The Times conducted an interview with Crookston City Council Ward 6 candidate Chris Plante ahead of the January 22 committee interviews that will be held at City Hall. Here's what Chris has to say on a number of topics:
What interests you in serving on the city council?
It was an idea I had four or five years ago to run for the City Council. This time around I decided to go ahead and do it. I would like to serve the citizens of my ward and residents of Crookston to the best of my abilities, and be involved in the process of bettering our community.
What do you hope to accomplish if you are chosen?
I’ve been to a lot of the city council meetings since the process has started. My main thing I want to accomplish as a council person is making sure the city goes on a forward path and obtaining new companies and jobs to come into this town, revitalize the city. I want to be a part of that process and make sure we keep things moving forward. Some things sit idle. It’s important to me being a lifelong citizen to keep moving forward and get new businesses to come to Crookston.
What do you feel is more important for Crookston right now? Building new homes and commercial space or expanding or rehabbing our existing homes and storefronts?
I think it’s important that we build on new businesses and homes, that’s all important, but also we have to maintain the buildings we have and renovate them, and get them looking nice and usable. We don’t want to see too many buildings go vacant and sit for some time. We have to do both. (We need to) rehab homes so anyone new coming to Crookston sees that we are doing things to maintain the stuff we have. It's important we keep on top of things.
What are your thoughts on Epitome Energy? Do you know much about the proposed facility? Do you think it’s a good investment?
I think Epitome Energy would be good for Crookston. I have looked at some of the documents. I look at it this way, it’s a business that wants to come to town and we need to do everything we can to bring this to town. It tells a lot about a business that wants to invest in this community; They want to bring jobs and revenue. I've heard some negative things, but there’s nothing negative by bringing a business like that to Crookston. It will have a domino effect on many things like housing and traffic to other businesses. I’m 100% behind Epitome Energy.
Unfortunately, there weren’t enough votes to approve you as the Ward 6 council member the last time you applied. Did that persuade your thinking at all when you applied this time? Were you hesitant or did that make you want to apply even more?
I was still very interested in it. Coming up short of the one vote to appoint me did not change my mind one bit. This is something I have a passion for and I want to be a part of the decision making, and feel I could do a good job with it. I want to represent the citizens of my ward and residents of Crookston. I want to get on there and stay on there, and make a difference.
Do you feel that the current council is split on too many things making it hard to get things done for the city? Why or why not?
Well I don’t know that they’re really split, but the more they look at things they have to get a little bit more acquainted with some of the stuff that’s going on. They seem to be working good together. Of course you may have some disagreements between one or the other because that’s where you need to find the facts. Everything will fall into place. If I'm appointed to Ward 6, I’d like to help with making those decisions and stuff that has to happen for the city.
What are your feelings on the current City Charter? Some proposed changes were suggested recently, but the commission didn't elect to make any changes to those areas. How do you feel about a majority rules vote to pass ordinances versus the need for a five-member vote if there are vacancies on the council?
The charter hasn’t been touched for many many years. I feel that the people on the charter board, there should be some changes made. In this instance, some of the voting power is not there. I would like to see charter changes. I think that the majority should rule especially with a vacancy of one or two seats, or if someone is on vacation and there needs to be something passed. I think it should be reworded for majority rules in events if there is shortage of proper voting body; Reworded just so we don’t end up with another predicament like we have here.
What are your feelings on Downtown Crookston? Do you feel it’s healthy and successful? Or does it need a lot of work?
Downtown Crookston you see some empty buildings that are not being utilized yet. I realize there are some projects underway to remodel; It would be nice to see a lot more rehabilitation of downtown buildings, get them occupied. The more we can bring into Crookston it will be better for the city’s coffers. I think we need a plan to help investing with different investors, keep downtown vital. There are so many buildings in different cities that are vacant and it’s sad. We want to see Crookston grow; Keep our young people here with jobs and stuff.
Do you feel that Crookston is marketed properly? Do you feel our amenities, like the CSC, downtown, parks and other amenities, are getting the attention they deserve?
I know there could be some improvements on marketing what we have to offer. I think the CSC is being underused for different events; There could be more marketing for the CSC. We should be hosting different tournaments, too. We’ve just recently had a motel that closed and I don’t know if it’s not enough events to keep it afloat or marketing of events. I think we need improvements on promoting our city and what we have to offer. I know there are some slow steps to try to improve, but I think we could do more as a community.
What is your favorite place to visit in Crookston?
I actually go to a lot of the stores here, Walmart, Hugo's, gas stations. I do attend the movie theater on occasion and several different eating establishments. I try to patronize all of Crookston's businesses. I buy vehicles at a local dealership, too. It's important for the council to support your businesses in town. I support the local hardware store, all the businesses I can support in Crookston I do that. It’s very vital to keep them up and going too. Any business that goes out of town hurts us. As a community we should shop local if we can.
If you received a $1 million grant to use any way you wanted for the City of Crookston, what would you do with it and why?
I guess I would put it into maybe the youth center that’s been established here not too long ago; Keep them and maintain that for something for the kids to do. I'd also invest in the senior center, maybe some upgrades there, donations to help serve the food and stuff. Maybe revitalizing some of the downtown to help the business owners, too. You could actually do a lot with that. I’m a big animal advocate so I bet the Humane Society could use some of that, too, to support them also.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I was just going to mention I have a passion for serving citizens of Ward 6 and Crookston. My experience working with capital improvement projects and budgeting, that’s what I currently do for work, I feel I bring good things to the table with planning and organizing. I feel I have a good experience to deal with things at the city council level and Crookston level, with buildings and grounds and stuff. I feel I have a lot of experience and good experience.