Posted 8/11/15 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor and Ceclie Krimm
A daycare project has yet to find a clear path to completion, but last week Crosby’s City Council put daycare backers on notice they will need to undertake a major fundraising campaign before the city can commit any more money to it.
Mayor Bert Anderson said “close to $1 million” should be in hand.
Alderman Wayne Benter said any project would be “a long ways off yet.”
Speaking at a Jobs Development Authority (JDA) meeting the following day, board member Robbi Larsen said she worries kids in need of daycare will be in college before a daycare is built.
Anderson said the project right now is a “muddle.”
“There’s many, many moving parts at this point. Someone has to just say ‘I’m going to take charge of this,’” and run with it.
Three year struggle
Community Developer KayCee Lindsey has been working with city officials for the last three years to bring a daycare facility to fruition.
After abandoning a $3 million plan drawn during the administration of former Mayor Les Bakken, today the daycare at least has the promise of free property for development -- the old bowling alley owned by New Century Ag -- along with at least $125,000 of city sales tax funds pledged.
But Anderson said the council is reluctant to pay another $81,000 to an architect to have the original plans redrawn. Those plans, which cost the city $225,000 to begin with, said Anderson, would bring the city up to $300,000 out of pocket to date.
The council, he said this week, “has extremely cold feet after that. It was ‘Whoa, whoa, wait a second,’” he said, when word came back about the cost of revising existing plans.
At the August meeting, aldermen balked at the idea of paying more to use plans they thought they already owned. Benter worried the cost of re-doing the old plans would not stop at $81,000.
And Brian Lund said he didn’t want to invest another $81,000 without the city’s people stepping up to the plate, too.
Lindsey told the council there remain about $660,000 of the original $1.3 million available for the daycare, including $250,000 in a Land Trust grant (with a $125,000 city match), $250,000 in the Department of Commerce grant and $160,000 in Spirit Fund money.
She asked how much the city would be willing to pitch in to help this effort.
Mayor Anderson told Lindsey to contact the St. Luke’s Community Foundation, which can funnel donations that are tax deductible.
He explained, after the meeting, that the sales tax goes up for a renewal vote next year, so the city can’t commit funds it doesn’t know for sure it will have.
He suggested a “massive fund-raising effort” begin, that people solicit money from businesses and the community to get the daycare built.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the city won’t come on board with more funds at some point.
He said the city can’t spend more “without knowing there’s actually a project there to use the plans.”
He said he is not opposed to the city owning the bowling alley property initially, if that is what is needed to get grants, but it would have to be turned over to a different entity at some point.
Lindsey said another option might be to have the EDC instead of the city own the daycare. This would mean no formal bidding process, no paying to redo the plans. However, the EDC could forget about the $125,000 state Land Board grant.
She also wondered if a daycare could not be considered infrastructure, eligible for some of the city’s $8.3 million surge money windfall. However, more than $7 million of this will be directed at a street-paving and potential sewer project, and Mayor Anderson said he regarded infrastructure as “water, sewers and streets.”
The council took no formal action on the daycare.
Don’t give up, says Bakken
Bakken, contacted after the meeting, said “We need the daycare as a city to grow, we need to get this done. This is a part of the city. If young people (children) have no place to go, then maybe mother and father might start thinking about not being here, too. And if Mom can’t work, Main Street won’t have workers.”
Bakken believes Mayor Anderson and Benter are against anything but private industry running a daycare and will attempt to stymie any efforts to build a city-backed facility.
“They were in a big hurry to send that (state) money back,” he said. “Maybe we could have diverted some of the $860,000 (apartment money) to the daycare. The Housing Finance people are not unreasonable. If we talked to them, maybe we could have kept some of this.”
Bakken believes a stand-alone daycare will cost about $1.5 million to build, and that there’s “no way the money is coming back on it.” If the daycare rents building space from the city, the daycare can’t afford to operate.
“We’re just going to have to build it and be satisfied with this,” he said. “We could turn it into something else if it quits.”
Bakken said the city’s older residents might not want to spend the money for the daycare, but the young people, parents, will.
“We have to count on the younger people,” he said. “They keep the businesses moving, and this is an economic thing – it’s a part of the city, growth and expansion, we have to do it.”
“Fundraising will never work. We thought of this when we started. They’re just stringing KayCee along, asking her to come back and talk to them when she can raise $1 million,” Bakken said. “The hospital, rink people have been asking for money, money, money. People are tired of it. I don’t think this will happen.”
“Any reasonable person would think the schools and county ought to put money into it, too. They’ve got their own problems, especially the schools. But the county isn’t in bad shape. And Bert is the state’s district representative. Did he go looking for state money for this? I doubt it.”
County commissioners Doug Graupe and Gerald Brady, on the county’s Jobs Development Authority (JDA) board, headed by Lindsey, also with city council alderman Bryan Haugenoe as a member, briefly discussed the daycare situation at their August meeting.
Brady said $1 million would be hard to come by.
Graupe wondered if a state community block grant or other state aid might be available for the daycare.
JDA board member Robbi Larsen said that by the time the community raises another $1 million, the kids who need the daycare now will be in college.
Haugenoe said he believes a daycare project could fall under the auspices of surge money as infrastructure.
Bakken urged those interested in the daycare not to quit.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “People realize it’s needed.”