City looks to accelerate carpeting, lighting projects to coincide with projects covered by big Otto Bremer Trust grant

    With Crookston’s Lake Agassiz Regional Library system branch receiving a large grant that will upgrade restrooms, furnishings and fixtures at its downtown location, the City of Crookston, which owns the building, is looking to accelerate improvement projects not within the scope of the grant.

    The Crookston City Council this week agreed to direct City staff to seek bids for new carpeting and new, energy-efficient lighting. The projects were tentatively slated to be taken on in 2019 and 2020 as part of the City’s ongoing, evolving five-year capital improvement plan, but, on the recommendation of City Administrator Shannon Stassen, the council will at least get a feel for how the bids for carpeting and lighting line up with budgeted cost projections. The carpeting and lighting wouldn’t be put in until the projects targeted by the grant dollars are completed, Stassen noted.

    “With all of these positive improvements happening, it seems like the right thing to do to at least go out and seek bids and find out what (new carpeting and lighting) would cost,” he said. “The council has the opportunity to approve (the bids) or deny them.”

    The Otto Bremer Trust grant is for $125,000. The Trust has also thrown in an additional $25,000 and efforts are underway to match that amount through local giving, which would bring the total available to spend to $175,000. Many of the things that will be replaced as a result, explained LARL-Crookston Director Chris Boike, date back to the library’s opening almost 35 years ago, so they are “at the end of their life.”

    The carpeting is not only old, she said, it’s excessively worn, frayed and torn in some spots, leading to a potential safety hazard. As for the new lighting, it’s possible it would qualify the City for a rebate program from Otter Tail Power Company and save as much as $2,500 a year in energy costs.

Like a community center

    Boike, accompanied by several members of the library’s board of directors and LARL Regional Manager Liz Lynch, said the Crookston LARL branch functions as a sort of community center for Crookston and area residents. She said the Crookston Library serves almost 70,000 people per year and is home to 13,000 uses of its computers per year.

    “The statistics are impressive,” Stassen noted. “All ages and all demographics use the library on a regular basis. It’s their primary resources in a lot of cases, so it’s a very important place.”

    “We’re proud, very proud, to be that place,” Boike added. “We started with a new paint job a year ago that did wonders, but we have a lot more work to do.”

    She said most of the projects within the grant’s focus need to be wrapped up within nine months or so, in accordance with the grant parameters.

    Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs agreed that the number of people who regularly use the library is impressive, and the general public as a whole might not be fully aware of its impact. He said he’s been at the library a lot lately because of a course he’s taking. “It’s amazing the traffic that comes in and out of there,” Briggs said. “You should go in there and sit for an hour and read a book and see all the people that come and go. It’s very impressive.”

    Beyond carpet, windows and projects covered by the grant, Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson encouraged Boike and LARL officials to come up with a list of project priorities at the library that include things like the roof, windows, concrete outside and accompanying drainage issues, and other “health and safety” related investments that are needed now or will be needed at some point.