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Time to act, Zylstra says: Library issue shouldn’t be on the back burner

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioner Marv Zylstra said during a Wednesday morning work session that after years of discussion, it's time to put a project on the table and make a decision.

WORTHINGTON - Nobles County Commissioner Marv Zylstra said during a Wednesday morning work session that after years of discussion, it’s time to put a project on the table and make a decision. 

Zylstra was talking about a potential new library in Worthington, but the board has yet to decide the fate of the Armory Business Center, which it purchased a year ago in hopes of transforming into a new library facility. Commissioner Gene Metz said a group affiliated with the Nobles County Historical Society is gathering information on utility costs for the armory and preparing a proposal for its future as a potential showcase for the county’s history.
“They don’t want to lose the building,” Metz said.
Commissioners will give the group a one-month deadline so when the board meets for a May 25 work session, it will know if the historical society plans to pursue the armory as its new location. Commissioner Bob Demuth said he’d also like, by that date, a second opinion on the armory building and its potential to be renovated into a library.
Two professional opinions have already been offered on the armory’s reuse as a library. Metz said Library Consultant George Lawson did a good job on his study, but remarked, “I just don’t know if he’s old school or new school.” Lawson’s assessment on the armory’s repurposing can be viewed at co.nobles.mn.us/Departments/NoblesCountyLibrary.aspx.
By setting a deadline for the new information, commissioners are eyeing June 7 as the date they may be willing to make a decision about a new library.

Commissioner Matt Widboom reminded fellow board members that the library isn’t the only project the group has on the docket.
“We’ve talked about investing in our road situation, and we haven’t. We’ve talked about a city-county shed (no progress has been made with the proposal),” Widboom said. “Our decisions made today, how are they going to impact what we do in the 20- to 30-year time frame?
“If those are truly the things we want to do, what we do today has to be thought about,” he added. “If it’s not a sincere (project) we’re going to do, then take it off the sheet.”
Zylstra said the commissioners need to “get something on the floor” regarding a library project, suggesting a resolution would outline the county’s commitment to a facility while seeking participation from the city of Worthington, where 60 percent of the county’s residents reside.
“Then we need to engage the Friends of the Library,” Zylstra said. “I’m convinced that once we have a proposal on the ground, then they’ll go out and raise money.”
He suggested others also be brought into the discussion, including Vision 2030, the Plum Creek Library System and District 518.
“Then you narrow it down to site,” he said. “I think everything could pull together, and April 2017 we could break ground.
“We have a library that’s going to build the minds of individuals, and yet it’s on the back burner.”
County Administrator Tom Johnson agreed that there are “many projects out there that we should be doing,” and asked how commissioners can “get over the hump and start doing them.”
“How much hurt do you want to put on people?” Metz then asked.
Johnson suggested that by restructuring the county’s debt on Prairie Justice Center, commissioners could bond up to a certain amount for a project without affecting the levy.
“I’d like to see zero impact on the levy,” said Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr.
Johnson said he will have the county’s bond counsel attend a county board meeting to further discuss the options.
Also Wednesday, commissioners received information about a couple of opportunities to participate in energy efficiency programs as they consider upgrades to the Adrian branch library. The Local Energy Efficiency Program (LEEP) and Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) are both available for government projects.
Johnson said GESP is a “hugely successful” program, and in his experience, the savings were far greater than the cost of the project. LEEP is a smaller, newer program that doesn’t offer a guarantee on savings. Both programs are offered through the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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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