Presentation on county’s CIP bond proposal draws slim crowd

WORTHINGTON -- As big screen TVs showed a list of more than $6.4 million in proposed Capital Improvement Plan projects, rows of mostly empty chairs faced Nobles County commissioners in a special public hearing Thursday night.

WORTHINGTON - As big screen TVs showed a list of more than $6.4 million in proposed Capital Improvement Plan projects, rows of mostly empty chairs faced Nobles County commissioners in a special public hearing Thursday night.

In fact, aside from commissioners and administrative staff, the only one in attendance was the county’s library director.

The public hearing in the Farmer’s Room of the Nobles County Government Center was scheduled during the evening to give people an opportunity to comment on the proposed projects in the bond. The items on the list include a couple of projects that have been talked about for years, and others that are required due to substandard construction when county-owned buildings including the Nobles County Government Center and Prairie Justice Center were built.

Fixing problems on those two buildings account for two of the three highest-cost projects on the list - replacing the 15-year-old roof on the PJC at an estimated cost of $2 million; and doing foundation waterproofing around the Government Center, estimated at nearly $1 million. There have been issues with mold growth and water infiltration in the lower level of the Government Center for years.

With no public input during the meeting, Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson walked through the list once again. There’s the garage addition to the PJC, estimated at $1.3 million; an addition to the Adrian shop; renovation to the Adrian Branch Library; replacement of the chiller, windows and formica surfaces, construction of a security booth and added security features and financing a cold storage building, all for the PJC; increasing privacy by adding two new service windows in the Community Services area; installing a backup generator for the county’s fueling system and replacing the roof over the old shop and office areas at the public works facility on Diagonal Road.


Combined, the projects carry a price tag estimated at $6,424,000, which is the amount of money commissioners are considering for the bond. Johnson said the latest information from bond counsel shows an interest rate of 3.01 percent for a 20-year bond, or 2.71 percent on a 15-year bond.

At those interest rates, Johnson said the annual payment on a 20-year bond would be approximately $438,000, while a 15-year bond would result in an annual payment of roughly $530,000. Revenues from the wind energy production tax would be used to pay down the debt in 2017 and 2018, and potentially into the future if the tax remains in place.

Then, once the existing bonds are paid on the PJC in 2021, the city of Worthington will begin paying on its share for all but the security improvements to be made at the PJC.

In discussion among commissioners regarding the length of repayment, Matt Widboom, Justin Ahlers and Gene Metz all voiced support for the 15-year bond, while Bob Demuth Jr. supported a 20-year bond.

“The 20-year would give you more options,” Demuth Jr. said. “I’d certainly like to pay it off earlier.”

“To me, we really need to keep in mind the longer-range vision for more opportunities,” Widboom said. “We have other projects we know that are going to happen.”

No official action could be taken by commissioners on the length of the bond during Thursday’s meeting. That decision, as well as authorizing the sale of the bonds, is anticipated to be made during a special county board meeting slated for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Before the meeting’s end, Ahlers requested “good construction management” - a neutral party - be hired to oversee some of the high ticket items, including the replacement of the roof on the PJC. The county does not have its own construction manager and would need to contract for those services on some of the projects.


“You need onsite inspection, that’s the big thing,” Ahlers said. “Having a neutral third party on the roof every day with them, that’s how you’re going to get a 50-year roof.”

Ahlers also asked if additional bonding money should be sought for the Nobles County Library if the historical society moves out of the War Memorial Building and renovations would be needed. He said he’d rather set the money aside now rather than have another public hearing in two years.

“I have a problem putting any money toward the library when we have to get something figured out about the armory and figure out what is going on with that project,” said Commissioner Don Linssen. “I think we need to cover the bases of what we’re doing with the armory and what the historical society wants to do - and what they can make work or not - and then we can move on from there.”

In addition to acting on the CIP bond at Tuesday’s special meeting, Johnson said the agenda will include discussion on applying for a state grant offered to target heating and cooling systems for museums. The grant deadline is later this month, and Johnson said approximately $400,000 is available. The grant would require a 1:1 match.

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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