The Crookston City Council held their annual Strategic Planning Session Saturday and covered a variety of “new” topics as well as going back to what was covered at the 2019 meeting, plus what is currently labeled as an “in progress” project or issue.

    Here is a breakdown of what was on the list of topics to discuss:

    OLD TOPICS/IN PROGRESS - Code of Conduct, Otter Tail Energy Audit, Tobacco Free Policy, Child Care Funding, Nature’s View Estates, Custodial Services, Snow Plowing Procedures, Otter Tail Franchise with American Crystal Sugar Company, Strengthening the Relationships with the Schools/Chamber/CVB/CHEDA and more, Garbage Services, Money Allocated to CHEDA, Cultural Awareness and Diversity Training, Live Video of Council Meetings on Channel 3, Funding for a Concert at the CSC, Downtown Business District, Road Diet, Blue Line Club Contract, Old Cathedral Rehabilitation, “Rundown” Buildings, Outdoor Pool, Promoting Entrepreneurship and Technical Trades, Housing Collaboration, Old High School and Lincoln School, and Annexation Opportunities.

    NEW TOPICS - Workforce Housing, Walking Bridge from Sampson to Groveland, Crookston Sports Center, Campground, Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Downtown Sidewalks, Downtown Mixed-Use Building, Land Option for Epitome Energy, Food Shelf, Childcare, and Coronavirus.

CODE OF CONDUCT

    The Council’s Code of Conduct was approved in June 2019, but the council had yet to sign the sheet saying they have each received it which is something requested from interim City Administrator Angel Weasner.

OTTER TAIL ENERGY AUDIT

    There have been multiple LED lighting upgrades done throughout the city and Otter Tail Power Company is currently finishing up wit the CSC. Weasner said she hasn’t done a full analysis on what the cost difference will be/has been, but will get back to the council. At-Large City Council Member Tom Vedbraaten suggested the city should trim the trees near some of the lights around town to let them shine brighter and Mayor Dale Stainbrook thought they might get some “kick-back” if they do that.

SNOW-PLOWING PROCEDURES

    Weasner said she knows the council would like to have a meeting with someone from the street shop to see what their process is for snow-plowing, and says a meeting time/date is being worked on.

GARBAGE SERVICES

    Weasner said she still has to get quotes for the cost of a garbage truck with an articulating arm, but that garbage services are still at the forefront of potential projects. Vedbraaten said the people he has talked to are really up against the proposed garbage carts/cans and Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt said the opposite, that people in his ward want city garbage like other cities have and think the yellow and orange garbage system the city currently uses is the “oddest thing in the world.” Ward 5 Council Member Joe Kresl talked about people not being as lucky as others to be so close to the transfer station or to have a pickup to haul garbage before Klatt went back to say new families coming to town look for the city to have a better garbage collection service.

    Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs said there were a few people in favor of the garbage carts, but some have wondered where they will store them and have concerns if they’re sitting on the curb or left in the street. Weasner said she will come back to the council once she has an idea on the cost of the carts and truck with articulating arm.

    Weasner added that the city currently judges garbage collection by weight and that is why the yellow and orange garbage bags are in place. If the city were to allow residents to put out their own garbage bags there would be no way to judge the weight.

    When the council talked about people continuing to haul garbage to the Polk County Transfer Station, Kresl said their group, as a whole, needs to do a tour of the transfer station/recycling center in Fosston to see the “amazing” large-scale facility as he just had the opportunity through his employer, the University of Minnesota Crookston.

    “It’s a pretty neat outfit,” Kresl added.

DOWNTOWN BUSINESS DISTRICT

    There has been talk about approaching the downtown businesses to see if there is a consensus on sidewalk clean-up through the winter which means a district would be formed and a fee would be implemented. Most of the council thought the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership should be facilitating that conversation and, when asked, Briggs said there was a problem getting the group together for an annual meeting to elect officers and go through the project list but, he added, there have been conversations with some businesses who are interested in a downtown business district. Kresl thought the DCDP also needs to be more involved with trying to drive businesses to come downtown and grow the district.

    Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier told the council that there is a survey that went around to downtown businesses asking about a variety of items including snow removal, and he hopes to get them all collected in the next few weeks and will let them know what the results are. He added that the DCDP’s Shirley Iverson has been assisting him with those surveys.

ROAD DIET

    Admitting they haven’t heard anything new about the potential “road diet” or “road calming” measures that could be implemented downtown, the council felt that it should still be explored. Weasner said they were presented with three different versions of a “diet” and Kresl added that the Planning Commission selected one of the three that had planters that could be removed in the winter for snow removal. Kresl asked Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson specifically, because Erickson is a downtown business owner, if he felt that slowing people down with a new road layout would help his business and was quickly answered with a “I don’t think so.”

    Erickson said the retail world is changing and they need to look at other ways to drive traffic into downtown stores.

    “Everybody wants a downtown feel and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he admitted. “Downtown retail is not the future.”

    The conversation shifted briefly to downtown sidewalks and Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee said he’s not opposed to wider sidewalks, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation has made it “clear” there are no plans for 30 years. Fee and Erickson then agreed the city should look at fixing the paved sidewalks first.

    Cavalier got right back to downtown businesses and thought there needs to be more advertising of what downtown has to offer adding he’d like to get some groups together to work on that. That’s when Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority Director Craig Hoiseth said the city could learn a little from what Fosston is doing and said signage also needs to improve after hearing from RiverView Health CEO Carrie Michalski who recently took trips to cities south of Crookston and north of Crookston.

    “The signage is terrible,” Hoiseth admitted. “No one outside the community knows what we’re doing and we’re not doing much to help direct them into town.”

    Mayor Stainbrook recalled a DCDP presentation by a business owner from Grand Forks who said one of the first things was to get signage for the business district. Kresl agreed saying there’s not  much advertising about Crookston outside of town and thought they should spend a little money to attract visitors. Klatt thought the older generation wants more signs and the younger generation will use their phone to look up what the city has to offer which, in turn, means better online advertising and updated websites.

    See Part 2 for more of the Strategic Planning Session conversation.