SWMH asks for funds

WORTHINGTON -- Scott Johnson, director of the Southwestern Mental Health Center, presented Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday with an update on plans for constructing a new facility on the former Central School property in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Scott Johnson, director of the Southwestern Mental Health Center, presented Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday with an update on plans for constructing a new facility on the former Central School property in Worthington.

Johnson said the plans have been delayed, but the board is hopeful funding can be secured and construction will begin soon.

As part of the agency's presentation, SWMH board member and Cottonwood County Commissioner Norm Holmen requested Nobles County commissioners consider a grant or low-interest loan of $250,000 to $500,000 toward the cost. The total project is estimated at $3.5 million.

"I'm wondering why you had a facility, you let the lease go and now you're unwilling to step up to the plate?" Holmen asked commissioners. "It's time to step up, Nobles County."

Commissioner chair Diane Thier told Holmen the county had planned to fund the construction of a new building a couple of years ago, when the lease was terminated on the agency's office building adjacent to the hospital, but commissioners received a clear message from the SWMH board then that they wanted to do it on their own.


SWMH is a non-profit agency that serves five counties in southwest Minnesota. With approximately 80 employees, the majority of which work in Worthington, the agency now works out of five different buildings in the community. The plan is to bring all of the services together in one campus on the Central School property they purchased last year.

"Our buildings, of course, are not doing well," Johnson told commissioners.

The lease on the office space next to the hospital expires in June 2009, and the condition of the Unity House is such that the board is concerned its license for the treatment facility may not be reissued.

Designs for the mental health campus in Worthington include construction of a 13,000-square-foot office building and a 6,000-square-foot Unity House, with a parking lot that will be shared with the neighboring Dayton House.

As for financing, Johnson said they are seeking $93,890 from the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, approximately $100,000 in income from the lease of the parking lot to the Dayton House, and access to USDA grant and loan opportunities. In addition, a $1 million federal appropriation was requested, although that is now down to $200,000 and still not guaranteed, Johnson said.

"Without a doubt, we'll have a much better time raising money if we have the full support of (Nobles) County behind us," said Marlene Trageser, chair of the SWMH board.

Thier mentioned that the board will be working on budgets within the next few weeks, at which time it will consider the request for funding.

"You were willing to put some money on the table then, I would hope you could come up with some of the money now," Holmen added.


In other action, the board:

l Received a request from the Worthington Regional Economic Development Commission to add the county's Housing and Refinancing Authority (HRA) on the levy to generate additional dollars for economic development.

WREDC manager Glenn Thuringer said adding the HRA onto the levy would generate an additional $344,000.

"Our budget has not changed in the basically 10 years that I have been the manager," Thuringer said. "I think it's time that we start raising the dollars to do our economic development."

Commissioner Thier said she was not in favor of adding the HRA to the levy, and Commissioner David Benson agreed.

"We're under levy limits right now," Thier said, adding that much of the money that would be generated would come from the small communities and rural areas of Nobles County. Thuringer said about $80,000 would come from within Worthington.

l Opted to draft a letter to legislators regarding cuts made to short-term offender housing at the county jail following a discussion with Sheriff Kent Wilkening. The state has reduced the amount it reimburses counties for housing short-term offenders from $30 to $10 per day. Wilkening said Nobles County has two short-term offenders in custody at this time, and typically the number is fairly low.

l Approved the relocation of county tile (Judicial Ditch #4) due to the construction of the New Vision fertilizer plant near Brewster. The 16-inch tile will be replaced with an 18-inch tile at New Vision's expense.


l Set 9:30 a.m. Aug. 5 as the time for a public hearing on the replacement of 900 feet of 12-inch tile on branch J1 of Judicial Ditch #5. The hearing is for property owners affected by the proposed improvements.

l Set the bid opening for replacement of bridge No. L3505 in Bloom Township for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 18.

l Appointed commissioners Marv Zylstra and David Benson to the county canvassing board, with Norm Gallagher named the alternate.

l Received an update from the Southwest Initiative Foundation's Liz Maiers.

l Approved a resolution of support for completion of Minnesota 60. The resolution will be presented at a Minnesota 60 public meeting slated for 5 p.m. Thursday in Windom.

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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