The Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Board had a discussion during their meeting Tuesday about the proposed non-profit child care center in Crookston.  Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told the board that there have been no new proposed sites from the public regarding possible locations for a child care center within the City of Crookston. 

Lacking new proposed sites within Crookston the CHEDA board, City Administrator Shannon Stassen and council members in attendance encouraged Hoiseth to continue working to solidify the numbers regarding the cost of retrofitting the former Glenmore Recovery Center. While Hoiseth said it remains a valuable discussion about whether or not there would be a city or CHEDA investment, local businesses have been very supportive of providing financial support to make the child care center feasible. “Our business community is very forward thinking,” said Hoiseth.  “They realize there is a problem in child care and they are willing to come forward and say they’ll invest in that problem to help our workforce.  It’s been exciting some of the conversations I’ve had with some of the major employers in town that are willing to come forward and say we want in, we want some slots, we want our employees taken care of and actually bring in some dollars on an ongoing basis to make sure this child care center is able to function for years to come.  I compliment the business community with that forward-thinking attitude.  It gives us a lot more strength as a community, the City or CHEDA if we invest in it.”

Councilman Jake Fee spoke in support of a one-time investment by the city to help get the center off the ground while Councilman Tom Vedbraaten wanted to know what “skin” was in the game for those running the proposed child care center.  Hoiseth said that “skin” in the game is a bit harder to quantify with a non-profit because you won’t see an equity return with a financial investment.  But he did estimate that Erika Leckie has spent more than 1,000 hours working to get a non-profit organization established, securing a $20,000 grant for the center in addition to planning on closing her own child care business to run the center. 

Hoiseth, Stassen, CHEDA board members and council in attendance all seemed to agree that it would be preferential that any investment by the City of Crookston is a one-time investment.  But it was also noted that the need will continue to grow with the proposed business development within the next two years and that a longer-term investment shouldn’t be ruled out to make sure the child care need of the community are met. 

Councilman Dale Stainbrook said to move forward, there needs to be some solid numbers on what it will cost to get the child care center operational.  Hoiseth said the current child care centers realize there is a need for child care, they are just worried about their staff getting poached, while adding he would do the work to have some pretty solid numbers in place before the CHEDA meeting in May. “Ultimately the board had a really good positive discussion today with a contribution from administration and council,” said Hoiseth.  “We think we’re on the right track.  It may end up being a child care center on the outskirts of town.  We’re still looking for other partners or opportunities inside the city limits.  But if none come forward, we are ready to move forward and try to put together the best deal.  The board was somewhat insistent that we keep pressing forward and do something not just keep talking about the issue.  That may well include investment and by the next meeting, I’ll have some numbers put together so the board can scrutinize what that may look like.  I’m really excited and think if everything falls into place we could see something happening here by the end of the summer.”

Many employers throughout the area including the City of Crookston have had either potential employees turn down a job or leave a position due to a lack of child care in the area.  Most recently, Otter Tail Power Company lost two employees who couldn’t find available child care within 45 miles of Crookston. 

The board also approved its first grant through the Building Better Business (B3) program for DaRoos for $3,000.  Hoiseth said he anticipates after this first grant CHEDA will start to receive grant application monthly.  “We’ve been seeing a number of those applications go out as people take them and become aware of the Building Better Business program,” said Hoiseth.  “In the event, a business ceased to be in operation within two years they’d have to pay back 50 percent.  It truly is a grant to help a business get better, have more vitality.  Daroos was the first to come back and the board approved to forward $3,000 to them.  Primarily that will be to help their business establish a buffet for patrons to be in and out quicker for lunch.  And then also a lot of things that will help their marketing and exposure trying to build that brand here in Crookston.”

Paul Eickhoff commented that improved service would also help and Hoiseth said increased service training was a common theme for Crookston restaurants last year when CHEDA brought a restaurant consultant to Crookston. 

A resolution was passed to request that CHEDA be allowed to remove vacant units at the Oak Court Apartments from the Inventory Management System/Public & Indian Housing Information Center (IMS/PIC) to be used as temporary units to relocate current tenants to while plumbing work is completed in various areas of the facility.  By passing the resolution, it is possible CHEDA can still receive a subsidy for the vacant apartments and Hoiseth said the goal is to make the project as easy on tenants as possible. “Our desire is to be as less intrusive as we can for all the tenants,” said Hoiseth.  “That would be taking their bedroom over to another apartment where they can live while the plumbing project is underway in their apartment.  If they want to go stay with a relative or something like that they can.  And the last resort would be that we put them into a hotel for those few weeks if we don’t have apartments available.”

Overall the project is expected to last 12 to 18 months and cost $1.3 million.  The board also passed a resolution for the signing of the 2019 Oak Court operating budget required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and made a correction to the buyer on a previous resolution to sell the 2018 Construction Trades house at 1609 Hoven Lane.  The resolution now lists Matthew and Jean Altepeter as the correct buyer of the property.