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In 3-2 vote, council approves policy for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and face coverings

The Worthington City Council voted Tuesday night to establish a policy pertaining to COVID-19 vaccination, testing and face coverings, with Mayor Mike Kuhle and others acknowledging that there wasn’t much choice in the matter.

The OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on vaccination and testing requires employers with 100 or more employees to establish, implement and enforce a written policy allowing any employee to either choose to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide proof of regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a face mask in lieu of vaccination.

Said Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson: “We have been advised that Minnesota OSHA is preparing to adopt the ETS as soon as Jan. 3, 2022, pending judicial determination by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Robinson added that he hopes the Supreme Court “will see the folly of this and throw it out,” but in the meantime urged council members to adopt the policy, which Robinson said he believed was similar to that of District 518’s. The council may eventually establish a policy regarding payment or reimbursement for testing for employees that choose to not get vaccinated for personal, religious or medical reasons, but not enough information was available to do so on Tuesday night.

The vote to adopt the policy was 3-2, with Mayor Kuhle casting the tiebreaking vote. Alaina Kolpin and Amy Ernst voted yes, with Chad Cummings and Chris Kielblock against. Councilman Larry Janssen was not in attendance.

In another matter, the council unanimously approved a resolution to accept a $142,218 grant from the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging for the Center of Active Living facility. “We shot for the stars and we got it,” CAL Executive Director Jill Cuperus said. Money will be used to buy bicycles, helmets, kayaks, lifejackets, paddles and many additional amenities, including multiple technology-related additions.

In another matter, the city council approved a tentative agreement for a three-year contract with International Union of Operating Engineers Local #49, which represents non-salaried employees in the Water, Wastewater, Public Works departments and the engineering technicians.

Terms of the contract include a 3.5% cost-of-living adjustments effective Jan. 1, 2022, Jan. 1, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024, respectively. The current contract expires Dec. 31 of this year.

Additionally, the council approved proposals from Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. for design and bidding services for three projects: Olson Park Trail Improvements, replacement of the Olson Park Pedestrian Bridge and parking lot improvements at the Sunset Park Boat Landing.

For the Olson Park Trail, the SHE proposal for design and bidding services carries a fee not to exceed $27,016. For the pedestrian bridge, design and bidding services have a proposed cost not to exceed $36.103. The boat landing park lot has a not-to-exceed cost of $16,684.

Funding for Olson Park Trail improvements was approved as part of the 2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The Olson Park Pedestrian bridge was one of the identified sales tax projects, while the parking lot improvements will be a combination of different funding sources.

Also, council members approved the 2022 YMCA summer program fees. The programs include the YMCA's Fun and Adventure Day Camp and Summer Sports Programs. The YMCA proposed a 5% increase to the 2021 Day Camp fees and no increase to the Summer Sports Programs fees.

Other action by council members include approval of:

* The 2022 Utility Department Strategic Financial Plans following a presentation by Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain. A portion of the discussion encompassed costs associated with a planned Lewis & Clark Regional Water System expansion.

* A fire agreement negotiated between Lorain Township and the city of Worthington. The six-year agreement includes annual rates with a 3% increase each year negotiated through Dec. 31, 2027.

* The donation of a minivan by Terry Eggers of Mick's Repair to the Worthington Fire Department for required training purposes that the department must provide to the volunteer firefighters. The value of the minivan is $1,000.00.

* A proposed change regarding the municipal parking lot between Park Lane and 11th Street, known as the Thompson Lot. Worthington City Planner Matt Selof explained that the redevelopment of the Hotel Thompson into 42 rentable units has resulted in on-going parking issues and complaints. In an effort to alleviate some of the ongoing issues, 10 of the 15 stalls now designated as two-hour parking will be switched to leased stalls that would allow for an additional 10 parking spots for Thompson residents; those spots will be leased to Thompson management. At this time, there are 25 stalls leased to individuals residing in the Thompson apartments.

* Five separate resolutions pertaining to parcel distribution at the Bio Science Industrial Park.

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