WORTHINGTON — During Tuesday’s regular Nobles County Board of Commissioners meeting, commissioners approved contracts with an architect and project manager to continue progress on the proposed Welcome, Education, Library and Livability (W.E.L.L.). They would like more financial clarification, however, before signing a formal Memorandum of Understanding to share environmental and geotechnical costs between city of Worthington and Independent School District 518.
According to Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, the belief is that the county’s share of environmental work would look similar to other cost-sharing proposals, which is based upon square footage occupancy. However, the proposed MOU didn’t identify an estimated cost for services.
By a unanimous vote, the commissioners tabled a decision regarding a MOU, hoping to get a better idea of the cost associated with their share of environmental services by their next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 22.
“I have a really hard time signing a blank check for this one,” said commissioner Justin Ahlers, a point with which Commissioner Donald Linssen agreed.
“I don’t think it’s questioning our commitment, but an ask for a few more facts,” added chairperson Matt Widboom.
In 3-2 votes, commissioners did approve the architect contract with LHB for $259,000 and owner’s representative contract with ICS for $1.2 million. The motion identifies that financial responsibility is dependent upon percentages of occupancy for each entity.
In articulating his opposition to all three W.E.L.L.-related agenda items, Ahlers said the Nobles County Library Board has expressed a desire to re-vote its support of the project.
“At the very least, I think we should table these three items until they have the opportunity to do that,” Ahlers said.
During the library board’s September meeting, board member Peg Faber noted “many sleepless nights” since casting her “yes” vote in a 3-2 vote to support the project in July. With one member absent, the library board tabled the matter for further discussion. The library board meets at 4 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
Linssen said that while he supports the W.E.L.L. project, he disagrees with spending more money on a project if the library board doesn’t support it.
“If the library board votes it down, I’m hard pressed to go against that,” he said.
With continuous discussion regarding the desire to have definite cost-share percentages identified, Widboom said that can’t be determined unless an architect is hired and investigates each entity’s need.
“It’ll be a formula based on occupancy,” he said. “All we have now is a napkin drawing of what it looks like, and that’s not a safe number to use.”
According to Johnson, each delay has the potential to decrease the likelihood of the project receiving state bonding dollars.
The State Legislature’s Capital Investment Committee will visit Worthington at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a tour of the project.
In other Nobles County Board of Commissioners business, the commissioners:
Unanimously approved a $15,000 special contract with William Klumpp to assist the state in its prosecution of Christopher Kruse, who is accused of murdering his wife, Janette Pigman-Kruse. According to new Nobles County Attorney Joe Sanow, the retired attorney has significant experience in trying homicide cases, which included the Josue Fraga case. “At this time we are not able to offer the skills and experience we feel is necessary to successfully process this case,” Sanow told the commissioners.
Unanimously approved a Conditional Use Permit for a 259-foot Verizon Communication Tower in the southeast quarter of Section 24 in Summit Lake Township near Reading.
Unanimously approved a $924,213.56 contract with Structural Specialties Inc. of Hutchinson to conduct replacement of the timber bridge on County State Aid Highway 19 southwest of Adrian. According to Public Works Director Steve Schnieder, Structural Specialties provided the lowest bid of four bidders, all of which were more than the original project estimate of $830,783.60.
Passed a resolution that identified two bridges along CSAH 19 as being priority bridges for replacement. The action declares a bridge two miles north of CSAH 35 in Lismore Township and a bridge three miles south of Leota as eligible for state bonding funds based on their condition rating.
Tabled an agenda item to approve a Nobles Home Initiative tax abatement request for Joel Lorenz. Commissioners wanted to discuss the construction start date further, citing the NHI agreement that requires construction to start within six months of the agreement being approved. The application reportedly cited a June 1, 2020 construction start date for a new home.