CHEDA Board approves two B3 grants, personnel policy changes

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

The Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Board approved a number of main agenda items at their rescheduled meeting this week including two Building Better Business (B3) grants and CHEDA staff personnel policy manual changes. NT Auto Repair, LLC  received a $3,000 B3 grant for their business at 729 Fairfax Avenue, which is alongside A&L Auto Body, and Sistas Corner received a $5,000 B3 grant for their downtown business located at 121 North Main Street.

NT Auto Repair was formed in June 2021 as a limited liability company by Noah Thompson with the expectation of rapid expansion in the automotive repair industry, their grant application read. Items sought with the grant include marketing material such as jackets and/or uniforms, plus CHEDA Executive Director Robert Barnes told the Times in a phone call that NT Auto is also looking into signage.

The second grantee, Sistas Corner, is a vintage store that originated in rural Fertile but just recently opened in Crookston in the former VFW Post 1902 building. Sistas owner Shirley Iverson plans to use the B3 grant for LED interior lighting, signage on the building, a new front display window and airlock door, flooring and marketing, she told the Times. Since Iverson is a graduate of Crookston Central High and the store was relocated they were eligible for additional grant funds.

"We have 16 regional artists with displayed items for sale in the store," Iverson shared. "We also had our first visiting artist teach wool fiber felting for an evening and the participants made snow people with tons of personality."

"The support of our customers has been astounding," she added. "We are so grateful for all of you."

Note: As with all B3 grants, if a business ceases to operate or relocates outside of Crookston within two years after receipt of grant fund, 50% of all program funds must be repaid. Also, if the project is not completed within six months, 100% of program funds must be repaid.

CHEDA PERSONNEL POLICY MANUAL CHANGES

Barnes told the Times there were two personnel policy manual changes approved by the CHEDA board this week including a change to the section titled "Vacation Leave, Scheduling and Application" and a change to the section titled "Carry Over Vacation." For the vacation leave, the current policy stated that "when an employee has accumulated 144 hours of vacation time and the employee's request for leave is denied because of an administrative decision, the employee will be paid at his/her straight time rate for the denied leave time." That sentence was removed from the current policy following board approval and the change will go into effect on February 1, 2022.

"It was random and inconsistent with the established policy so they deleted that portion," Barnes explained.

The other section on carry-over vacation stated, "Any accrued vacation time in excess of 40 hours will be lost each year after January 31st, unless approved by Executive Director." That sentence was removed from the current policy following board approval and changed to, "The number of accumulated vacation hours will not exceed 150% of the employee's annual accumulation allowed or 216 hours, whichever is less. Failure to keep the hours at or below the maximum allowed will result in no vacation being accrued for each pay period in which the Employee's accumulated vacation hours exceed 150% or 216 hours." That change will also go into effect on February 1, 2022.

Barnes said the previous policy for carry-over vacation was "a little cumbersome" and felt electing the City of Crookston's standard provided a better alignment for CHEDA.

"We'll approve overages this year and use 2022 as a time to get them to 150%," he explained. "Starting next year we'll have a good policy that matches the city policy which we can live with."

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