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Crookston Public Schools hosts community meeting ahead of $3.91 million referendum

Community members gathered in the auditorium at Crookston High School to learn about the proposed multi-use sports facility and how much it will cost the community.

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Superintendent Jeremy Olson addresses a small crowd of Crookston residents at a community meeting on Wednesday, June 16, about a proposed athletic facility and referendum.
Ingrid Harbo / Grand Forks Herald
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CROOKSTON, Minn. — Crookston Public Schools on Wednesday evening held its second of four community meetings ahead of a $3.91 million referendum vote later this summer to fund a new multi-sport facility.

A small group of community members gathered in the auditorium at Crookston High School to learn about the facility and, if it's approved, how much it will cost the community. The district will hold the referendum vote on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The district is working with Zerr Berg Architects to plan the new facility, and in total, the project is estimated to cost $3.9 million.

The multi-sport facility is planned for district land to the northeast of Crookston High School. The facility will include an artificial turf field, eight-lane track, press box, seating for 750 people, a concession stand and bathrooms. The space would be able to facilitate practices and competitions for football, track, soccer and softball, as well as baseball practices. During the school day, physical education classes would be able to use the facility.

“There’s pride involved in all of it, and it would be fantastic for our students. Whether you’re an athlete or a student here in PE class, you’re going to get to make use of this facility,” said Nate Lubarski, future athletic director.

The school district currently uses Ed Widseth Field at the University of Minnesota Crookston for home track meets and football games. In recent years, the facility has started to deteriorate as the university has dropped a number of sports programs, including track and football.

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The university system is not willing to sell Ed Widseth Field, so if the district were to pay for repairs to the field, it would be investing in property it does not own. If the district were to build a facility on district land, it could use long-term facilities maintenance funding from the Minnesota Department of Education for future repairs to the facility. Those funds are not available for facilities owned by other entities, like Ed Widseth Field.

Some at the meeting voiced support for the district’s efforts to build its own facility.

“I personally want us to have a complex that has Pirate logos, Pirate names and is part of our school district, not part of UMC,” said Dave Davidson, a member of the Crookston School Board. “I think that would make a world of difference for the environment at our school and the way people look at us.”

Others were critical of the district asking taxpayers for money for a new facility, especially with the cost of materials and interest rates. David Regeimbal, a local farmer, said he will not support the referendum in August, and questioned if the $3.91 million bond will cover the cost of the project considering inflation.

“Two years ago, I was paying 99 cents a gallon for diesel fuel, now I’m paying $5 a gallon. I used to pay $300 a ton for fertilizer, now I’m paying $800 a ton,” said Regeimbal. “To me it’s a poor time for you guys to be asking for more money from anybody with inflation at 8.5% and no end in sight.”

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John Reitmeier, one of the owners of Canna Corners, opened the store in downtown Crookston on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

The total bond amount is estimated to be $3.91 million, to be paid over 12 years. According to Olson, for a residential property valued at $200,000, the yearly tax increase from 2022 to 2023 would be $29. A commercial property valued at $250,000 would see a $67 increase. For agricultural properties, the bond would decrease tax impact because of the School Building Bond Agricultural Credit, a Minnesota tax credit that reduces property tax impact of school building projects on agricultural properties.

Lubarski said the district is exploring possible sponsorships for the facility.

Jeremy Olson, Crookston superintendent, said so far, the community has been quiet with opinions about the referendum.

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“Inflation and some of the things that are happening in our country economically are what I would call a headwind, but I think our tailwind, though, is that we have a sound reason for why we’re trying to do what we’re doing,” said Olson.

Before the Aug. 9 referendum, there will be two more community meetings to discuss the referendum: Wednesday, July 20, and Wednesday, Aug. 3. Those meetings both will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Crookston High School Auditorium.

Related Topics: CROOKSTON
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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