WORTHINGTON — A $1 million donation by JBS USA to the city of Worthington, to be used specifically for the city’s planned fieldhouse and recreation center, received unanimous approval Monday night from the Worthington City Council.

The JBS USA gift to the city was announced last week as part of an overall $3.5 million investment in three Minnesota communities, including Pipestone and Cold Spring. The company noted that the donations are part of a new, national $50 million Hometown Strong Initiative investing in communities where their team members live and work.

The specific dollar amount, along with the specific city project targeted for the donation, had not been revealed in last week’s announcement. The new fieldhouse and recreation center, which will be located in a renovated blue Morton-type building on Second Avenue, is being funded with local option sales tax revenue.

“The city has earmarked $3.5 million in local sales tax revenue for this project and JBS's donation is to enhance and improve the project,” Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson told council members Monday. “Under the terms of the agreement, the city shall grant JBS life-long naming rights and … prominently feature the name and logo on the fieldhouse and recreation center structure as mutually agreed by both parties.”

Councilman Alan Oberloh expressed concerns about the “life-long” naming rights verbiage, and ultimately council members opted to insert more definitive language suggested by Councilman Chad Cummings

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Acceptance of the donation came unanimously and with enthusiasm.

“Thank you to JBS — this is a huge donation,” Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle said.

COVID-19 timeline presented

Approximately 30 minutes of Monday night’s 75-minute meeting was devoted to a presentation by Sanford Worthington Executive Director Jennifer Weg about COVID-19 in the community.

Weg began her remarks by noting that Sanford Worthington had purposely been “very silent about things that went on because privacy of our patients is paramount.” She also noted that a slogan of “Facts Over Fear” has been observed throughout the pandemic.

After noting that Sanford Worthington now has 25 employed providers and 384 employees between the clinic and hospital, Weg reviewed a timeline spanning from March 11 — when Sanford Network hospitals began testing for COVID-19 — through May.

“Those days in March were imperative to prepare,” said Weg, who expressed gratitude for the assistance of city leaders, businesses, organizations and others during her presentation.

She stated that Sanford Worthington recorded its first positive COVID-19 case on April 11, with drive-through testing beginning six days later. The first Nobles County death came on April 20, she reported, and large-scale testing took place for four days starting April 23.

“The first call was to the hockey association — that (arena) was the only location that we thought could manage a large-scale testing,” Weg said, “So much wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of community members.”

In May, Weg said, Sanford Worthington was involved in evaluating community needs related to the pandemic. She also indicated that Minnesota state troopers made “a few trips down to Worthington,” delivering personal protective equipment.

“We have never run out of anything,” Weg said of PPE. “We’re still in conservation mode, but we have what we need. … The safety of our health care workers has always been maintained.”

Sanford Worthington has conducted 4,315 COVID-19 tests, with 38.2% of them positive, Weg said. A drive-through location remains near the clinic.

Weg also said efforts of the Sanford Worthington Hospital Auxiliary have resulted in the making of more than 5,500 masks thus far. Looking toward the future, she said a focus should continue to be on overall community health.

“There’s more we can do to become healthy, and I think COVID has taught us that we all need to collaborate,” she said.



In other business Monday, the council approved:

  • A resolution restructuring the city’s Economic Development Authority, which will now consist of the five members of the Worthington City Council, the city’s mayor and one member of the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission. It’s anticipated the reformed EDA will meet for the first time later this month, though a date and time has yet to be set.

  • A grant application resolution to pursue a Point Source Implementation Grant that, if obtained, would help finance major improvements at the municipal wastewater treatment facility. The current facility was constructed, and operational, in 1962, and its last major renovation was completed in 1989. An evaluation of the facility completed in March 2018 by Bolton & Menk recommends improvements that will cost an estimated $18.5 million to $22.6 million.

  • A resolution ordering a public hearing for the Cherrywood Addition Stormwater Project to take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 10, during the city council meeting.

  • A resolution transferring control of the city’s Revolving Loan Fund from the city council to the Economic Development Authority.