Some predictable but no less telling divisions in the Crookston community emerged when the CHEDA Board of Directors last week turned a cold shoulder to developer Jeff Evers’ request for around $290,000 in City funding, not to be paid back, as well as a 20-year tax increment financing district to help get his Fournet building redevelopment plans off the ground. 

    Some predictable but no less telling divisions in the Crookston community emerged when the CHEDA Board of Directors last week turned a cold shoulder to developer Jeff Evers’ request for around $290,000 in City funding, not to be paid back, as well as a 20-year tax increment financing district to help get his Fournet building redevelopment plans off the ground. There are a lot of city council members on the CHEDA Board, so it’s safe to say the council wouldn’t look upon Evers’ request with more favorable eyes.

    There are the people who despise paying taxes more than having all their teeth pulled without benefit of anesthesia: “Who’s going to pay for all of that free money? Us taxpayers, that’s who!” they say.

    There are other business people and developers in town, some of whom have received loans from the City and/or CHEDA in the past, that they’ve paid back: “Sure wish I could get some of that free money!” they say.

    Then there are the especially enthusiastic, motivated people who think a redeveloped Fournet building could be the key to a downtown rebirth. They also think what happens, or doesn’t happen, in a positive fashion at the historic building is a symbol of where the community at large is headed, either for the better or the worse: “What a sad day!” they said last week. “This town is going down the tubes!”

    Everyone’s reactions are understandable to varying degrees, but the latter group is probably onto something when they wonder when the city council and the current City brass are going to turn all of the talk they’re engaging in week after week into some actual action. This council can’t fit any more irons on the fire right now; it’s time to clear some space. Decide to do some things, decide to not to some things, and then move on, finally, to some new things. You keep saying the budget’s in good shape, but if you refuse to spend any significant money on anything significant, then lower the tax levy and give the people their money back.

    And, about Evers...

    In most situations, this guy is, indeed, more than likely the smartest guy in the room. You can just see the wheels in his head spinning so fast, and you can also see how all of that fast motion interferes with his ability to communicate with 100 percent effectiveness in formal, official situations, like when he’s trying to explain to the city council what he wants to do at the Fournet building. A casual observer can deduct that Evers would much rather be articulating his visions over a beer, not around a conference room table.

    There are some progressive, enthusiastic people on the CHEDA Board of Directors who aren’t afraid to get things done, and if they are immediately put off by the mere two-page document Evers typed up detailing his plans and what he was asking the City to contribute to his project, that’s the best indication yet of how much of an uphill climb this development is currently facing.

    But one things needs to be made clear: While the decision-makers might be troubled by the lack of details provided by Evers to date, that’s a convenient excuse more than anything. They are far more concerned about the almost $300,000 “gift” they say he’s seeking, and the 20-year tax-increment financing district that’s a big part of his financing package. He could present 50 pages of full-color, laminated plans as well as a slick PowerPoint featuring every possible engineering estimate and architectural design, and the powers-that-be would be no less cool to paying almost $300,000 to contribute an elevator and new skylights to the Fournet project, as well as establishing the TIF district.

    Amid all the social media drama after last week’s Times’ stories on Evers, the Fournet, and the CHEDA Board meeting, council member Clayton Briggs chimed in briefly, telling people not to completely count out something getting done at the Fournet building.

    Let’s hope Briggs is right, and let’s also hope that Evers, City/CHEDA leaders, and the various camps in the community can get behind whatever emerges.