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Council talks emergency protocol, more at special meeting

The Worthington City Council, in a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, heard an appeal from Worthington Fire Department Chief Pat Shorter to address protocol involving local emergency responses,

Shorter told the council that there have been several occasions over the past few months in which the fire department either was dispatched to emergency scenes late or not all. He explained that the fire department isn’t immediately paged for motor vehicle crashes that take place under a certain speed.

“People’s lives hang in the balance because of a lack of communication,” Shorter said. “We can do better than this.”

Later in the discussion, Mayor Mike Kuhle stated that he has used 911 and quickly asked during the call if someone was hurt. If that answer is yes, Kuhle said, protocol should be that all local emergency agencies be contacted.

Said Kuhle: “I’d rather have too many agencies on hand than not enough. If only some are contacted immediately, this can result in a delay in adequate response time and enough help at the scene.

While no official action was taken on the matter, Kuhle and council members agreed that Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson should rewrite emergency responders’ protocol in the city.

Also Wednesday, the council opted to take no immediate action on a change order involving the city’s ongoing aquatic center project.

Tri-State General Contracting, the city’s contractor on the project, proposed the change order of $162,674.50. During the construction process, contractors have encountered a higher than anticipated ground water table. While there is tile around the new pool structure, it does not seem to be sufficient for the amount of water that's on site.

City council member Amy Ernst was disappointed by the need for the change order, stating that the high ground water table should not be considered a surprise in Worthington. She expressed frustration that the city had to take on the “full responsibility of everybody’s error.” Worthington Director of Public Works Todd Wietzema said he’d discuss the matter with the city’s contractor before bringing the change order back to council, likely during its Monday evening meeting.

The change order as proposed would result in the addition of 6-inch drain tile -- 8-inch deep and encased in rock -- around the perimeter of the new aquatic center Similar tile would be added to the existing outdoor pool, as well as a manhole with casting and two pumps to remove excess groundwater.

Approval of the change order would bring the total project cost to $6,785,744.01.

In a separate matter Wednesday, GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness Chairman and CEO Tom Walsh Sr. addressed the council to discuss the future of GreatLIFE Worthington.

The council first considered a proposal from Walsh last month that would deed the facility to the city contingent upon the city appointing GreatLIFE to operate, maintain and manage it. Walsh cited on Wednesday low GreatLIFE Worthington membership, the need for as much as $400,000 in improvements and issues regarding water access in appealing to the city, noting that he’s only interested in a win-win agreement.

Council members will continue to have conversations about GreatLIFE Worthington’s future, and the city is currently looking into the legality of a potential easement transfer for water access. Both parties are in no rush to make any decisions; Walsh specifically said he preferred that nothing happen until after this November’s election.

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