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Nobles County plans urban lawmaker tour

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County commissioners are in the midst of planning an Urban Lawmaker Tour in mid-July. The event is targeted to metro-area legislators and will feature a day-long bus tour July 13 to discuss everything from agriculture regula...

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WORTHINGTON - Nobles County commissioners are in the midst of planning an Urban Lawmaker Tour in mid-July. The event is targeted to metro-area legislators and will feature a day-long bus tour July 13 to discuss everything from agriculture regulations to management of state-owned lands, broadband, water, mental health and Local Government Aid.

Though it isn’t known how many legislators will attend, Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson told commissioners during a Wednesday morning work session that he’s hopeful they will come in to town early on July 12 and take part in the kick-off ceremony for Worthington’s annual International Festival.

The next morning, the legislators will gather at the Biotechnology Advancement Center for a welcome by County Board Chairman Robert Demuth Jr., followed by keynote speakers from JBS, District 518 and someone who works in precision agriculture.

The bus tour will then lead legislators to the Bigelow area for discussion about broadband before making a loop around the county.

As they travel, commissioners will talk about agricultural issues and the permitting process with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System expansion, the request for bonding for the W.E.L.L. project in Worthington, management of the Swessinger Wildlife Management Area in Bloom Township, and the half-cent sales tax implemented by the city of Worthington that helped fund the renovation of Memorial Auditorium and the construction of the Worthington Event Center.

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“We want to show a few legislators from the Twin Cities a little bit of how we are similar in needs to the metro, plus why and how legislation is important for our communities and the impacts of some of the legislation they consider,” Johnson said.

He discussed tour stops to show both good and bad examples of buffers, and a possible stop at the former KidsPeace space at the Prairie Justice Center and its potential rehab into a mental health center.

After seeing the itinerary, commissioners suggested they also set aside time on the tour to talk about wind energy, show the county’s proximity to Iowa to discuss how tax law changes in Minnesota can send companies across the state line, and how there continues to be a lack of cellular service, or “dead zones” in the county.

Following the tour, legislators will be invited to attend the International Festival’s opening ceremony Friday evening.

More about buffers Nobles County Environmental Services Manager Mark Koster brought before commissioners a resolution to incorporate the county’s summary of water courses into its water plan. The summary identifies water courses in the county that aren’t required to be buffered, such as seasonal and intermittent streams, but rather are identified for voluntary buffers.

“There are a number of perennial streams where the last five miles are protected and the upper reaches aren’t,” explained Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District administrator.

If the resolution isn’t approved by July 1, the county is in jeopardy of losing its state funding to carry out its water plan, Koster said. The Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District has already approved the resolution, and the OOWD will address the resolution at its managers meeting in June.

Commissioner Matt Widboom said he was concerned about the use of the word “voluntary” and questioned whether adopting the resolution could one day mean those voluntary buffers would become mandatory.

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“The resolution says voluntary, so that’s what you’re resolving,” Livdahl responded, adding that once the 1 Watershed 1 Plan (1W1P) is implemented, there will no longer be a county water plan.

“We have to keep both plans active right now, so that’s what this (resolution) is all about,” he said.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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