin assuming $60,000.

Council members discussed an increase in cremation to burial rates over recent years, which impacts the cemetery’s bottom line.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, cremation rates in the United States saw an all-time high this time last year. The 2018 cremation rate is anticipated to be 53.5 percent, and is anticipated to reach 80 percent by 2035.  

Among other items business Monday:

  • Council members shared insight regarding the section of U.S. 59 at the north end of Worthington with Minnesota Department of Transportation representatives to help the state plan better plan for a repair project on the stretch of highway between Worthington and Fulda that is slated to take place within the next 10 years.

Specifically, council members advised MnDOT representatives about the Prairie Justice Center along that stretch, and expressed the need for infrastructure considerate of emergency vehicles making quick exits. The highway preservation project currently is not funded, and would likely not begin sooner than 2023.

  • A closing date on the MC Fitness building is slated for Aug. 29. The total cost to purchase and renovate the building for the city’s public works department is estimated at $3.5 million.
  • Approved initiating the replacement of the pedestrian bridge over Whiskey Ditch at Centennial Park. City Engineer Dwayne Haffield estimated replacement would roughly cost upwards of $120,000.