Current location might seem fine on the surface, but Carlson says the reality is that it doesn’t meet agency’s needs

    Jeff Evers may have purchased the historic Fournet Building downtown only a few short months ago, which soon led to confirmed reports that Tri-Valley Opportunity Council was considering a move across the street from its current location to become Evers’ anchor tenant, but Tri-Valley’s CEO on Tuesday reiterated that the agency was considering a move long before Evers bought the building.

    Jason Carlson, speaking to the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority Board of Directors, said that although Tri-Valley’s current building at the northeast corner of the Robert Street and North Broadway intersection may look up to par and even in pretty good shape from the outside, it has had several significant issues for years, and the major maintenance projects that have been put off for some time really can’t be put off any longer.

    As a non-profit corporation that receives federal and state grants, it must pay down its budget every calendar year and is prohibited from using those funds to build up any reserve funds, Carlson explained. The community action agency also cannot use those state and federal dollars as debt service if it wanted to, for example, construct a new facility. But Tri-Valley is allowed to be a tenant in someone else’s building and pay rent, which is what the agency would do if it moved into the Fournet Building and in the process became a critical component of Evers’ redevelopment plans for the iconic building.

    Carlson said he realizes some people are questioning why Tri-Valley would seriously consider leaving its current location. Most often, he hears specifically about the agency putting up new windows in recent years. Yes, the building has relatively new windows, he said, but that hasn’t erased concerns with the roof, the HVAC system that’s been patched together for decades, inadequate air exchange and insulation, and the lack of an elevator. “For the clients we serve, it’s just not acceptable for us to not be nearly as accessible as we should,” Carlson told the CHEDA Board.

    Tri-Valley could easily spend $1 million on improvements to the current facility, which he said would be most visible via a concrete tube on the exterior that would house an elevator, but even after an investment on that level, Carlson said the building’s increase in value would only be a small fraction of the projects’ costs.

    So the Tri-Valley Board of Directors is seriously considering its long-term options, and Carlson realizes a move into the Fournet Building is most intriguing to the public. But, he stressed, the timing of Evers’ popular purchase of the building and Tri-Valley going public with its long-term facility needs was merely a coincidence, a case of “fortuitous” timing. “His purchase didn’t lead to this; this was in the works long before that,” Carlson explained. “The board needs to make a significant investment, or look elsewhere.”

    Tri-Valley’s financial position, as it relates to its corporate assets and the amount of debt it’s carrying, is better now than it was a few years ago, he continued, so there’s a “better pathway” toward a long-term facility solution. “There’s a point where we have to stop throwing good money at bad,” Carlson said. “The (current) building is solid, it’s structurally sound, but as an office space and with our accessibility needs, it’s just not enough.”

    A resolution is likely still months away, he said. Asked by CHEDA Board members what would become of its current building if it left, Carlson said he realizes a potential interest on the City’s part to have the building demolished. Concept drawings that feature a parking lot, green space and modified corner at that intersection have previously been drawn up.

    “All options with the current building are on the table if Tri-Valley leaves,” Carlson said.