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City council discusses meeting time, extra meeting pay while declining Nobles Home Initiative renewa

The Worthington City Council is poised to change its meeting time following a discussion Monday evening.

City code currently states that regular meetings of the council shall be held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the council chamber of city hall. City councilman Chad Cummings told council members that he’s talked to people in the community who have stated that one reason they don’t get to council meetings is because the 7 p.m. time creates a juggle of sorts with meals and potential other activities. He added that he looked at other communities that have councils or boards that meet at times such as 5:15 or 5:30 p.m.

Councilwoman Alaina Kolpin, who has young children, said she’s agreeable to an early starting time and suggested 5:30 p.m. It was also noted that several city staff members currently work until 5 p.m., then go home before returning before the current 7 p.m. meetings.

No official action was taken. City staff will now work to modify the relevant ordinance in city code, and the council will then need to approve three readings of that ordinance during meetings. The new language will also need to be published on two occasions. It’s believed the current meeting dates and time as stated in city code date back to 1969.

Also Monday, council members discussed a current portion of city code that states that the mayor and council members receive $50 per day for extra meeting compensation. Councilwoman Amy Ernst suggested increasing the extra meeting pay to $100, noting that figure still is well under what Nobles County commissioners get paid. Cummings added that council members now have more meetings than when the extra meeting compensation language was drafted 20 years ago as a result of increased city representation on multiple committees.

As was the case with the meeting change discussion, no official action was taken, but city staff will now work on ordinance modification. The same terms of approval as the new meeting time resolution also apply.

The council also voted to not renew of the Nobles Home Initiative for an additional five years as presented. The program was first adopted by Nobles County, Independent School District 518 and the city in 2014 to promote new housing construction by offering five years of property tax abatement to qualifying participants. The program is set to expire at the end of the year and is now up for its second five-year extension.

Terms of the initiative currently state the amount of taxes to be abated is based on the value added to the new construction. The first year of abatement begins once the work is complete and the property is assessed at the full estimated market value, with the abatement amount then set for the duration of the program. A consensus of council members support having the program go back to its original annual assessment model for each year of the program, as significant changes can result during a multi-year construction process.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a second reading of an ordinance to amend the city’s stormwater utility rate, with an increase of 5.7% to cover a $41,500 increase in operating costs.

  • Approved a budget amendment for the expenditure of $4,000 in Alarm Reserves to supplement $7,500 in American Kennel Club Reunite K9 Cop grant funds for the purchase of a new Worthington Police K9.

  • Approved a resolution of support for the city’s application for Active Transportation Grant Funds form the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program. The proposed project includes reconstruction of the trail from Cynthia Avenue to West Clary Street (through Centennial Park) and trail crossing improvements at the intersection of Tower Street/Lake Avenue.

Prior to the city council meeting, the Worthington Economic Development Association board on Monday approved a $50,000 loan at two percent interest amortized for a 15-year term – contingent on proof of a matching private loan – to help finance renovation work at Johnson Jewelry.

The Worthington EDA's Two-Percent Loan program provides financing to small downtown businesses to purchase equipment and/or make building improvements. Johnson Jewelry, located at 1009 Fourth Ave., has operated for 58 years as a family business in Worthington. The proposed project includes installing new support for the roof, changing the layout of the interior to allow for space to renovate the bathroom into an ADA-complaint bathroom, new flooring and lighting in the sales area, new stairs to basement with handrail, and some other repair work in the basement.

One bid for the work was solicited from Jeff Meinders Construction with a total cost of $155,190. The EDA's program stipulates that a private lender shall provide at least half of the total loan amount at market rate with the EDA providing the rest, up to $50,000, at two percent interest for a term of up to 15 years.

Also Monday, the EDA board formally accepted the conveying of city-owned property north of Interstate 90 and west of U.S. 59. The city council had approved a resolution on the matter during its Nov. 14 meeting.

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