Earlier this month, City Administrator Tony Chladek proposed to the Crookston City Council, at a Ways & Means Committee meeting, his idea to pursue a Bush Foundation grant totaling $200,000 that would help launch a housing rehabilitation program in Crookston.
While that certainly would have been an outstanding grant to get, most on the council, especially Ward 1's Tom Jorgens – who has quite a bit of previous experience trying to land Bush Foundation grants – figured that was too much money to seek in such a competitive situation with limited funding. Council members also wondered if a housing rehab program meshed well with the myriad of required grant proposal components, and in the process suggested that Chladek come up with some other, smaller and more innovative initiatives that might have a better chance of getting funded.
In response, at this week's Ways & Means Committee meeting, Chladek pitched an initiative based at the Downtown Square that involves how to provide electricity to the fledgling community amenity. It could involve a small wind turbine, solar panels, geothermal components and perhaps even a rain-garden concept. Chladek said the idea fits the Bush Foundation's sustainability requirement, and certainly seems innovative enough. In addition, Chladek said, any energy not used by the Downtown Square could potentially be offered, as per a possible agreement with Otter Tail Power, as a direct retail credit toward the Care & Share. With such a bustling sustainability movement underway at the University of Minnesota Crookston, Chladek said the campus could be a valuable partner in getting such a project off the ground.
Council members liked this idea more than the housing rehab one. "I like the idea of a green energy source for the square," Ward 2's Dana Johnson said.
Council members asked Chladek to keep researching the possibilities, and he said he'd also talk to Otter Tail about what is and maybe isn't possible.
Jorgens suggested the possibility of adding the Crookston trail/path system into a proposal that could potentially involve the Downtown Square serving as a home-base/central point for the community's entire trail system to be used for biking, cross-country skiing, etc., a system the council would still like to expand on the south end if there was some money available.
The key, Jorgens said, is submitting a proposal that has a realistic chance of getting some money.
"Going after grants in general is a good idea and something you should do, but we need to spend time on it so we're putting our best foot forward," he said. "I've always been told, take the time to research, and don't write the grants until you've done the work to get them funded. That's when you write it."
Chladek said that while a revolving loan pool for a housing rehab program would be great, he realizes that a project with a cheaper price tag might be the way to go. "I think I was probably thinking a little grandiose before," he said.
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