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Nobles County sets not-to-exceed levy at 8.46 percent increase

WORTHINGTON -- With a Sept. 30 deadline looming for counties to set their not-to-exceed levy for 2019, Nobles County commissioners acted in unison Tuesday in setting a preliminary levy increase of 8.46 percent. This is reflected in the county's p...

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WORTHINGTON - With a Sept. 30 deadline looming for counties to set their not-to-exceed levy for 2019, Nobles County commissioners acted in unison Tuesday in setting a preliminary levy increase of 8.46 percent. This is reflected in the county’s preliminary budget of $14,763,231.

The board now has approximately three months to try and whittle the 8.46 percent increase down to a more acceptable level.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson highlighted some of the 2019 budget details, noting 3 percent of the levy increase is due strictly to county staff salaries and health insurance. Another 1.8 percent of the increase is due to the proposed capital outlay in the public works budget, and the board’s vote to join PrimeWest will cost $935,743 in each of the next two years, adding another 2 percent to the levy increase.

“The budget committee will continue to find ways to reduce (the not-to-exceed levy),” Johnson said. “I think we’ve always been successful in working down to a satisfactory point.”

With the increased budget, Johnson highlighted several areas of projected losses in revenue in 2019. In 2018, the county estimated $1 million in wind energy production tax revenues. For 2019, the projection has dropped to $720,000. There’s also a nearly $21,000 decline in County Program Aid, an $8,900 increase for property-casualty insurance with the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT), and a projected loss in revenue for the county-owned armory building as the Worthington High School lease will end when the gymnastics program is moved into its new facility.

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Johnson also noted that next year will be the last year the county will receive PERA aid. That revenue is estimated at nearly $29,000, and will disappear in 2020.

Community Wellness Partners work wraps up A $1.2 million Community Wellness grant awarded to Nobles, Jackson and Cottonwood counties four years ago led to the creation of Community Wellness Partners (CWP), a group that partnered with other agencies and programs, and leveraged funds from the Statewide Health Improvement Program, in an effort to improve health and wellness among residents.

That grant funding has now run out, and unless or until new grant funds can be secured, the agency’s work is completed.

A trio of the agency’s employees presented a report Tuesday on the successes of the CWP, including its grant for a free machine to process debit, credit and EBT payments at the Worthington farmers markets (bringing in 199 first-time customers with EBT cards and increasing sales through EBT acceptance by $13,150 over the three years).

CWP Coordinator Christine Bullerman said that put more money in the hands of farmers selling their produce, and more healthy foods in the homes of EBT clients.

CWP’s other accomplishments included developing the Strong Meal program at JBS, in which a new meal offering was developed to promote a lower sodium, lower fat diet; advances with the Diabetes Prevention Network (locally known as the I Can Prevent Diabetes program); and the creation of active living plans for Worthington, Jackson, Windom, Mountain Lake and Adrian.

The program secured a Good Food Access grant for Mini Market Lupita in Worthington, and staff helped the business become WIC-certified by offering healthier food options in its market.

Three community health workers with CWP assisted 105 clients, resulting in 76 billable claims and a reimbursement of $3,705.

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In wrapping up the presentation, Bullerman urged the county to consider investing in CWP staff  and the program so that it can continue in the absence of grant funding.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a development agreement with Nobles 2 Power Partners LLC for the development of an estimated 260-megawatt wind farm in portions of Leota, Wilmont, Bloom, Lismore, Larking and Summit Lake townships. Construction will begin in 2019, with completion in 2020.
  • Approved an application for five-year tax abatement through the Nobles Home Initiative for Nate Grimmius, who plans to construct a new home on Donovan Drive.
  • Learned the Nobles County License Center will now close at 3:30 p.m. daily, as requested by the state, to allow ample time for processing due to MnLARS and recently added work with the Real ID program.
  • Approved the following payments for work completed: $10,000 to Ideal Landscape for foundation repair work on the Nobles County Government Center; $5,110.25 to Gag Sheet Metal Inc. for the public works partial reroofing project; $12,729.15 to Zahl Equipment Services Inc. for the underground fuel tank replacement project at the government center; and $14,196 to Graham’s Concrete for the paving project behind the Adrian branch library.
  • Authorized an additional site visit by Inspec for construction observation as the reroofing project at the Prairie Justice Center wraps up. The contractor will be responsible for the additional fee, which is not to exceed $1,950.
  • Recognized Michael Harberts, a sign worker in the public works department, for 10 years of service to Nobles County.
  • Appointed Scott Johnson to the Community Services Advisory Committee.

 

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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