WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Ice Arena is getting an advance on money promised through the community’s local option sales tax, the Worthington City Council decided in a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The council voted unanimously to use $500,000 in proceeds from the 2008 sale of Worthington Regional Hospital to Sanford Health in order to fund needed improvements at the ice arena. The action was taken for work already finished — and additional projects that remain in critical need of completion — at the arena. The facility is slated to benefit from $2.2 million in local option sales tax revenues. However, it wasn’t scheduled to benefit from the money until a later phase of city projects made possible by the tax began.
While work on projects in the initial phase is ongoing, Cliff Shreiner, treasurer of the Worthington Hockey Association for the past 12 years, told council members the ice arena needed an influx of money much sooner than later.
“We’re looking at about a half-million of the (sales tax) allotment,” Shreiner said, adding that such funding “is in need in the very near future.”
The primary use of the $500,000 is for urgently needed repairs to the arena’s roof, Shreiner said. While the steel roof is in “very good” shape, he said insulation needs to be put in above the metal, followed by a membrane on top of that to keep water and other weather out.
“Is this the best permanent solution, or is it just a band-aid until we get a new permanent solution on the building?” Mayor Mike Kuhle asked.
Shreiner replied that while a new building was preferred, the solution he plans for the roof is the best and most immediate under current circumstances.
The $500,000 in early funding for the ice arena is also expected to go toward installation of new walls, as well as provide reimbursements for bleacher projects and a concrete driveway. Each was part of the original $2.2 million in budgeted improvements.
The ultimate goal is to expand the ice arena’s ability to offer ice time for a much longer portion of the year, rather than merely winter months.
In other business Wednesday:
Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson gave a brief presentation on how local option sales tax collections are proceeding. With figures for just January and February available thus far, he noted that final gross collections for the first two months of the year were $23,940.76 and $23,223.97, respectively. Those numbers compare to what had been estimated as $40,000 (January) and $46,000 (February) for gross collections.
The estimates made for gross collections in March and April, respectively, were $58,000 and $55,000, and the final collections for those months and others are expected to fall well short as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Robinson said he already anticipates asking the Minnesota Legislature to add an additional year onto the local option sales tax collections as a result of COVID-19. The tax referendum is scheduled to end after 15 years or the collection of $25 million, whichever comes first.
Worthington City Councilman Alan Oberloh, in turn, suggested the request for an even further extension, noting it’s likely that revenues will be less than average for an extended period as the economy slowly recovers from the COVID-19 downturn.
The council voted unanimously to amend its operating guidelines for the Center for Active Living pertaining to board membership. Previously, the board was comprised of nine members, all of whom were citizens of Worthington. With Wednesday’s action, the board will be required to have eight members who reside in city limits, with the option of having one member who doesn’t live in Worthington.