Council discusses progress on city projects, Hotel Thompson
WORTHINGTON — In a special meeting Wednesday, Worthington City Council received updates on various city construction projects, as well as new developments with the Hotel Thompson.
Director of Public Works Todd Wietzema explained that work on the new Public Works building began about a month ago. Demolition is mostly finished on the main floor and the upstairs, and framing began Wednesday.
Plumbing and electrical plans have been altered slightly since the project’s inception. The city wants to do a quality job but also save on costs as much as possible.
He added that plans are being drawn for possible office space on the upper level, to be occupied as needed to meet the needs of growing city staff.
The project is on track for completion by Sept. 15.Beach Nook
The Beach Nook bathroom project and the Beach Nook trails and utilities project are both progressing as planned.
Wietzema said the water line should be run by the end of next week. Then, soil corrections will begin.
The old building will remain open until mid-July. The new building is slated for completion by Aug. 10.Splash pad
The utilities for the splash pad were completed last fall, and construction will resume shortly.
He explained that the Minnesota Department of Health approved plans. Six members of the Public Works staff have received pool inspectors’ licenses, so the pool can be inspected daily as required by law.
Wietzema said that construction is supposed to take four more weeks, and the splash pad should be open by Memorial Day.Entertainment building (movie theater)
City Administrator Steve Robinson received plans for the entertainment building Tuesday night. He expects plans to be completed by April 29, after which there will still be several steps to complete, including coordinating zoning.Field house
Robinson explained the idea of breaking the field house project into two phases.
The first phase would be simply getting the field house functional, an endeavor Robinson said is “a relatively minor undertaking and can be done relatively quickly.”
After that, the second phase would include the building addition.
Robinson outlined the various amenities to be included in the field house, such as a toddler area and a bigger soccer field.
Some amenity options are possible, but aren’t being considered. The city is only interested in creating opportunities that don’t currently exist.
“I don’t want this to be so inclusive that people shy away from the Y,” council member Alan Oberloh said.
“I don’t want to compete with them,” Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle agreed.
Robinson confirmed that the city’s goal is to work with existing organizations to offer as many options as possible to the people of Worthington.
He said that proposals should be ready by mid-May so that if the state legislature approves Worthington’s local-option sales tax, city council can select from the proposals right away.10th Street plaza
Robinson said he’s waiting to receive plans for the 10th Street plaza. Once he does, the planning committee will reconvene and discuss options moving forward.Aquatic center
Director of Community Development, Planning, Zoning and Building Services Jason Brisson said the aquatic center project can begin this summer.
The first step is to identify a location. By fall, the city should have plans for the project. Construction is slated to begin spring 2020 and completed that fall 2020, with plans for an opening in spring 2021.Ice arena
Robinson said the major decision to be made about the ice arena is whether to invest in improving the existing arena or building new. Either way, the project is slated to begin in April or May 2020.
Wietzema added that the ice arena is “not as urgent” as some other projects because the existing arena is functional.Local-option sales tax
Robinson updated city council on the status of Worthington’s proposed local-option sales tax, which voters OK’d in November and the state legislature must approve this session. He and council member Chad Cummings have traveled to St. Paul on multiple occasions to advocate for approval.
Robinson explained that the House is requiring the city council to pass a resolution listing each project and its specific budget. This resolution must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Cummings added that the House imposed this clause because several of the other applicants were vague about their planned city projects.
“They’re protecting the voters,” he said, noting that the state simply wants a commitment from the city to do specific projects at a proposed budget.
Robinson said this represents an extra step, but will not require a lot of extra work on the city’s part. The parks and recreation project and the lake water quality project could probably use some clarification, he said, but the other proposed projects are already detailed enough.
Robinson expects the Senate to uphold this requirement, so work on the resolution must begin immediately.Hotel Thompson
Brisson said there are now three private parties interested in purchasing and renovating the Hotel Thompson.
Two of the parties plan to focus on making the facility safe and livable rather than doing a full-scale renovation. This path would be faster and would involve limited city financial participation.
The other party would like to do a substantial renovation and make the Thompson one of the highest-rent properties in the city. This plan would be more time-consuming and require significant city financial participation.
Brisson said the second option is possible, but the city would want to consider the total project cost and the expected return to investors before deciding to participate.
“Everyone has to remember that we don’t own the Thompson,” Robinson said. Until a purchase is made, the city really cannot decide to participate in a project.
Oberloh suggested that since the city has been discussing the Thompson for more than a year, council just let the process run its course.
“As much as I hate to wait,” he said, “I think that’s where we’re at.”
Robinson said he thinks the wait won’t be long.
Kuhle said his main concern is further damage to the roof that happens while the city waits to move.
Council members agreed to be open to a request for financial assistance, but will wait to see who ends up buying the property first.