No one has the right to call council members drunks or cowards, he says.
Two weeks after the Crookston City Council agreed to release its second position on the mortgage on the Crookston Inn & Convention Center building in order to make it easier for the business that closed Dec. 28 to reopen under the ownership of its primary mortgage holder, United Valley Bank, a council member Monday night voiced his displeasure with the verbal beat-down he says council members have taken since their vote.
At Large Council Member Bobby Baird, who wrote his thoughts down prior to speaking Monday, during his statement specifically mentioned “social media” as the source of the harsh criticism and name-calling directed at council members and City of Crookston administration. But after the meeting, he offered a clarification to the Times, saying the criticism went beyond social media and was voiced at various bars and other establishments during some big weekend events in town since the council’s Jan. 27 vote.
“For us as council members and City administration to be called cowards, drunks and other names for what we did…” Baird said in the council chambers Monday. “We want to see (the Crookston Inn) going. We don’t need any more empty buildings. So shame on you people.”
Baird credited representatives of the Crookston AmericInn ownership group for voicing their concerns Jan. 27 with the council’s decision and being critical of the vote while standing at the podium in the chambers and identifying themselves publicly.
“The AmericInn people addressed everything at that microphone,” Baird noted. “Social media, you want to cut us down, then come up to the mic.”
Prior to the Jan. 27 vote, Baird said the pros and cons of releasing the second mortgage were debated, with legal counsel weighing in. In the end, he said, the council determined that if releasing the second mortgage would increase the chances of the Crookston Inn remaining open over the long-term, then taking a bit of a financial hit was worth it. (City Interim Administrator Angel Weasner has said there are various legal channels the City could/would pursue with previous owners Todd and Nicole Jacobson in an attempt to recoup the funds.)
Baird said more than 40 employees lost their jobs when the Crookston Inn closed. “That’s 42 paychecks,” he added. Now, previous manager Laurie Stahlecker and her husband, Craig, are leasing the business from United Valley Bank and are looking to hire/rehire 20 to 25 staff and reopen later this month. (Their new liquor license was approved by the council Monday.)
“It’s going to be tough; I know they lost weddings,” Baird said. “But they are leasing it and trying to make it go.”
While City and community leaders continue to work to bring events to Crookston that result in more “heads on beds” at local lodging facilities – a “sports tourism” initiative was launched a few years ago to do just that – Baird said that Crookston’s three biggest hotels – Crookston Inn, AmericInn and Cobblestone – can’t sit back and rely on Ox Cart Days, or the Crookston Blue Line Club to book hockey tournaments or the Convention & Visitors Bureau to create events that bring people to the community to spend a night or two.
“The hotels need to work together, too, and figure it out,” Baird said. “Let’s work together. …You people need to do it, but we will help you.”
The council’s decision to release the second mortgage was about “supporting our local businesses” more than anything else, he continued.
“We have people who sit and complain. Then they go to businesses and want a donation but they don’t support our local businesses,” Baird said. “I’ve been guilty of it, I ain’t afraid to say it. But it stops.”
If the name-calling continues, Baird said he will “call out” the sources of the harsh criticism “next time.”
“No one has the right to call us those names,” he continued. “…Don’t tell me we can’t do it. The City of Crookston, we can get together and make us good again, and we should.”