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Group seeks to transform Worthington's West Elementary into community center

All five commissioners agreed they supported the general idea, but needed to see more details before they could support the project.

West Learning Center on Turner Street in Worthington, on July 6, 2022.
West Learning Center on Turner Street in Worthington, on July 6, 2022.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — A group hopes to create a new community center, drawing the Nobles County Art Center out of the basement of the Nobles County Library’s Worthington branch and incorporating it into the new endeavor — in West Elementary.

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It would be called the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Multicultural Center, said Suree Sompamitwong, founder of Creative Healing Space, to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Sompamitwong said the project could also help address some of the mental health issues within the community through her nonprofit's work.

She asked the commissioners for support of the project, so that she could go before the District 518 Board of Education to request the building.

All five commissioners agreed they supported the general idea, but needed to see more details before they could support the specific project.

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“If the school district gave you that building, how are you going to maintain it?” asked Commissioner Don Linssen.

Sompamitwong said the group intends to ask the city of Worthington for help keeping it running, and that there would also be a fundraising effort, requesting donations but also writing grant requests.

Commissioner Justin Ahlers said he would need a business model before he could truly support that specific project.

Commissioner Bob Paplow said there is another entity looking at the West building, though he isn’t certain whether that will work out.

Kimberly Kooistra, director of the Nobles County Art Center, said she felt the relationship with Creative Healing Space was a very good match, and that a new space is needed.

Aida Simon, a representative of Seeds of Justice, wrote a letter to the board regarding the project, stating she thought a community center would help break down barriers for many local groups, many of whom have trouble renting their own space due to costs. It would also help provide support to marginalized communities and promote cultural understanding.

In other news Tuesday, the board:

  • Recognized Gracia Maldonado-Soto, deputy auditor-treasurer/license center technician, with the June Excellence in Performance Award. She is the first recipient of the award to be nominated by a constituent rather than a coworker, noted Nobles County Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr.
  • Received an update on the Southwest Mental Health Center from its executive director, Luke Comeau. He said insurance companies are not paying enough to cover the costs of mental health care and expenses have risen significantly.
  • Approved a permit for R & R Thier Feedlots, Inc., of Rushmore, to build a vaccination building, which was recommended by the Planning & Zoning Commission.
  • Approved a permit for Sirimingalar Dhamma Center to use an existing home as a temple for worship and religious gatherings, which was recommended by the Planning & Zoning Commission.
  • Updated the county’s investment policy, portions of which were out of date, such as the list of depositories.
  • Approved a mutual aid agreement with Murray County for assistance with inspection duties, due to vacancies in Nobles County’s Engineering Department.
  • Granted a parade permit for the city of Brewster, which is celebrating Brewster Fun Days. The permit will be from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 23, and includes the closure of Nobles County 1 and Nobles County 14, with a controlled detour.
  • Adopted a resolution to request a traffic study from the state of Minnesota for Crailsheim Road, also known as Nobles County 10. The speed study can be done before school begins, but with the knowledge that the Intermediate School will be open in the fall, said County Engineer Aaron Holmbeck.
  • Voted 4-1 to put $1 million of the county’s $4.2 million that originally came from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the projects of small cities, townships and infrastructure groups within the county, with Commissioner Justin Ahlers dissenting.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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