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Worthington City Council rejects Nobles Home Initiative; prefers original abatement calculation model

Change in council meeting time, meeting compensation also discussed.

Worthington City Hall
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WORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council rejected the option to reauthorize the Nobles Home Initiative during its Monday night meeting, but it has no plans to do away with the joint program that has resulted in dozens of new homes being constructed across Nobles County.

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The purpose of the program is to encourage construction of new housing units by providing five years of property tax abatement to eligible participants. Adopted in 2014 by the city, Nobles County and Independent School District 518, the NHI was renewed for another five years in 2017.

While a second five-year renewal was proposed and adopted by ISD 518 and Nobles County, city council members raised concerns over the way the abatement amount is calculated. The amount of taxes to be abated is based on the value added to the new residential construction, following the project's completion and assessment at the full estimated market value. The abated amount then remains the same as the initial full year throughout the program's duration.

The original program, however, operated on basis of annual adjustments based on the actual captured tax capacity of the property.

“I guess my question is, what is the purpose of the program? Is it to get back the taxes that you're paying during that five-year period? Or is it just to lock it in right away, which is what this program is," said councilwoman Alaina Kolpin, who participated in the program with her own home.

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She noted that had her property been reassessed during the second year, the tax abatement would have been over $2,000 more due to finishing up the basement and additional changes in the property value.

City Administrator Steve Robinson presented a spreadsheet of four homes within the city that had all seen changes in their market value over a five-year span, which would have affected the abatement amount received.

“The intent of this whole program is not being met by locking in after the first year,” said councilwoman Amy Ernst.

After voting down the resolution, the council directed staff to develop a program that would continue the initiative originally set forth by returning to the annual reassessments for homes going forward.

Council per diem pay, meeting times discussed

Also during Monday night's meeting, the council discussed changes to the compensation allotted to council members for the extra meetings they attend. City council members currently receive $50 per day they attend assigned meetings outside the regular city council meetings.

Ernest suggested changing to a per-extra-meeting basis and adjusting pay to $100, noting there were times council members had multiple extra meetings in a day.

“For a while, it was adjusted every eight to 10 years,” Robinson said, noting that the last change to compensation was in 2002. “Now, it's been 20 years since then.”

Councilman Chad Cummings said the city established more joint committees in recent years, adding to the number of meetings council members are assigned to attend.

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In order to make changes to the compensation amount, the council will be required to adopt a new ordinance.

Requiring similar action, the council discussed changing the council's meeting time from 7 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“We very rarely have guests,” Cummings said to the mostly empty council chambers. He added that moving up the meeting time would mean less back and forth for council members and city staff alike.

In other news, the council:

  • Approved the second reading of a proposed ordinance to vacate a platted public utility drainage easements in the Glenwood Heights First Addition.
  • Approved a second reading of a proposed ordinance relating to stormwater utility rates.
  • Approved the third and final reading of an ordinance to amend Worthington city code relating to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. 
  • Accepted a $100 donation from Homestead Cooperative to the Worthington Police Department, as well as a $50 donation from Arthea Raak and family. 
  • Adopted a resolution for the Worthington Police Department’s continued agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Support Office. 
  • Approved a budget amendment regarding the purchase of a new Worthington Police K9, after K9 Shep died in an accident. While insurance coverage will likely reimburse all associated costs, WPD sought a budget amendment to cover the initial purchase price of $11,500.
  • Adopted a resolution to apply for an Active Transportation Grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which provides grant funding for the construction of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects. Funds would go toward reconstruction of the trail between Cynthia Avenue and West Clary Street, through Centennial Park, and trail crossing improvements at the intersection of Tower Street and Lake Avenue. 
  • Prior to the start of the city council meeting, the Worthington Economic Development Authority met and approved an application from Johnson Jewelry for the EDA’s 2% Loan Program. The proposed project includes installing new support for the roof, changing the layout of the interior to allow for space for an ADA-compliant bathroom, new flooring and lighting in the sales area, new stairs to the basement with a handrail, and some other repair work. The EDA loan will cover $50,000 of the $155,190 bid for the project, and will be repaid at 2% interest for a term of up to 15 years.
  • Also during the EDA meeting, a resolution conveying city-owned property to the Worthington EDA was approved. Located near I-90, the parcel will be included in the upcoming platting process for the surrounding EDA-owned land. 
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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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