Crookston Community Survey says: There’s room for improvement

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Rural Crookston farmer Robin Brekken, speaking during a public hearing at this week’s Crookston City Council meeting, wondered why people should be excited about the City potentially taking over economic development activities, when a recent survey disseminated by City Administrator Amy Finch essentially shows, Brekken contended, around a 50% approval rate when it comes to the performance of the City, staff and the city council.

    Most politicians would likely be OK with a 50% approval rate, but if the City was being graded on an A to F scale, Brekken noted, the survey results would show the City deserved an F.

    Finch disseminated the survey in conjunction with her proposal to dissolve the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority and replace it with a City-run Community Development Department and an independent housing and redevelopment authority. The survey’s 20 questions sought respondents’ views on the City website and City services, but most of the questions sought feedback on how people feel about the City and city council’s responsiveness, professionalism and overall performance. A batch of questions specific to CHEDA sought similar input.

    In all, 701 online responses were received, in addition to 16 hard-copy responses.

    The City retained a third-party firm, Vocal Fuel LLC in Fertile, led by Megan Pederson, tabulate the survey results, and she presented them at this week’s council meeting, held in the Crookston High School auditorium.

    Here are some highlights from Pederson’s report:

    • Asked if they think there is a high level of professionalism at city hall, 46 strongly agreed, 149 agreed, 154 somewhat agreed, 134 neither agreed nor disagreed, 112 somewhat disagreed, 85 disagreed, and 40 strongly disagreed.

    • Asked if they think city hall reasonable addresses needs and concerns, 45 strongly agreed, 135 agreed, 100 somewhat agreed, 187 neither agreed nor disagreed, 64 somewhat disagreed, 138 disagreed, and 47 strongly disagreed.

    • In a question seeking their recommendations for things the City could offer more of or do better, the most respondents, 64, said provide more programs for children and teens, and 58 said there should be more community and adult education. Beyond that, 41 said to use the Red Lake River better and have more natural areas, parks and trails, 40 said better communications and planning, and 38 said better use of Crookston Sports Center.

    • Asked if the City serves the best interests of its residents, 58 strongly agreed, 136 agreed, 99 somewhat agreed, 199 neither agreed nor disagreed, 61 somewhat disagreed, 120 disagreed, and 41 strongly disagreed.

    • Asked if they feel comfortable attending a meeting at city hall, 47 strongly agreed, 158 agreed, 49 somewhat agreed, 190 neither agreed nor disagreed, 50 somewhat disagreed, 138 disagreed, and 55 strongly disagreed.

    • Asked if they’re confident in city council members making decisions in the best interests of residents, 11 strongly agreed, 47 agreed, 94 somewhat agreed, 103 neither agreed nor disagreed, 165 somewhat disagreed, 164 disagreed, and 105 strongly disagreed.

    • Asked if council members do their best to represent residents of their wards, 17 strongly agreed, 72 agreed, 151 somewhat agreed, 133 neither agreed nor disagreed, 141 somewhat disagreed, 105 disagreed, and 71 strongly disagreed.

    • Asked if they understand the services provided by CHEDA, 221 answered yes, 262 answered no, and 99 indicated they were unsure.

    • On a scale of 1 to 10, survey respondents’ average overall rating of CHEDA satisfaction was 3.46.

    • Asked for their concerns about CHEDA or recommendations going forward, 46 indicated they’re concerned about business transactions, 64 indicated they have concerns about the character of CHEDA leadership, 51 indicated CHEDA Board members lack in the areas of communication, educating and marketing CHEDA initiatives, 81 indicated they desire more transparency.

    • Regarding making changes to CHEDA, whether it involves its leadership, board and/or creating a City Community Development Department in CHEDA’s place, 247 specifically indicated they support such changes, while 54 specifically indicated they support CHEDA remaining as is.