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Council hears CGMC update, OKs sewer rates hike

The Worthington City Council heard an update from the Coalition of Greater MN Cities on the 2022 legislative session during Monday evening’s meeting.

The city of Worthington is a coalition member, and Marty Siefert of the lobbying firm Flaherty & Hood detailed during a 25-minute presentation to council members final legislative outcomes on coalition priorities. Areas of concern pertain to local government aid, Public Facilities Authority water infrastructure programs, two separate child care grant programs, funding for broadband, the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program, two housing programs and improvements to large- and small-city streets.

Mayor Mike Kuhle asked about the current budget surplus, which Siefert noted is “north of $7 billion.” Seifert said he’d guess most of it will get spent one way or another, but he said it was belief that at least $2 billon be kept in reserve in lieu of a recession he fears is forthcoming,

Also Monday, the council approved 2023 sewer rates that will see charges for the average residential user to increase by 21.5%.

The average residential user – whose use is 4,000 gallons per month – will see about a $7.77 per month increase. The new rates had been by approved by the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission earlier this month.

Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain responded to a question from Councilman Chad Cummings by answering that it’s the first time that the sewer rates have increased anywhere near this magnitude in 30 years. Work on what Hain described as essentially a rebuild of the entire city wastewater treatment plant is continuing; it's work that Hain stated was necessary as a result of the age of the current facility.

The major driver of the rate increase is the inclusion of $543,200 in 2023 debt service to be collected through rates in 2023.

Among other matters Monday:

* The council approved a Nobles County Information Technology Department proposal to provide technical expertise, staff time and materials as IT support for the city’s day-to-day operations. The agreement is for one year terminating on Dec. 31, 2023 and shall automatically renew for consecutive one-year terms unless terminated for convenience by either party. The fee for the initial one-year term is $95 per hour.

The council also approved a Nobles County Data Center Server and Hardware Storage Agreement for a one-year-term ending on Dec. 31, 2023 at a cost of $6,720.

* The receipt of a $51,040 grant from the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging for the Center for Active Living was also approved Monday. The grant period will run from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2023. The CAL will continue to offer technology classes with the machines that were bought this year (16 iPads and 14 laptops) and a continued partnership with Minnesota West to instruct them, among multiple other programs.

* There will be no change to the Olson Park campground fees and some minor changes to the Park User fees in 2023, as the council approved the rates for both.

* Council members passed a resolution that conveyed city-owned property north of Interstate 90 and west of U.S. 59 to the Worthington Economic Development Authority.

In 2015/2016, an extension of Bioscience Drive was constructed heading west from U.S. 59 to allow for future development of the area. The city is now beginning the process of platting out the area to the north and south of this street extension (creating two large lots and dedicating right-of-way). The addition of the city-owned parcel to the EDA is intended to ease the platting process and allow for the buildable part of this lot to be sold someday.

* The council opted to table renewal of the Nobles Home Initiative Program, as the city wants to take a closer look at terms pertaining to the potential for petitions of change of assessed values of properties that are part of the program.

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