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School speed zone approved; wheelage tax delayed

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a resolution authorizing a new school speed zone along a segment of Crailsheim Drive and Nobles County State Aid Highway 35 near Worthington Middle School.

WORTHINGTON - Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a resolution authorizing a new school speed zone along a segment of Crailsheim Drive and Nobles County State Aid Highway 35 near Worthington Middle School.

A 30 mph speed zone will be in place by the time school starts in September, and will be in effect from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said a survey of other counties showed an overwhelming recommendation to put a timeframe on the signs instead of noting the zone is in effect when children are present.

Worthington Police Chief Troy Appel spoke in favor of the speed zone, saying the public is in full support of the action.

“With a police presence, I don’t see any huge issues with it,” Appel said, noting the department typically has one squad at the middle school before and after school already.

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Also on Tuesday, commissioners took no action on a proposal to increase the wheelage tax in Nobles County from $10 to $20 per vehicle. Schnieder said the tax currently generates $215,000 to $220,000 annually. Doubling the tax would boost revenue to an estimated $430,000 to $440,000.

“We use the money for county road system improvements,” Schnieder said, offering examples such as surfacing a gravel road or helping to fund bridges. “It could be used for other purposes also, but we’ve been trying to identify county roads. (The wheelage tax) helps keep the property taxes lower.”

Commissioner Gene Metz said he preferred not to implement a wheelage tax increase in 2018, but rather identify a specific project and perhaps put a bond together with the potential to implement the increase in 2019. The increased wheelage tax could then be used to repay the bond.

“You develop a pretty good payment plan at $400,000,” said Commissioner Matt Widboom, adding that he supports considering the increase in the wheelage tax next year.

“I’m all for leaving it the same until we have a project,” added Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved reclassification of the sergeant’s position in the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office to include additional duties for courtroom security supervision and investigations. With the reclassification, Sheriff Kent Wilkening sought permission to promote two deputies to sergeants, using money within his budget that is available due to an extended unpaid leave of absence in the department.

The change in classification will result in Wilkening seeking a budget increase for 2018 of an estimated $5,000 to $7,500. Promoting two staff members will bring the total number of sergeants to three - one to focus on courtroom security, another for patrol and one for investigations, he said.
“The county has been saying for a number of years that we should start some succession planning,” Wilkening said. “Part of that starts with this. I need people in my office that know the operations.”

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved changing the position allocation chart and granted Wilkening’s request to promote two staff members to sergeants. Voting in opposition was Metz.

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“I’m not so much against this,” Metz said. “I’d rather address it in budget and look at it as an allocation for next year rather than change it midstream.”

  • Approved, on a 4-1 vote, authorizing LHB, a Minnesota-based architectural firm, to complete a study and cost estimate to remodel and construct a shared city, county and school district facility on the former Campbell’s Soup site. The project would include a potential new library, along with classrooms for District 518 Community Education and a welcome center for the city.

The study, to be funded by all three entities if each approves of it, is set not to exceed $20,000. Voting in opposition was Commissioner Justin Ahlers.

  • Rejected, on a 4-1 vote, a bid from Ideal Landscape to complete the landscaping project at the 10th Street entrance to the Nobles County Government Center. The lone bid was more than $248,000, with an alternate using sod priced at nearly $254,350, while the county’s estimate for the work was $191,000.

The plan is to rebid the project at a later date. Opposed to rejecting the bid was Demuth.

  • Received an update from Nobles County Library Director Clint Wolthuizen on 2016 usage and the renovation of the Adrian Branch Library. The library circulated nearly 105,000 items and did nearly 24,500 interlibrary loans to Plum Creek member libraries in 2016, with more than 76,000 visits to the Worthington and Adrian Branch, 11,000 program attendees and nearly 19,400 wireless and computer uses.

“We stay very busy and we serve many many people here in southwest Minnesota, and specifically in Nobles County,” Wolthuizen said.
Renovations to the Adrian branch library are nearing completion, with a grand opening planned from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 14.

  • Approved requests for Nobles Home Initiative’s five-year tax abatement program from Seth Jacoby to construct a single-family home at 401 Tennessee Ave., Adrian; and from Todd Schwebach to construct a new single-family home on Dayton Drive, Worthington.
  • Authorized a redetermination of benefits on Judicial Ditch 16 and County Ditch 1.
  • Declared two tandem axle trucks in the Nobles County Public Works department as surplus property.
  • Set 7 p.m. July 24 at the Reading Community Center for a public hearing on the proposed Reading Community Subordinate Service District for sewer services.
  • Approved a purchase of service agreement with Southwest Health and Human Services for new Community Services Public Health Specialist Peter Ekadu to receive training in public health nuisance investigation.
  • Approved an increase from three-fifth’s time to four-fifth’s time for a circulation assistant in the Nobles County Library to provide mail collection services to all county office buildings, effective July 3.
  • Awarded a bid to Womack Consulting, New Haven, Ind., for purchase and installation of a security booth at Prairie Justice Center at a cost of nearly $174,000.
  • Authorized advertisement for bids on foundation waterproofing for the Nobles County Government Center and for partial roof replacement on the county’s public works facility.
  • Appointed Ekadu to the Emergency Management Planning 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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