Council committed $120K over three years to DCDP facilitator position

    With several Crookston City Council members indicating Monday evening that they were essentially blindsided late last week by the story in the Times that the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership Board had voted to remove Dillon Fenno as part-time DCDP facilitator, council members led by Ward 2’s Steve Erickson said council members and the DCDP leadership needs a sit-down soon.

    DCDP member Jeff Evers agreed that a meeting is necessary. “We just want to make sure there is good communication between us and the council, and make sure we’re all on the same page with our intent going forward,” Evers said.

    Late in 2016, after much debate, the council approved $120,000 spread over three years to fund a part-time DCDP facilitator and related DCDP expenses. Fenno was hired this past spring, but since his hiring, the DCDP board has experienced almost complete turnover. Several DCDP sub-committees have also been formed to focus on specific projects downtown, and the “strengthened” committee structure was cited by the DCDP leadership last Friday in explaining the logic behind voting in favor of Fenno’s removal.

    Erickson said at Monday night’s council Ways & Means Committee that having to find out about Fenno’s firing by reading it in the Times was “embarrassing” to him as a council member. “That’s our money funding that,” he said. “It’s embarrassing to not know what’s going on when my constituents talk to me or want information.”

    The big question to be answered is what will become of the $120,000 the City committed to the DCDP facilitator position. When it was mentioned that one possibility might be the DCDP keeping the money and disseminating it in the form of various grants that could boost downtown, the immediate, informal reaction around the table is that option will not be seriously considered. Although some of the money has already been committed to the facilitator’s salary, the strongest indication to come from council members Monday is that they’d want the rest of the City money returned to the City coffers.

    Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee said he’d spoken to some DCDP leaders, and they are “not under any assumption that they’re keeping the money,” he said.

    Council members also lamented the fact that, after receiving frequent updates from Fenno and the DCPD early on, they’ve heard very little or even nothing from the DCPD on their latest efforts for some time. “I don’t think I know two people on that board,” Erickson said. “To me, this is supposed to be about community, us and them working together on the same things. But here we are, on opposite ends of the court.”

    At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud, who was against committing the City dollars in the first place, said he doesn’t think the City has gotten its money’s worth so far. “To me, everything they’ve done so far could have been done by volunteers,” Quanrud said.

    Tom Skjei is the interim DCDP Board chair. Mayor Wayne Melbye said he’d spoken to Skjei, who told him that the DCDP is “trying to regroup” and figure out what to do, and what not to do.

    Erickson suggested that the council give DCDP leaders at week or maybe a couple weeks to “get their ducks in a row” before sitting down with some council members and the mayor. “We don’t want them in chaos” when everyone gets together, he said.