City Council approves new naming policy for parks, land and facilities

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

Crookston City Council recently approved a resolution calling for a public hearing to authorize abatements for the housing incentive program, declared police impound vehicles as surplus vehicles, approved the Crookston Police Department’s request to pre-order two vehicles for 2022, renewed the cash farm lease for the lagoon property through 2024, and approved a resolution adopting the city’s new policy for naming city-owned lands and facilities. Here’s more information and some of what was discussed on each topic:  

    • Abatement Public Hearing - There were three properties that the City Council has proposed to abate the city’s share of property taxes for a period of two years including 616 5th Ave South, 701 Euclid Ave, and 1609 Hoven Lane. A public hearing will be held on Monday, November 22 at 7 p.m. at City Hall in the council chambers to consider the tax abatement. During the council’s discussion, At-Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten asked about the 5th Ave South property and wondered if it was two lots as it looked like a house on one and a garage on the other, and he didn’t think they should be abating a garage lot. Building Official Greg Hefta said there was some discussion with the Planning Commission as there was a half of a lot pulled into the lot on 616 5th Ave (South.) According to the assessor’s website and the tax records that was accessed at that moment by City Clerk Ashley Rystad, it showed a house and a garage on the lot which could have meant the parcels were previously combined. Mayor Dale Stainbrook said, at the time, they split the lot into two so the price was more reasonable and whoever bought the house could have got the other lot and combined them. City Administrator Amy Finch mentioned that city staff are also working on a housing incentive program that will come in front of the council for consideration for the upcoming year.

    • Surplus Vehicles - A number of police impound vehicles, which are considered as city-owned property, were approved to be declared surplus vehicles that could be sold as salvageable vehicles through the State of Minnesota online auction website, plus selling or disposing of junk vehicles to local salvage yards. Vehicles include a 1999 Chevrolet Blazer, 2003 Chevrolet Malibu, 2006 Mercury Montego, 2005 Dodge Durango, 2006 Dodge Stratus, 2005 Buick Lacrosse, and 2008 Chevrolet Uplander. Council Member Briggs asked what the funds would be used for and Crookston Police Lieutenant Darin Selzler said it’s all dictated by Minnesota Statute and has to go back into DWI enforcement such as body cameras, in-car cameras, radars, portions of costs for vehicle equipment, and training that is DWI related. When it comes to junk vehicles, Selzler added that if they’re damaged such as being obtained through a pursuit those vehicles are determined as “junk” and bid out to local salvage yards with the highest bidder getting the vehicle.

    • CPD Vehicle Pre-Order - Due to COVID, electronic parts for vehicle manufacturing has been increasingly difficult to obtain and has limited availability of several vehicle models which has, in turn, caused ordering and building by manufacturers to be on a first come, first serve basis. The Crookston Police Department has requested to pre-order two budgeted vehicles for 2022 and, after reviewing state bid pricing and local dealerships, has recommended pre-ordering from Christian Brothers Ford (2022 Ford Police Utility Patrol Vehicle) and from Brost Chevrolet (2022 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Investigation Vehicle.) Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt wondered if there was an option for leasing vehicles so they could go back every three years or so to get a newer vehicle plus, later, cited warranty options and a potential lesser cost out of pocket. Selzler said he’s talked with Enterprise Rent-A-Car about leasing and could ask other companies, but has found that the number of vehicles required to get into a lease program is a large number yet was something they could explore down the road possibly with other department heads. The CPD would still need to “up-fit” the vehicles with proper equipment as well. When asked by Vedbraaten how often the CPD replaces vehicles now, Selzler said approximately every four years and one vehicle they’re looking to replace with the pre-order has several thousand dollars in repairs to be made.

    • Cash Farm Lease for Lagoon Property - Administrator Finch told the Council that the Lagoon Cash Farm Lease agreement with the city and the tenant, Edward Helgeson, expired on October 31, 2021 and after advertisements they did not receive any bids so they reached out to Helgeson to see if he was still interested and he was. In the renewed agreement, that would extend through October 31, 2024, the tenant would pay the landlord $5,000 per farm season for the 89 tillable acres, pay all costs of operation to maintain the farm, prevent noxious weeds from going to seed on the farm, control soil erosion and maintain the buffer.

    • Naming Policy - The new naming policy states that it wants to ensure that parks, recreational areas and facilities are “easily identified and located”, that the names designated for those places are “consistent with the values and characters of the area or neighborhood served”, to encourage public participation in the naming, and to encourage the donation of lands, funds for land acquisition or development. The policy would be reserved for “exceptional circumstances” and its purpose would establish a “systematic and consistent approach.” Other parts of the criteria is that city-owned lands or parks shall not be named for benefactor organizations, groups or businesses, but sub-facilities such as rooms or playgrounds may be considered; no city-owned land or facility shall be named after a seated elected or appointed official nor shall it be named after a person whose contribution to the city was or is a part of that individual’s normal duties as an employee of the city. Council Member Vedbraaten initially asked to table the resolution for adoption of the naming policy saying with everybody being so “touchy” today and the diversity in the country he thought it might cause the city some problems and it should be held off until things settle down. Administrator Finch said the policy was spurred from two recent requests and the city has no criteria right now nor does it have a formal application process. Some Council members thought there should be a format and to make it more “equitable.” Finch said where she lived and worked before they had a similar policy and her research on eight other cities discouraged renaming of city facilities unless there was a compelling reason to do so. After a motion and second to approve, Finch reassured the Council that requests would come to them as a final decision.

City of Crookston