Council Strategic Planning: Finch provides a summary of the priorities discussed

Submitted by Amy Finch
Crookston Times

    Please read on for a summary of the priorities discussed at the City Council Strategic Planning Sessions held on February 17, 2021 and March 1, 2021.

Structure/Process & Council Members roles on non-City Boards and Commissions

    The City Council spent time at both strategic planning sessions discussion the organizational structure of the City and the request to funnel questions or concerns through the City Administrator; the Charter serving as our City’s Constitution; and the roles, responsibilities, and functions of Council members

serving on other non-City boards and commissions.

    The Council heard from the City Attorney on potential real or perceived conflicts that could arise from serving as a voting member on non-City boards and commissions and the Council discussed the uniqueness and statutory requirements, if any, of the board makeup of the various boards such as the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership (DCDP) Board, the Crookston Visitors Bureau (CVB) Board, and the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Board. Information will be further developed and the matter will be brought forth for future discussion and review.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Corridor Study Discussion

    During both strategic planning sessions, the Council discussed the proposed MnDOT Corridor Study that would include MnDOT roads and offers an opportunity for the City to include local streets to be evaluated. The Council, after further discussion, will consider whether to enter into a joint powers agreement with MnDOT, committing the City to carrying out the scope of work for the study, accepting $100,000 from MnDOT and in return hiring a consultant. The joint powers agreement takes the project through the study only, developing three alternatives as outlined in the draft scope of work, and does not take the project through the plan and design stage. A representative from MnDOT will be present at a future City Council meeting to address questions and provide information. Should the city vote to move forward with the project, funding from a rare pool of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) dollars would be included as part of MnDOT’s matching funds.

City Image

    It was discussed how visitors view our City, from the welcome signs as you enter the city to the configuration, lighting, and signage of the City Council Chambers at City Hall. It was agreed creating inviting atmospheres, helping guide visitors, and helping the public feel comfortable when they come into our facilities is a priority.

Future City Direction

    The Council discussed the importance and desire for a vibrant downtown and how we can better disseminate valuable information to our businesses by utilizing our own website and social media and partnering with other community groups like the Chamber.

    The Council talked about the need to “tell our story” and market the amenities of Crookston that can draw people in. It was noted there is a need and desire to attract families to our community. It was mentioned the Comprehensive Plan recognizes a lack of growth of families. The Comprehensive Plan 2035 identifies a red flag for the city’s economic growth being a low percentage of people in the 30-34 cohort that are beginning their careers and families. This led to further discussion about our recreation opportunities and how we can address the Summer Programs for the summer of 2021. City staff committed to starting those conversations early and to have plans in place to adhere to reduced capacities if the Governor’s Executive Orders require that for the safety of our citizens.

    During planning sessions, the City Council agreed that an essential need to find childcare solutions in our community exists and responded positively to a suggestion to champion this issue and encourage conversations and initiatives to find a solution. Corky Reynolds, speaking as a Crookston citizen, mentioned the City of Warren recently built a city-owned childcare center using USDA funding and staff shared that multiple community partners exist that also recognize the childcare issue and will be engaged to work toward a solution. It was stated the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) has resources covering the childcare crisis many communities are facing and it was suggested we reach out to our

legislators for their input.

    Other items of importance that arose during discussion include the need for community members and visitors to access one place for a compilation of community events and how the televisions at the hotels can be used to better market Crookston events.

Community Input

    During the March 1, 2021 Strategic Planning Session, the Council supported a recommendation to reach out to our partners at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) to discuss partnering in the creation and completion of a community survey.

    The importance of offering the survey in multiple formats and through multiple channels was discussed as a way to garner the most community input for the citizens. The school district’s use of surveys and inclusion of a comment section was discussed.

    I first would like to thank our City Council members for their input and participation in two very important strategic planning sessions and for supporting a different way to meet this year.

    The discussions were informed, engaging, and important for the City of Crookston as we consider ways in which we can best carry out our mission and serve the citizens and visitors to our city. I would also like to extend my thanks to those that attended and for our media for the promotion and coverage of the Council’s strategic planning sessions. We look forward to getting to work on the priorities set and

will continue to keep you informed as we make progress.

Amy Finch