If they don’t pay their $53K property tax bill, they can’t renew their liquor license

    For the second time in as many years, Crookston Inn & Convention Center owners Todd and Nicole Jacobson are facing a property tax bill that they can’t cover, and they’re requesting some assistance in the form of a refinanced loan from the City of Crookston.

    Friday, the City’s Development Policy & Review Committee unanimously approved the request, citing the Jacobsons’ spotless record when it comes to making payments on their loans through the City as well as CHEDA. In addition to lending them additional money to bring their unpaid principle balance from $82,000 to $140,000, the committee also extended the repayment window from five years to 10 years. The Jacobsons did not request the latter, but committee members, in a discussion with CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth and City Administrator Shannon Stassen, concluded that the five-year repayment period is possibly too aggressive, even though the Jacobsons always make their payments. By extending the repayment period, the thinking is, the Jacobsons will have more cash in their pockets that they can put toward their property tax bill.

    City Finance Director Angel Weasner said the Jacobsons haven’t officially completed their application for refinancing, but that’s expected to happen soon. The City already has their up-to-date financial information, she added, so the actual application process should be pretty simple.

    The Jacobsons have addressed City officials before, lamenting business property taxes that they’ve said are overburdensome. Their property tax bill for 2017 is around $53,000.

    Not paying their property taxes could be catastrophic to a business like the Crookston Inn, Hoiseth said, because if they don’t pay they are prohibited from renewing their liquor license.

    As he’s said on multiple occasions in the past, Hoiseth said the Crookston lodging community faces annual challenges. And, he added, the 2017 construction season was a bit “milder” than usual, meaning fewer workers working on projects in the area spent nights at Crookston hotels and motels. Hoiseth did offer a bit of hope, though, saying that the Canadian dollar is rebounding and sports tourism efforts in Crookston are having an impact, mostly through increased participation in youth hockey tournaments at Crookston Sports Center.

    In addition to their track record of making payment, the committee was inclined to help the Jacobsons out mostly because of how important the Crookston Inn is to the community, and how hard they’re working to be successful over the long term.

    “Their restaurant and lounge, they do pretty well, and their convention space is really special and they do a great job, but it’s a lot of space to consistently book to capacity,” Hoiseth explained. “But filling their rooms, that’s how they’re going to pay the bills. …They’re smart business people, they maybe just didn’t fully realize the challenges of the lodging industry in Crookston when they started.”

    Hoiseth also noted that he met with the Jacobsons’ primary lender in Grand Forks, and he was given the impression during that discussion that if the City and/or CHEDA did not assist the Jacobsons in the form of some modified loan terms “it would send a strong message that the City is not willing to support” the Jacobsons. “They’re watching us and what we do,” he said.

    Hoiseth added that the Jacobsons’ efforts at the Crookston Inn amount to a “good story” to tell about the local business community. “We maybe don’t think about it much, but they are a job hub, too; their payroll is a significant line item,” he said. “I applaud this committee for your vision on this.”

    “It’s quite an undertaking they took on when they bought that place,” Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee added. “They’re trying as hard as they can make a go of it.”