Community Resource Center referendum, 1998

Government.44.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 07 Jan 1998

Northfield’s proposed Community Resource Center is a $4.45-million, 40,000 square-foot building that will house the Community Action Center, Northfield Senior Organization, the school district’s Alternative Learning Center, Three Rivers’ HeadStart, and spaces for use by other community organizations and groups.

The proposed location of the CRC is on the south side of Northfield at the corner of Jefferson Parkway and Raider Dr. Funds to build the Center will come from private donations, contributions from agencies which will use the space, and a bond issue.

On Jan. 27, Northfield residents will vote on the bond issue to raise $2.2 million for the Center.

NCO has created a website for the project at:

and is sponsoring a one-week forum here in the Government conference Jan. 14-21st.

Members of the CRC advocacy committee will be the forum panelists:

* Alene Fink, Nfld Seniors Organization
* Leisa Irwin
* Carla Johnson, Community Action Center
* Charlie Kyte, Nfld Public Schools
* Jane McWilliams, League of Women Voters
* Scott Neal, City of Nfld
* Brett Reese
* Steve Schmidt
* Mike Thorsteinson, Three Rivers HeadStart

Government.44.2: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 07 Jan 1998

This topic is currently set to panelist-only, meaning, no one can post to it yet except the panelists.

After the panelists have all signed in and posted their opening comments on Jan. 14-15 or so, I’ll open it up for everyone else.

Government.44.3: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 10 Jan 1998

In Friday’s paper, I noticed that the name of the citizens groups that formed to support the CRC project is actually called the Partners in Building Community.

On Wednesday, Jan. 14, the same day that this web forum is due to begin, a number of the panelists will also be appearing at a Chamber of Commerce forum at 7 a.m. in the Archer House meeting room:

Charlie Kyte, Nfld Schools; Orrin DeLong, Nfld Seniors Org.; Craig Ellingboe, Nfld Community Action Center; Brett Reese, Partners in Building Community

Government.44.4: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 12 Jan 1998

Ok, we’re almost ready to start. Some of the panelists have registered and should soon be showing up here. Most are “clueless newbies” as we all once were however, so please be patient while they get up to speed.

Panelists, please introduce yourselves briefly. Some things to consider including: job title/description; length of time you’ve lived in Northfield; your interest in the CRC, both as a citizen as well as in your professional role. And of course, “What excites you most about the possibility of the CRC being built in Nfld?”

Government.44.5: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

My name is Scott Neal. I’m the Northfield City Administrator. I became involved in this project in the “product development” stage. I have not been as active in the marketing stage because state law can be sort of quirky when public employees actively endorse referendum positions from their public posts. I have to be discrete, so most of what I will add to the conversation will be in the form of objective neutral facts & figures, etc. At least that’s my plan.

As I look back, it seems like the spark for this project may have come from a comprehensive risk management tour that our staff and a representative from the City’s general liability insurance carrier conducted of the current Community Services Building (CSB), located at the corner of Woodley & Division streets. The CSB, as many of you know, is the home to the CAC, the Senior Citizens Organization, SEMCAC Senior Dining program, and other programs and organizations. The CSB, as many of you know, is an old church and parsonage that have been connected by carpetry over time to form one building of approximately 3,500 square feet.

The CSB is in poor shape and the risk management inspection pointed out many problems. City staff began to seriously consider the future of the building. One of the options we asked the occupants of the building to consider was to go out and rent new office space and the City would raze the CSB.

The Seniors became very active in planning their facility. The CAC became very active in researching the availability of new leasable space in the community. Finally, we all got together again and started down a new path towards envisioning a facility where we could all prosper. A local business owner came forward and offered to contribute $1,000,000 towards the project if the all the participating parties could agree to work together and if the City would assume the long-term ownership and maintenance duties. We all said “YES”, and so here we are.

Government.44.6: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

Hi Scott, thanks for being the first to chime in and giving us some background on the CRC. You probably deserve some credit or blame for the project getting to this point, but I guess I’ll let the other panelists determine which it is. 😉

I phoned all the panelists tonight and I will be at the Archer House presentation in the morning.

