After 5-2 vote in favor of letting CVB/CHEDA collaborate, mayor vetoes resolution

Mike Christopherson

The ongoing saga on what’s to become of the Crookston Visitors Bureau, which emerged from the former Crookston Convention & Visitors Bureau earlier this year when the former CVB and Crookston Chamber of Commerce severed ties, took another couple of twists and turns at Monday evening’s Crookston City Council meeting. 

The council, minus absent Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt, a vocal critic of the CVB, voted 5-2 in favor of a motion to allow the CVB to affiliate with CHEDA, something leaders of the CVB have been pitching for months. The CHEDA Board previously said it would likely be open to the idea, but said the council would have to act on the request first. With CHEDA serving as its fiscal host, the new CVB, which gives a stronger voice to local lodging facility owners than the previous Crookston CVB when it comes to how lodging tax revenue is invested, would be able to access lodging tax dollars. With the new CVB still many months away from securing official non-profit certification, it is unable in its current loosely organized state to access lodging tax dollars, so, according to Crookston Inn owner/manager Laurie Stahlecker, local lodging facility owners are spending their own money to promote and market the new CVB and community events.

The council’s Ways and Means Committee last week voted 5-4 in favor of letting the CVB and CHEDA work together, but it still needed council-level approval. Mayor Dale Stainbrook - the mayor has a vote on motions at the committee level but only votes in the event of a tie at council meetings - voted against the motion last week. He didn’t have a vote a week later at Monday evening’s council meeting, but he had veto power, and he used it. Stainbrook vetoed the motion that passed 5-2, and the council, which according to the city charter needs six votes to override a mayoral veto, came up one vote short, voting 5-2 in favor of an override. Council members Clayton Briggs and Don Cavalier supported Stainbrook’s veto, while council members Bobby Baird, Jake Fee, Steve Erickson, Joe Kresl and Tom Vedbraaten voted for an override. Given Klatt’s recent vocal criticism of the CVB and his mentioning of its previous issues with the Chamber, it’s likely he would have supported the mayor’s veto as well.

Before the vote in favor of the resolution to have the CVB and CHEDA work together, Vedbraaten said “It’s a good deal, let’s get it going and let (the CVB) start to move the city forward.”

Cavalier voiced his continued opposition, saying he feels it’s the City’s responsibility to work with the CVB, not CHEDA’s. Cavalier also said the CVB could move ahead quicker under the City umbrella, because the CHEDA Board would still have to endorse the council’s Monday evening action when they next meet in September.

In explaining his veto, Stainbrook said there continues to be a “hiccup” and other “issues” between the Chamber and the current, new CVB makeup. “It seems like the council is stuck in the middle of this, and if it goes to CHEDA, it will stay the same,” the mayor said, going on to echo Cavalier in saying that it will take longer to get the CVB going with CHEDA than if the entity was affiliated with the City.

When Fee said he thinks tourism is an aspect of economic development and he thinks the CVB and CHEDA is a nice fit, Stainbrook said the Chamber has a marketing mission, too, and that the Chamber and CVB need to “sit down and iron out” their differences. “It’s a must,” the mayor added. “If the City ain’t in the middle of it, CHEDA will be in the middle of it.”

Last week, Stahlecker and Chamber Board Chair Lance Norman each said the executive boards of the two entities would be sitting down soon.

Cobblestone Inn general manager Lisa Tadd and AmericInn owner/manager Cory Dallager attended Monday evening’s meeting. Tadd said she hasn’t witnessed any hostilities between the CVB and Chamber. “I don’t know where that’s coming from,” she said. “We work with the Chamber on our events and I support them as they do me. It’s not a personal vendetta, but that’s what I keep hearing at these meetings. Maybe I’m missing something. We want to push forward to get these funds where they need to be.”

To that, Cavalier said he met with Stahlecker earlier on Monday, and that Stahlecker, who’s been the most frequent public spokesperson of the new CVB in recent months, told him that she’s rather see the CVB work with the City, not CHEDA. Several council members in the chambers, along with Tadd and Dallager, were taken aback by Cavalier’s contention and asked him to clarify, and he didn’t stray from his recollection of his talk with Stahlecker. 

Reached after the meeting, Stahlecker said she did not tell Cavalier she wanted the CVB affiliated with the City and not CHEDA. She said Cavalier approached her to talk about the Crookston Rotary Club and that Cavalier brought up a meeting of the CVB lodging facility group last week, held the morning after the council committee vote in favor of letting the CVB work with CHEDA. 

“I told him it was voted on unanimously that all hotels agreed to go under CHEDA,” Stahlecker told the Times. “I will go on the record and say I did not say (that she wanted the CVB to work with the City, not CHEDA).”

Now what?

Later in the meeting, at the request of Vedbraaten and other council members who voted in favor of letting the CVB and CHEDA collaborate, Stainbrook and Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner committed to fast-tracking the process of getting the CVB and the City together so the CVB can start investing lodging tax dollars.

The Ways & Means Committee has a meeting set for Aug. 31 to set its preliminary 2021 budget and levy, and Weasner said the CVB could be added to the agenda. By that time there will be names brought forth as potential appointees to the new CVB Board of Directors for council members to consider, Weasner added.

Dallager was skeptical of the accelerated timeline.

“Will it get pushed off? We’ve been told (the City) will look into it, and it gets pushed another month down the line,” he said. “…There have been promises before and it’s just been pushed and pushed down the line.”

Weasner committed to getting started on the CVB and City affiliation and collecting names of potential appointees by Wednesday, Aug. 26.