Updated: Aug 20, 2020
WORTHINGTON – Nobles County officially pulled out of the Welcome, Education, Library, Livability collaborative project known as WELL on Tuesday.
On a 4-1 vote, the Board of Commissioners approved a motion made by Commissioner Justin Ahlers that cancels any further effort or consideration of the project that would have been a collaboration between the county, the City of Worthington and ISD 518.
The WELL project was back on the agenda after it became apparent there was no chance of state funding through the bonding bill. A $16 million request had been made, but both the House and the Senate had removed it from their bills during one of the special sessions.
The lone vote against the motion came from Commissioner Matt Widboom, who said he ran for the seat to get a library project moving forward. Widboom called the board’s motion to end involvement disappointing.
“Obviously, we’ve all been waiting for the Legislature to continue doing nothing,” Widboom said, pointing out that the actions of a few had helped derail the project at the state level.
Widboom’s frustration was readily apparent as he encouraged the board to take a step back and find a way to be part of the project rather than allowing a roadblock to stop the progress toward a library.
“You’re just going to put this back on a shelf and let it roll for another eight years?” he asked.
The other commissioners said the financial uncertainty brought on by COVID was the reason they wanted to move the library discussion to a back burner. Ahlers stated that with numbers down at the library due to COVID, people’s habits might change. He also pointed out he has not been shy about his opposition to building a new library.