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Crookston school referendum narrowly fails

In a tight race on Tuesday, Aug. 9, voters in Crookston rejected the referendum with 50.3% no votes.

Crookston Field Rendering 2.jpg
An artist's rendering shows what the multi-use facility that Crookston Public Schools held a referendum for in August could look like.
Contributed / Zerr Berg Architects
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CROOKSTON — In a tight race, it seems Crookston voters rejected a Crookston Public Schools referendum for a multi-sport athletic complex on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

According to early and unofficial results, with all precincts reporting, it appears the $3.9 million referendum failed with 49.73% yes votes. A total of 1,675 ballots were cast in the special election. As of the results around 11 p.m. Tuesday, just nine votes sunk the referendum, 842-833.

“We’re very disappointed, but I think we feel this is a very worthwhile referendum project that’s needed by the district,” said Dave Kuehn, interim superintendent.

He said the district will likely pursue the project in the future, and that the close vote lets the district know that many voters approved of the referendum. Data about how precincts voted in the election is also an indication for the district about how it can adjust its strategy in the future.

“We’ve provided information to the stakeholders, and I think we found that through the process, there are certain parts of our district where we need to do a better job of informing people,” he said.


With only nine votes deciding the election, a recount is not out of the question, but the district is working with the county to nail down the specifics of the process of requesting a recount, said Kuehn.

“This is kind of unusual to have a race that is this close,” said Michelle Cote, Polk County’s election administrator.

While recounts are not unheard of at the local level, it usually happens in a race between two candidates, not a ballot measure like a school referendum. The two types of elections have different procedures for requesting a recount.

In a race between candidates, the percentage difference in the votes for each determines whether a publicly or privately funded recount can happen. For recounts on ballot questions, the process must be requested by petition, and the percentage difference between votes does not come into play. Anybody, including voters, can file the petition for a recount.

The $3.9 million bond issue would have paid for a new facility to host football, track, soccer and softball practices and games, baseball practices and physical education classes. Planned for district land to the northeast of Crookston High School, the facility would include an artificial turf field, eight-lane track, press box, seating for 750 people, a concession stand and bathrooms.

The school district currently uses Ed Widseth Field at the University of Minnesota Crookston for home track meets and football games, but in recent years, the facility has started to deteriorate. State funding for repairs is not available for facilities owned by entities outside of school districts, like Ed Widseth Field.

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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