WORTHINGTON — In the midst of a busy Worthington City Council meeting Monday, two police officers received special recognition from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.
Worthington Police Department officers Jake Refsland and Gabe Vander Veen were recognized with Office of Traffic Safety DWI All Star Honorable Mention awards. Scott McConkey, the Southern Minnesota Law Enforcement Liaison from the Office of Traffic Safety, presented the awards.
McConkey said Refsland and Vander Veen have played a significant role in reducing the number of local alcohol- and drug-related crashes and fatalities through their daily practices of education, prevention and enforcement. He expressed his gratitude to the officers for their work within the community.
“It’s not just a law enforcement thing, it’s an all-of-us thing,” McConkey said, noting 9,000 fatalities occur each year in Minnesota due to impaired driving.
Mayor Mike Kuhle congratulated Refsland and Vander Veen on their recognition and thanked them for their service to the city.
The remainder of the meeting included actions on multiple matters, including approval of the first reading of an ordinance to amend the city’s floodplain ordinance to reflect a new flood map following required approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Worthington City Planner Jeremiah Cromie, noting the map revision is “a long time coming,” said the changes — now poised to be made after an application to FEMA two years ago — will reduce the number of city properties in the floodplain by roughly 400.
Council member Amy Ernst said unmatching floodplain maps currently cause confusion in the community. She asked what could be done to ensure people are consulting the correct map. Cromie replied that the best way to handle such matters is to have an insurance agent or real estate broker contact him.
Notifications will also be mailed to affected property owners about the floodplain revisions.
Also Monday, the council authorized the issuance and award sale of $7,970,000 in general obligation sales tax revenue bonds. The bond series has a 15-year term with an eligibility for pre-payment beginning Feb. 1, 2029. A new aquatics center, field house, parks and recreation improvement projects, the 10th Street Pavilion and improvements to Worthington Ice Arena are connected to the sale. All are part of the 2018 local option sales tax referendum approved by Worthington voters.
The bond series will carry an interest rate of 1.1987%.
In a separate item related to the local option sales tax, the council approved a professional services proposal and civil and engineering services proposal, respectively, for planned improvements at Chautauqua Park. The work there represents the final component of the phase one park sales tax projects. Included in the plans are a remodeled bandshell, sidewalk and road modifications, an all-inclusive playground and improved restroom facilities.
City council members also looked toward meeting housing needs Monday, as they approved an agreement with Community Asset Development Group for its purchase of approximately two acres of property south of Darling Drive west of Grand Avenue. The Community Asset Development Group plan would add 40 new housing units in the city, with the development located near the new movie theater in the vicinity of an extended Cecilee Street and Grand Avenue.
The purchase agreement includes the sale of the land, which is now owned by the city — with an anticipated transfer to the Worthington Economic Development Authority — for $107,000.
In other business, the council:
Authorized advertisement for bids for immediate building improvement needs at the Worthington Ice Arena. Bids will be received Dec. 2 and considered at the Dec 14 council meeting. The project includes installing a new roof system consisting of mechanically attaching two layers of rigid insulation to the top surface of the existing roof deck and installing a TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membrane to the top layer of insulation.
The council approved advancing up to $500,000 in local option sales tax proceeds to address these needs during a June 17 special meeting.
Approved the first reading of a city code text amendment addressing inoperable vehicles and, in particular, inoperable vehicles at auto repair shops that are creating a nuisance. One component of the proposed change includes required fencing in some instances.
Approved a grant contract between the city of Worthington and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to assist with completion of JBS’ planned freezer warehouse building.
Approved a second reading of an ordinance text amendment to impose regulations on mobile food units.
Adopted a resolution granting blanket approval to place obstructions on sidewalks in the area bounded by the center lines of Ninth and 11th streets, and Second and Fifth avenues from April 1 through Nov. 1, 2021. Current terms terminate on Nov. 1.
Councilman Alan Oberloh asked if the city received any complaints about the obstructions since they were permitted, and was told no.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, Kuhle referenced what he called “an alarming rise in positive (COVID-19) cases in the last couple of weeks” and spoke briefly about a letter to the editor from District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard urging the following of CDC recommendations.
“I know we’re all fatigued by COVID … but I’d strongly encourage, along with Mr. Landgaard, to have residents really adhere to the CDC guidelines,” Kuhle said. I think it’s good for us to err on the side of caution; now is not the time to let our guard down.”