WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday asked Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder to develop a five-year road plan that includes recently identified projects to be funded by a local option sales tax. At the same time, county staff was directed to continue working with bond counsel on financing.

Both steps are necessary before the county proceeds with setting a date for a public hearing.

During a board work session last week, Schnieder presented ideas on generating additional revenue for transportation projects. State funding has fallen behind, and he said approximately $3 million in additional funding is needed annually to keep up with road maintenance and reconstruction.

Establishing a half-cent sales tax could generate an estimated $920,000 a year, Schnieder said. That money could be used to pay the interest on bonds if the county opted to do another round of bonding. The county bonded $9.5 million for road projects in 2017.

The narrowed list of projects Schnieder presented on Tuesday amounts to $22 million. Commissioner Justin Ahlers said if the county used the local option sales tax to pay off the bond, it would take more than 27 years.

“How far out can you encumber future boards?” asked Commissioner Donald Linssen. “I can see a 10-year thing, but when you start talking 15 years or more, I have trouble seeing that far out.”

“It’s similar when you bond for a building,” replied Schnieder. “You’re going out 15 to 20 years or sometimes more. The roadways will (last) 50, 75 or more years. It’s a long-term investment.”

Commissioner Matt Widboom said he’d like staff to work on the bonding and road plan and be aggressive on planning. He also said he favors not instituting a $20 motor vehicle excise tax at this time, focusing solely on the local option sales tax.

Fee instated for Nobles Home Initiative applicants

Commissioners approved a 2020 fee schedule as presented on a 4-1 vote, with Widboom in opposition. Widboom didn’t support a newly instated fee of $100 for individuals applying for the Nobles Home Initiative’s five-year tax abatement program.

Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer Joyce Jacobs defended the fee, which she said was “pulled out of the air,” saying the NHI program has caused “a major amount of work in tracking” for her office.

Jacobs wants contractors to provide her office with a checklist before any abatement payouts are made, which would help alleviate some of the tracking.

“We need to find a way for it to be more manageable,” she said.

Globe named legal newspaper

After more than half an hour of discussion, which included the county attorney’s interpretation of state statute, commissioners voted 3-2 to name The Globe as the county’s legal newspaper for 2020.

The Globe and the Nobles County Review submitted bids seeking the designation. While both are considered qualified papers by state statute, The Globe publishes print editions twice per week and has a much higher circulation within the county than the weekly newspaper based in Adrian.

Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. cited those reasons, while also noting The Globe is the legal newspaper for the city of Worthington and Independent School District 518, in his motion. He, along with Gene Metz and Widboom, voted in favor of the designation, while Ahlers and Linssen were opposed.

“One hundred percent of my constituents are city dwellers,” Demuth said. “I suspect many of them get The Globe; very few get the Review.”

Widboom, too, cited coverage area as the reason he supported designating The Globe as the legal newspaper.

“The highest population center isn’t covered by the low bidder,” he said.

Ahlers, meanwhile, said the Review presented the lowest bid, and therefore should be awarded the designation.

Nobles County Attorney Joe Sanow said the board had the discretion to choose the legal newspaper without regard to the lowest bid.

“My recommendation is to go with the lowest bid, but if the board wishes to go with the higher bid to reach more people, it’s a defensible position,” Sanow said.

“Less than 10% of Nobles County residents get The (Nobles County) Review,” said County Administrator Tom Johnson. “That’s a little concerning to me.”

Linssen said he had mixed emotions about the designation.

“I think we’re going to do a disservice to city residents (by not choosing The Globe),” he said. “I also acknowledge what (the county attorney) says. I think we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

In other action, the board:

  • Approved two applications for the Nobles Home Initiative’s five-year tax abatement program. The parcels include a single-family home at Six Fairway View and a duplex at 1388 N. Crailsheim Road. Dan Kruger is developing both parcels.

  • Approved the purchase of a used snow blower, not to exceed $130,000.

  • Approved advertising for bids for the replacement of township bridges — one in Grand Prairie and another in Westside Township.

  • Approved on a 4-1 vote the purchase of a Tennant M20 floor scrubber at a cost of more than $60,000. The scrubber, to be paid for through the county’s building fund, will be used on the garage and shop floors at the Government Center and Prairie Justice Center.

  • Authorized a Professional Service Agreement with former deputy auditor-treasurer Kristine Ray to provide training services to the auditor-treasurer’s office as an independent contractor.

  • Approved the following citizen appointments: Tara Thompson, Worthington, and David Benson, Bigelow, to the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee; Marcia Jonas, Adrian, to the Developmental Achievement Center board; Stephen Schnieder, Worthington, Peter Ekadu, Okabena, and Nancy Veen, Worthington, to the Emergency Management Planning Advisory Committee; Brad Meester, Bigelow, and Brenda Baerenwald, Brewster, to the Extension Committee; Jeffrey Barber, Worthington, Robert Demuth Jr., Worthington, and Larry Janssen, Worthington, to the Joint Planning Commission; Marvin Zylstra, Worthington, Brent Feikema, Lismore, Larry Boots, Worthington, and Ron McCarvel, Brewster, to the Planning Advisory Commission; and Brent Feikema, Lismore, and Ron McCarvel, Brewster, to the Board of Adjustment.