With several initiatives ongoing, Mayor Kuhle sees bright future for Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- Positive changes within the community are on the way, Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle insisted last week.All that's needed is a little patience.Whether it's development of the former Northland Mall or the addition of new housing and n...

Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle

WORTHINGTON - Positive changes within the community are on the way, Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle insisted last week.
All that’s needed is a little patience.
Whether it’s development of the former Northland Mall or the addition of new housing and new soccer fields in the community, Kuhle is confident that the city’s best days are ahead of it. The mayor discussed a number of projects during a stop at the Daily Globe on Friday.

Mall land
With construction of the new Marthaler Chevrolet dealership well underway - and the former Northland Mall building now completely demolished following acquisition of the property by Yellow Co. Inc. - Kuhle said the only direction to look toward is ahead.
“It was tough personally for me to watch that all come down,” Kuhle said of Northland Mall. “I’m not about tearing things down, but I want the community to move forward.
“There have been a number of groups that have we’ve been meeting with to come up with some projects out there related to retail and strip mall types of things,” he continued, adding that discussions have involved city leaders and private developers. “Most of the projects involve a movie theater … but we really need to do something for our retail community, and I think there will be some things happening there moving forward.”
Kuhle said he believes that once the new Chevy dealership is up and running, Yellow Co. Inc. will begin looking more seriously at other development on the former mall site.
“The thing about this is that private investment has to be the driver,” the mayor asserted. “We know the city is going to help with development to get it going, but we also know private investment has the ultimate lead. The city can’t do everything, but we can be smart about it and we can be affordable.”

New housing
Kuhle points toward Worthington Planning Commission meetings during recent months as indicators of positive movement.
“We know there are at least two developers interested in multi-family housing,” he said. “That would be north of the mall property all the way to the interstate, which I believe in both cases would be market-rate. We all know we need housing in this community.”
A 48-unit, income-based rental project is also destined along Grand Avenue, which will be extended northward from Oxford Street after several years of consideration. Grand Avenue would sit to the west of the new apartments, with other potential new development toward the east. Cecilee Street “needs to be punched through to Grand,” said Kuhle, “depending on how the other developments work out.”
With Sept. 1 the target date for the new Marthaler building, city staff and city council members are working hard to make development happen, Kuhle stated.
“My idea, and I’m just thinking grand, would be a strip mall with a liquor store, a theater, restaurants, a couple of retail stores … and housing,” he said. “I think that’s doable out there.
“These things are going to happen,” he added. “Our community needs it, and the people expect it. ... Just give us a little bit of breathing room.”

Soccer fields
Over the last few months, city staff and council have ramped up discussions on improving the soccer fields at the Buss Field complex. In the meantime, Worthington Independent School District 518 has introduced plans for its newly acquired land on which it hopes to construct a new high school and a host of other amenities - including soccer fields.
The district has discussed collaborating with the city on soccer fields located on the new property, but the city still intends to move forward with its Buss Field effort.
“Buss Field is set up with parking, trees and park equipment for kids to play on,” Kuhle said. “We can do that much cheaper to begin with (than new school fields) … and we’re going to need those fields in addition to what the school puts up.
“When it comes time for the school district, we’re going to be working with them to put the additional fields up. But the council and I feel we can’t wait any longer to address the soccer fields at Buss Field. I think council member (Diane) Graber expressed it best when she pointed out that with the level of participation and accomplishment in soccer here, we should be embarrassed as a community for not providing better facilities.”
In the longer term, Kuhle anticipated that the city will eventually collaborate with the school district on numerous athletic and recreational facilities, including possibly a new outdoor swimming pool, new ice arena and new Trojan Field.
“In 2013, we had a study done on all the athletic fields in town - ones owned by the city, ones that were owned by the school and ones owned by the college,” he explained. “What we want to do moving forward is create a sports authority that administers and controls and maintains those fields. I can see that sports authority as some type of joint powers agreement between the city, school district and the college.
“Long term, hopefully I think we pay for those types of facilities if we can get an extension on the our current half-cent sales tax.”

Healthy schools are critical
Kuhle believes that city leadership and private investment are keys to Worthington’s future, but that a strong District 518 school system is particularly critical. That starts with public support of a November bond referendum that will support construction of a new high school and its Crailsheim Road property; a public input meeting on the proposed project is set for 7 p.m. tonight in the Worthington High School band room and another is scheduled for June 21.
“We need to support the school district,” Kuhle said. “I encourage the citizens of Worthington and the entire district to attend one of those and give their input to the school district because a community will not move forward without a strong school system. Economic development is directly related to a strong educational system, and we as community members should make our feelings known in these upcoming input sessions.”


Other initiatives
The city made a move toward bettering its citizens’ quality of life by opting to spray for mosquitos this summer, the mayor said.
“Worthington is in the range of the mosquito that carries the Zika virus … so this was a good year to start it,” said Kuhle, adding that he believes 10 treatments will be needed at approximately $3,000 each. “City staff did all of its homework, identifying all the different types of spray programs and the chemicals used by the different companies. This seemed to be the safest way of application and the safest chemical, and still be effective.”
Kuhle cited City Administrator Steve Robinson and Public Works Director Todd Wietzema as the staff members leading the mosquito-control effort. Citizens will also have do their part, he added, by doing such tasks as watching places on their properties that have weather buildup.
The mayor also noted that he, along with Robinson, Director of Public Safety Troy Appel and Wietzema, recently attended a luncheon at JBS where they met with between 10 and 12 representatives of varying cultural backgrounds.
“This is a way to reach into those cultural communities with more information,” Kuhle said. “There were good discussions that came out of that, and it’s a good gauge for us to see how we’re doing with the different cultures.
“All of the leaders agreed that city police department and law enforcement has done an excellent job and is well-respected within those communities,” he added. “That’s a testament to Troy and his entire staff. They’re doing a lot of educational things with those communities, and I’m really proud of that.”

Related Topics: HOUSING
Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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