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Tax levy, taxi service and ice arena top Worthington City Council discussion Monday night

During its Monday night meeting, the Worthington City Council set the tax levy at 17%, approved a new taxi service, and tabled discussion on an agreement with the Worthington Hockey Association.

City of Worthington
Worthington City Hall (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council heard a proposed lease agreement for the Worthington Ice Arena during its Monday night meeting.

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The city was approached in June by the Worthington Hockey Association, which has managed the facility and hockey program for more than 30 years on a volunteer basis. Due to volunteer challenges and, with the possibility to expand facility operations beyond hockey, the association seeks to turn arena management duties over to the city of Worthington.

For an annual lease of $1, the city would become responsible for inside and outside maintenance of the facility, scheduling of events, managing and staffing arena programs including open skate times, and maintenance of facility equipment.

The hockey association would maintain responsibilities for all things hockey-related, as well as continue to staff the concession stand for all major events. They would also assist in the installation of the ice surface and pay the city a lump sum fee of $75,000 for 880 hours of specified ice time, with the potential to add additional hours at a rate of $85 per hour.

Though council members said the ice arena is a benefit to the city, concerns were expressed over potential unknown costs.

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“I myself would also like to see an estimated cost of maintenance for the year, what their costs in the past have been,” said councilman Chris Keilblock, following similar concerns from councilwoman Amy Ernst. “I think it's fair to the citizens of Worthington to know what kind of liability and burden you're being asked to take on with this facility.”

The council moved to table the discussion to an upcoming work session next Wednesday, in order to review and address those concerns.

Preliminary tax levy adopted

During Monday night’s meeting, the council also moved to approve the proposed tax levy of $6,646,866, locking in a maximum 17% increase over 2022.

“Just like most households these days in this community, the city is also dealing with inflation,” Mayor Mike Kuhle said, impressing upon the public that Monday’s pre-certification represents the amount the city cannot exceed in terms of next year’s budget.

“I can ensure everyone that between staff and council, there is not any fluff in this budget,” the mayor added. “I know council and staff are working hard to lower that number as much as we can.”

The tax levy breaks down into an operating levy of $5,620,093 and special tax levies of $1,026,773. A resolution for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority's 2023 proposed levy of $151,000 — an increase of $6,000 over 2022 — was also approved.

A Truth in Taxation hearing will be held during the Dec. 12 council meeting, during which public input will be taken. The council will adopt the final budget and levy in late December.

Taxi operator license approved

Council also approved a taxi operator license to Ayano Badassa of USA Transportation Service, which will operate a 24-hour taxi service in Worthington, seven days a week.

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The service will include two vehicles, with a base fare of $5 per person and a rate of $2.75 per mile.

Since Worthington has been without a private taxi service since the end of 2021, the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council has provided an on-demand fare-based service, known as the Dial-a-Ride program. The SMOC on-demand service operates limited hours from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Robinson said the city’s operating contract for taxi services or rideshares was not exclusive, and there are no restrictions from the transit authority or city council preventing additional ride services in Worthington.

“We're hoping that this proves to be successful for Mr. Badassa and perhaps another entity will want to start up another taxi service or expand this current taxi service,” Robinson stated. “There is still quite a demand.”

In other action, the council:

  • Approved a liquor license for The Mav Grill, owned by Arond and Shaila Peil. The building is slated to open around Oct. 1 in the former Ground Round building. 
  • Approved a liquor license for the Lerma Event Center, located in the former Sports Center building. The business is owned by Lizbeth Lerma and has an anticipated opening date of Sept. 23. 
  • Appointed Mike Hoeft to fill an open position on the planning commission and Citlali Chavez Vega to the Cross Cultural Advisory Committee.
  • Approved a resolution requesting MnDOT perform a new speed study of the Crailshiem Road corridor during a period that will be representative of actual traffic patterns. A study was conducted in August , prior to classes being held. 
  • Approved a purchase agreement for the acquisition of Butcher's Lakeshore property for the agreed-upon price of $380,000. 
  • Approved a proposal from Midwest Alarms to furnish and install a video security system at the city's Event Center. The proposal includes installation of four cameras in the ballrooms and three cameras in the corridor areas. The server will have a 30-day capacity. The proposed cost is $12,416.13. Staff recommends using funds from the Event Center Reserve account, which currently has a balance of approximately $49,500.
  • Passed resolutions for hearings to be held at the Oct. 12 council meeting for assessments on several properties, including water main improvement for the Wagner Addition, storm sewer improvement for the Cherrywood Addition, and paving improvements for various streets. Assessments for miscellaneous unpaid chargers like ice and snow removal will also be held at this time. 
  • Approved the first reading of a text amendment that would remove the city’s maximum floor-area-ratio requirements
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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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