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DCDP to light up Robert St. Bridge, wants to do more

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    The Crookston City Council this week gave an enthusiastic go-ahead to the rebooted Downtown Crookston Development Partnership to proceed with a project that will illuminate the Robert Street Bridge in spotlights, the colors of which can be changed depending on the time of year or holiday season or special event approaching on the calendar.

    The DCDP is funding the project, which will cost around $10,000.

    DCDP Board members Jess Bengtson and Jeff Evers presented the proposal to the council this week, at its Ways & Means Committee meeting. They said they gathered information from vendors across the state and put together quotes for various types of lighting equipment. In the end, a spotlight-based project with Valley Electric is the way the DCDP is going.

    The City will assist the DCDP by securing the necessary permit through the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

    Bengtson said some lighting styles were either too costly or they weren’t an ideal fit with the bridge. The spotlights will be near the current streetlight fixtures and will be protected from vandals or other types of damage. Each fixture will have a spotlight pointing up and a spotlight pointing down, which will also reflect on the Red Lake River.

    Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs, a member of the DCDP Board, said the lighting will greatly enhance the bridge.

    “It could be impressive as heck,” he said.

Funding request

    The DCDP maintained a fairly high profile under previous leadership and membership but sort of retreated into the background over the past couple of years. But, led by Shirley Iverson and will several other members and stakeholders involved, it’s looking to be not only more visible, but active.

    The City during the DCDP’s previous heyday approved a $40,000 allocation over three years to the DCDP, but subsequently rescinded the funding.

    With a projected $3,000 in the budget once the Robert Street Bridge lighting project is complete, Evers and Bengtson made their pitch this week for the council to allocate $75,000 to the DCDP for other projects it would like to pursue.

    Council members were hesitant to go that route, especially with the pandemic and Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner saying she’s already been directed to trim the budget. But council members and Mayor Dale Stainbrook indicated their support for at least considering funding requests brought forth by the DCDP for specific projects in the future.

    “We took the money back before,” At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said. “I would much rather see you come to us with a project and ask for funds, not just give you $75,000.”

    “$75,000 is awfully tough to find at this point in time,” Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee added. But, he later noted, he’s encouraged by the DCDP’s renewed efforts. “They’re ramping things up and the future is exciting,” he added. “I think we can have a budget discussion about it, but we can’t go and cut the police or fire department budget to free up money.”

    Weasner also noted that, due to statute, the maximum the City would be able to allocate to the DCDP in a single year would be $50,000.

    “We talk about beautifying downtown and this is what they’re trying to do,” Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt said. “It’s worthwhile what they’re doing; if we can try to figure out how to get them some money, it’s worth trying.”

    Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said he’d like to see the DCDP come up with a priority list of potential projects for the council to peruse, in 2021 and beyond.

    Evers said any amount of earmarked money from the City would be beneficial.

    “No matter the size of the (funding) bucket, it would help,” he said. “If there’s no bucket, we get a little scared, wondering if we’re just wasting our time.”

    Evers said people will be hearing more and more about the DCDP’s efforts.

    “There’s a lot of stuff going on with the DCDP that nobody knows about,” he said. “But a lot of positive things are going on, and it’s going to get really fun in the next year or so. We feel there is a lot of value.”

Projects

    The DCDP has continued its energy rebate efforts with downtown property owners, and worked with property owners on alley-lighting projects. Their biggest splash this past summer was the food trucks downtown. Evers said it’s estimated that the trucks brought 6,000 people downtown. He noted that Iverson also visited with owners of local eateries, who indicated the trucks didn’t put a big dent in their bottom line and that they supported the initiative. As part of the initiative, the DCDP purchased a generator for food truck operators to hook up to.

    Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier said a recently completed survey of downtown businesses and property owners could impact future DCDP priorities as well. He said more than 500 comments from more than 60 businesses were collected, and the results will be disseminated soon.