The Crookston Ways & Means Committee accepted two staff proposals Monday night to move forward with a couple of projects to benefit recreational opportunities for the City of Crookston. The committee moved forward with a trial program to provide water for rinks and pools in Crookston and improve lighting on city trails.

In December, former City Councilman Jake Fee posed whether the City of Crookston could help residents build outdoor ice rinks during the winter and fill pools during the summer with some type of water program. The proposal brought forward Monday sets guidelines to waiver water fees during the pandemic for those activities.

City Administrator Amy Finch said the proposal that staff came up with was based on the model used by East Grand Forks. “We looked at some surrounding communities and modeled our proposal after East Grand Forks, by allowing a waived water sewer charge on up to 8,000 gallons of water utilized within a one-month period to flood an ice skating rink or fill a pool in the summer months,” said Finch. “We targeted the months of January 25 through July 31. Asking that a citizen would call in first and then, we would utilize our new metering system to look back at that usage and apply a credit for the sewer fee on that water. The gallons of water would still be applied to that bill, but the sewer rate would be abated or waived.”

Although many people may have already flooded their rinks for the winter, Finch said the proposed program wouldn’t cover those past charges. “We did talk about that,” said Finch. “When staff evaluated what options we had, one of the discussion points was the unusually mild weather this winter. Until pretty recently, that probably wouldn’t have been able to make ice very well and keep it. So, we really decided we needed to have a good starting point. We picked January 25 because that would be the day that resolution could be adopted to move forward from there. At this point, we’re not considering a look back period.”

Councilman Clayton Briggs said he’d received three calls asking if a water waiver would be for those who want to water their lawns and keep them clean as well. Councilman Joe Kresl said adding a water program through the summer for watering lawns would increase the cost. And Councilman Kristie Jerde said she believed yard watering was a separate issue. The committee shouldn’t get caught up in the weeds while providing another opportunity for people to feel like Crookston is a welcoming community to families.

The City Council will vote on whether to approve the program at its next meeting on January 26. Asked if calling in for the program in the final days of the month would qualify the entire month of January for the program, Finch said she doesn’t believe so. “That is a very good question that I would have to dig into,” said Finch. “We didn’t discuss it to that length. The intent was to call before, and that would be in the resolution. So, likely, we would not be looking back (in January). Our new metering system really allows some pretty focused review of usage, so we would be able to pinpoint from the time of the call forward.”

At the same December meeting, Councilman Steve Erickson said he’d heard some feedback that the city needed to improve the lighting on some of its paths. Erickson said the paths are popular, and the city spends a lot of money to build and maintain them, so making them available after dark, especially during the winter when the sun goes down at 4:30 p.m., would be a good idea.

The City staff evaluated the paths around Crookston, identifying two areas that could use improved lighting said, Finch. “When staff evaluated, they identified they identified the Fairfax/3rd Avenue South path and the Evergreen Estates or Cedar Court path,” said Finch. “On the Fairfax, which is not in a residential area, we can estimate about 15 fixtures put upon existing poles for an estimated annual cost of $2,000 to add more lighting.”

Otter Tail Power Company would own those poles on a program similar to what the city utilizes for its streetlights. The committee moved the Fairfax proposal ahead to City Council.

The committee asked for a deeper look at options and feedback from the property owners along the residential Evergreen (Cedar Court) path. Two options were presented Monday, but Finch said staff will continue to explore alternative options. “Staff is going to look into some additional options and get public and council feedback,” said Finch. “It is in a residential area. The path abuts the backs of some homes. For approximately $1,100 a year, nine fixtures and polls could be installed 250 feet apart to provide lighting. However, there was some discussion – how would the residents prefer that type of lighting in their back yard. We did receive another very rough estimate on some LED poles about 10 feet tall that were approximately $15,000 for installation. With that price tag, we wanted some council direction of whether they’d like us to pursue that further. We are going to work at the staff level to see if there are any additional options available. Also, considering council and public feedback during that time and try to bring back some items to discuss at a future meeting.”

Finch also proposed a new strategic planning format to the committee. Rather than one seven to eight-hour day-long session, Finch proposed two shorter evening meetings over several weeks.

Finch said she hopes to help the City set 2-3 stronger priorities that staff can focus on. “I’ve been invited to sit on a visioning discussion with some community leaders that are members on other boards and leaders of organizations,” said Finch. “I hope to bring some of the priorities from those meetings to get Council feedback as well as feedback from the directors. Have some focused discussion during one, 2-2.5-hour session. Then, a couple of weeks after that, follow up with a second two-hour session to really fine-tune some of our discussion so staff can come out with 2-3 really strongly identified priorities of the Council so I can come back and figure out how to allocate resources. How to partner and really focus on those 2-3 items that year and report on the progress we’ve made. So, hopefully, it will be a good change, and we’ll get some good discussion out of it.”

The committee also approved committee assignments. The following appointments were made:

  • Airport Committee: reappointments of Rob Tollefson and Larry Brekken
  • Charter Commission: reappointments of Frank Lindgren and Donna Larson; new appointment Bobby Baird
  • CHEDA Board: reappointment of Kurt Heldstab
  • Development Policy & Review Committee: reappointment of Don Boone; appointment of Dana Johnson
  • Library Board: reappointments of Phil Huck and Bill Peterson
  • Planning Commission: reappointments of Jennifer Tate and Shirley Iverson

There is still one opening on the Charter Commission. The Councilmembers committee assignments are below – 

  • Mayor Dale Stainbrook – Charter Commission
  • Tom Vedbraaten – CHEDA Board, Development Policy & Review Committee 
  • Steve Erickson – CHEDA Board, Crookston Visitor’s Bureau, Airport Commission (Liaison)
  • Don Cavalier – Charter Commission, Polk County Planning & Zoning, Chamber of Commerce (Liaison)
  • Joe Kresl – Crookston Visitor’s Bureau, Planning Commission
  • Dylane Klatt – Development, Policy & Review Committee
  • Kristie Jerde – Downtown Crookston Development Partnership, Park Board (Liaison)
  • Clayton Briggs – Lake Agassiz Regional Library Board, Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force, Library Board (Liaison), Vice-Mayor
  • Wayne Melbye – CHEDA Board (Liaison)