A reminder: this topic is “panelist-only”, meaning only those UserIDs that I’ve marked as a panelist can post. If most of the panelists can post their self-introductions and opening comments by late Wed or early Thurs, I’ll open it for everyone to post shortly thereafter.

Government.44.7: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for all participants here, both panelists and pedestrians!

– avoid lengthy posts, i.e., anything longer than a screenful. It’s the equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, e.g., an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

– use lots of white space, i.e., paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

– since we might be discussing several issues “simultaneously” here, all piled in one topic, learn to make use of the linking ability of the software, especially the word “post”. For example: “Jane, you talked about your background in post:4. Could you….” See how just typing the word “post” with a colon and number after it automatically creates a link? Cool, eh? It helps others to know what you’re talking about and makes it easy for them to follow the link back to see what was actually posted.

– This forum is more informational than debate-oriented but just in case there is some controversy, here’s a gentle but firm tip: avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you. Also: 1) avoid sarcasm; and 2) use people’s first name when referring to someone else who’s participating here. Avoid saying, for example, “Steve seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “Steve, you seem to always be…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. 😉

Government.44.8: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

I’m Jane McWilliams, a long time resident of Northfield. As a member of the board of the Community Action Center, I learned last spring about the serious problems with the Community Services Building Scott referred to and know that subsequently a number of options for solving that problem were considered. When it was reported to the CAC board that we would be participating in a collaborative effort to solve the space problems of not only the CAC and Senior Organization, but those of other organizations as well, once again, I felt proud to live in this community.

The proposed Northfield Community Resource Center reflects all that is good about a community: the ability to mutually and cooperatively solve problems, AND to create partnerships between public and private groups and individuals to assist in that effort.

There has also been a unique philanthropic spirit at work on this project. Thanks to private donations of over $1 million, a significant part of the cost of the Center has been underwritten. I am proud to live in a town where people of means care about their community and find constructive ways to reinvest their wealth on behalf of others. The private contributions have “leveraged” public and non-profit support. Moreover, the donors serve as examples of selflessness to us all.

The citizens working to inform voters about the project also demonstrate the kind of civic-minded volunteerism about which I am also proud. Several dozen men and women are borrowing time from their families and jobs in order to spread the word about a project they believe in, using skills and expertise they ordinarily get paid a salary to perform.

I am confident that the same kind of civic spirit exhibited by the planners and promoters of the Northfield Community Resource Center will prompt voters to mark a resounding YES on their ballots on January 27. By this time next year, I am confident we will all be able to celebrate a project which gives new credence to the motto “Northfield is a Special Place.” We will be justifiably proud that “We Can Agree!”

Government.44.9: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

Hi Jane, good to have you here. And thanks for detailing the spirit of cooperation that you’ve witnessed and been part of during the initial stages of this project.

The “we can agree” theme that you mentioned is also part of the ad campaign for the CRC. Funny! For some reason, the contentiousness and endless deliberation that often characterizes public projects in town hasn’t materialized for the CRC. I wonder what’s wrong?

Would it have happened without the $1 million dollar donation/challenge?

Government.44.10: Charles Kyte (ckyte) Tue, 13 Jan 1998

Hello! I’m Charles Kyte, the Superintendent of the Northfield Schools. I have been involved with the planning group that has discussed and designed the NCRC project since last June. This group consists of representatives of City Gov’t, private industry, Senior citizens, CAC, the Headstart program and the Ministerial Association. A common theme bringing all together is the belief that a combined location for a community service center will bring a synergistic benefit to every participating group.

The programs to be located in this community service center include:

* Offices/craft and meeting rooms for senior citizens
* Offices/clothes closet /food shelf for the CAC
* Classrooms for the Alt Learning Center and Adult ESL
* A multipurpose room that will primarily be used for the sr. citizen dining program
* A classroom for the Headstart program
* A child nursery area
* A Sr. citizen Wellness center which will include an exercise swimming pool.

The NCRC will be located on the west side of the Jefferson Parkway/ Raider Drive intersection. The building will cost approximately $4.5 million. About $2.3 million is being provided by private donations and by gov’t entities other than the City of Northfield. The voters of Northfield will vote on Jan 27th to decide if they will support the remaining $2.2 million of the cost of the building.

