WORTHINGTON — The process to fill the open seat vacated with the sudden death of Worthington City Council member Mike Harmon began during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The city will accept applications from individuals interested in being appointed to the position. The applications will then be reviewed by a subcommittee that will ultimately make a recommendation to the city council. It’s hoped the council will vote on its new member during a scheduled April 12 meeting.

“It’s a pretty important decision for the rest of the council because it’s going to have a lasting impact and it’s going to affect the rest of the city,” Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle said during Wednesday’s meeting, urging a decision on the process.

Harmon represented Worthington’s Ward 2 from January 2015 up until his death March 4. Kuhle noted the importance of all Ward 2 residents being given the opportunity to apply in writing to serve.

Worthington City Clerk Mindy Eggers will receive the applications, which are due at City Hall or via email to meggers@ci.worthington.mn.us by 5 p.m. March 31. A subcommittee whose members will include Ward 2 council representative Amy Ernst and councilman-at-large Chad Cummings will then review the submissions and recommend at least one of the applicants to council for approval.

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For a brief portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Kuhle and council members discussed the information to be solicited in the application. One idea was to ask questions related to specific city issues, but Cummings said prospective candidates “shouldn’t be intimidated” initially.

“I think it should be more like, ‘Why do you have an interest in serving the community in this position,” Cummings said. “I think something like that’s adequate enough.”

The individual appointed by council to fill Harmon’s seat will serve the remainder of a term that expires Dec. 31, 2022. The appointment shall be made by majority council vote, with Kuhle voting in the event of a tie.

The city of Worthington subsequently issued a press release Thursday morning about its open seat. It indicated that to be eligible for consideration of the appointment, candidates must be eligible to vote in Minnesota, be at least 21 years of age and be a resident of Ward 2 for the past 30 days.

“Council members receive an annual salary of $6,000 (prorated for partial year) and extra meeting(s) compensation of $50 per day,” the press release noted. “City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of the month; in the event a holiday falls on the Monday the meeting would be held on that Tuesday. Council members also serve on subcommittees and will have approximately 6 to 12 meetings per month.”

Interested candidates should “submit a written letter of interest along with a short biography that includes why you are interested in serving on the City Council and your vision of the future of Worthington” to Eggers, the press release added.

City will support fireworks on July 3-4

In a separate matter before the council Wednesday, a discussion took place on fireworks displays traditionally hosted in the city on both July 3 and July 4.

Worthington Director of Public Works Todd Wietzema said the city has had an annual fireworks display on July 4 of each year to celebrate Independence Day. That display is a collaborative effort between the city of Worthington and the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce. Each of these entities pay 50% of the $12,000 display, Wietzema added,

In 2015, the city — along with the Lake Okabena Improvement Association — added a fireworks display on July 3 at the conclusion of the Beach Bash event. The city has contributed $1,500 toward the $4,000 display and the lake association has contributed the remaining balance, Wietzema said.

Last year’s Beach Bash was cancelled as a result of COVID-19 and the city “was informed that there would not be any funds contributed by the Lake Okabena Improvement Association to the July 3 display,” Wietzema said. City staff ultimately opted to have both displays and use budgeted city money to fund the July 3 display.

In December 2020, city staff was informed the Chamber was removing its contribution to the July 4 fireworks display as a result of budgetary concerns, Wietzema continued. As a result, Wietzema sought direction from council members Wednesday as to how to proceed with this year’s fireworks displays.

With $6,500 currently budgeted for fireworks, and $14,500 spent on the displays in 2020, the city needs $8,000 to fund both nights.

City Administrator Steve Robinson said money could be found from within the city’s budget.

“I have confidence that our staff can find .16% of our budget (for two displays),” Robinson said.

Council members expressed enthusiasm for continuing both displays.

“I imagine people are going to come out in droves this year … considering how they’ve been cooped up because of COVID,” councilwoman Amy Ernst said.