Council members continue to shift dollars around.

    Although it appears that the 2020 preliminary City of Crookston property tax levy is going to remain at a 3% increase between now and when the city council approves its final budget and levy in September, some dollars in the budget continue to be shifted around. And, in a piece of news that families living in the area of Alexander Street in Crookston’s northeast corner will be pleased to hear, Alexander Park is going to get new playground equipment next year.


    The $30,000 line item from the City’s 2020 Parks & Recreation budget had been nixed in previous budget talks. But it’s been restored, and when Alexander Park gets its new equipment, Parks & Rec Director Scott Riopelle says it’ll be the last of the City’s most prominent parks to receive new equipment since the City and Parks & Rec several years ago decided that, one by one, its primary parks needed an infusion of new playground equipment. There are officially 26 City parks, but some of them are smaller and more primitive in nature and do not have playground equipment.


    At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten last week was the council member to first bring up the possibility of shifting some dollars around so Alexander Park could get its new equipment once and for all.


    It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the park and its proponents over the years. Years ago, as a developer was looking to construct homes on the property around the former Lincoln School, they made a deal with the City to put a new park near the new homes, in exchange for getting to build a couple more homes on the property where Alexander Park was located. But when some park proponents from the neighborhood made emotional pleas to spare their park, the City pulled out of the agreement.


    Fast forward to this year, and Alexander Park was on track to get new equipment in 2020, until council members recommended that the 5% 2020 levy increase proposed by City Administrator Shannon Stassen and Finance Director Angel Weasner be cut back to 3%. As a result, the new playground equipment was pulled out of the 2020 preliminary budget.


    So where is the money coming from?


    Well, although $60,000 has been budgeted to resurface the tennis complex in Highland Park, it’s too late to do the job this year. Since it’s been put off to next year, Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee suggested that $30,000 be taken from that $60,000 for the new Alexander Park playground. As discussions continue leading up to the December final budget and levy approval, $30,000 in savings will need to be found from somewhere else in the budget.


    Potential sources of the savings discussed last week were eliminating the Crookston Police Department’s part-time downtown parking enforcement officer. But Lt. Darin Selzler said the officer has had a positive impact on reducing parking behaviors downtown that violate posted signage, like parking for hours directly in front of businesses even though they’re not customers of those businesses. Stassen agreed, saying business owners have said they’ve noticed a change for the better when it comes to parking behavior downtown.


    Another proposed expense raised, by At Large Council Member Bobby Baird, is the purchase of a Roomba iRobot vacuum for city hall. But Stassen said the goal is to “further spread out” existing custodial staff among City buildings and properties, and having the robot vacuum would help do that. “We have spaces we can’t get staff to,” Stassen said. “We’re trying to be creative and save money on personnel.”