It has been historically difficult for agencies and groups in Northfield to work together. This project is an excellent example of community cooperation.

Government.44.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

Hi Charlie, glad you could participate here. I heard your presentation at the Archer House this morning and I thought it was helpful when you explained what the various spaces in the 4 sections of the building would actually be used for.

It would be helpful if you could reiterate your summary of the rationale behind the design, i.e., why 4 semi-separate sections vs. a more compact single rectangular building.

Government.44.12: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

There is a little confusion about where the dollars to construct the building are coming from. If any of the panelists could help clarify this, I’d appreciate it.

– The literature and charts at this morning’s presentation list the Nfld Public School’s portion as a $250,000 capital lease commitment.

– Last week’s Nfld News had two different articles saying that the District’s portion is $500K: “Of the $500,000 commitment, $250,000 has been provided by an anonymous donor.” wrote Tad Johnson in his piece titled “Kyte explains how CRC may impact townships.”

– Ken Bank, Hospital Administrator, told me that the Hospital’s donation of $250,000 to the project will be used to offset the committed allocations from some of the other organizations. Yet it’s not listed this way in the PR material. It appears that the School District’s $250,000 “anonymous donor” is the Hospital but Ken was careful to say to me that that was not the case.

I’m not interested in knowing anything about anonymous donors but just some clarification about the various commitments.

Government.44.13: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

Just so the panelists are aware:

There are already 25 people following this topic… about the same size audience that showed up for the Archer House presentation this morning.

Government.44.14: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

Nice to meet Brett Reese and Steve Schmidt F2F (face-to-face) for the first time this morning.

They both assured me that they’ll be able to post here later today, and I expect to see Leisa Irwin, Carla Johnson and Alene Fink here, too… Real Soon Now. 😉

Government.44.15: Scott Neal (scott) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

The organizing the project has also (sometimes), been confused about where all the money was coming to construct this project as well.

Basically, the project, including site acquisition, the building construction, the necessary land improvements, and the architect’s design fees have been projected to cost $4,450,000.

On the revenue side of the ledger, $2,200,000 of the $4,4450,000 will come from the City’s general obligation bond issue. With the exception of the tax increment financing (TIF) dollars in the project, the remaining revenue for the project will come from private donations, of one type or another.

We have been showing the revenue donations in a line-item format to demonstrate the shared nature of the cost, but I’m not sure that format is fair to all the project partners.

Government.44.16: Scott Neal (scott) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

The operating costs of the CRC are also of interest to people.

Right now, the CAC and the Senior Citizens are in a City-owned facility for which they do not pay rent or any share of the operating costs. And if you have ever been in the facility these groups are in, you’d say they’re getting a fair deal.

Under the CRC proposal, the occupants of the building bill pay 50% of the operating costs of the building. This imposes costs on them that they previous were not paying. The other 50% of the costs to operate the building will come from the City’s annual allocation from the Dakota County Community Development Block Grant. The City of Northfield receives around $110,000 each year in CDBG dollars, and has pledged to allocate a good size chunk of it to subsidize the operating costs of the future CRC.

I think this new relationship between the City and the occupants of the CRC is good for them, and good for Northfield’s property tax payers as well.

Government.44.17: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

Scott, you say in post:15 “the remaining revenue for the project will come from private donations, of one type or another”, but what about the school district? It’s their financial participation in this project that’s confusing me.

I don’t understand exactly happened when the school board got steamed about council member David Garwoord-Delong’s comments re: their participation. The bond total was $2.7M and then it got reduced to $2.2M, yet the district still is contributing $500k (or maybe it’s $250K)???

I guess I also don’t understand the “capital lease commitment” that the district’s making. It’s listed as money to fund the construction of the building, but nothing’s listed re: the school district paying an additional $250,000 over 10 years, by paying a higher rental cost for the ALC space.

Of the $69,500 annual lease revenue projected for the CRC to be paid by the occupants, the district’s share of that is $57,000/yr because of that higher rental cost arrangement. Is that right?

That leaves $12,500/yr in lease revenue from the other organizations, or roughly $1000/mo, shared by the CAC, Three Rivers, and the Seniors. Which means the district pays about $5,000/month and each of the others pay about $300/month. Is that right?

BTW, I got some of these figures from Tad Johnson’s Nfld News article at

If panelists could shed some light on all this…

Government.44.18: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

Griff, I found the term “capital lease commitment” confusing, too. I believe it is the legal/technical phrase for the kind of funding the school district is able to contribute to a project like this and NOT the money the district will pay for using the space. The district’s portion of the capital revenue will be $250,000 in the form of a “capital lease.”

It would be interesting to have a rough calculation of the cost to each entity of leasing space. According to the information I’ve been given as a member of the referendum committee, lease revenue is calculated on the basis of $2.78/sq. ft. So, if we knew the approximate size of the space each organization is leasing, we’d know what their annual lease would be. The total expected lease revenue is calculated on 25,000 sq. ft. being leased. That’s how you get the $69,500 anticipated annual operation lease revenue. In addition to that, it is estimated that other space rental will net $10,000/annually, and the city will use funds from the federal Community Development Block Grant fund ($69,500).

The November 19, 1997 story in the NEWS predated some further refining of the funding. Since then, there has been the Hospital Board Contribution, for example. In addition, the school district portion of the construction revenue has been reduced. These details are important, of course, but I hope that people will feel comfortable with the possibility that there will be fine-tuning as time goes on.

I’m wondering what the city is planning to do with the present Community Services Building. Is there a plan to sell the land for private development?

Government.44.19: Brett Reese (breese) Wed, 14 Jan 1998

My name is Brett Reese. I grew up in Northfield, left for college and work reasons, and moved back 11 years ago. I serve as CEO of a manufacturing company with facilities in Eden Prairie and New Ulm, am a partner in local real estate and business projects, and really enjoy collecting Northfield memorabilia.

Six weeks ago Steve Schmidt and I were asked to serve as co-chairs of the Referendum Campaign Committee. In deciding whether to become involved in the referendum campaign, I reviewed the Northfield Community Resource Center (NCRC) project that private citizens, City of Northfield Officials and representatives of the Community Action Center, Northfield Senior Citizens, Northfield School System and the Three Rivers Community Action had been working on since the Spring of 1997. In my opinion, the collaborative effort displayed by these groups in the development of the NCRC and in pulling it all together into the current project has been outstanding.

Steve and I accepted, and the committee “Partners in Building Community” was created to provide information on the NCRC project to the public along with encouraging them to vote YES on January 27th. An article appeared in the Northfield News today, Wednesday, Jan 14, 1998- page 9A giving some background information on the NCRC along with campaign plans of the committee and information on Absentee ballots. If you would like a brochure on the NCRC, please post your address and I will mail one to you.

We have a unique opportunity to assist community service organizations in their efforts to make an impact and a difference in people’s lives. I would encourage Northfield residents to vote YES on January 27th.

Government.44.20: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

I’m Leisa Irwin and I’ve lived in Northfield for almost 9 years now. My husband grew up here and after we were married we moved to Inver Grove Heights. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we really wanted to live in Northfield. One of the things that drew us back here was the feeling of community. We really enjoy knowing our neighbors and the people who live here.

I have also lived in Minneapolis and Lakeville. Northfield has a broad array of strengths that I believe are unique to our community. The proposed Community Resource Center is a wonderful example of what this community is capable of when confronted with challenges. I have the pleasure of serving on the Board of Director’s for both the Northfield CAC and Three Rivers Community Action, Inc. I am also the chairperson for the Head Start Policy Council, which serves this area.

It has been a wonderful experience to see so many organizations working together for the betterment of the entire community. The Northfield Head Start Program has been looking to find a way to serve more children in Northfield. Last year there were over 20 children on the waiting list all year. There simply wasn’t room to serve those children.

Along with Head Start, the Senior Organization, the Northfield CAC, and the Alternative Learning Center were all in a space crunch. These organizations have worked very hard to find a common solution to a multitude of space problems.

I believe this kind of partnering and cooperation is rare and I am very proud to say that I am part of a community that can work together to create a better future for the residents of Northfield. I hope that we as community members can continue the cooperation and partnerships that have been started, by voting “YES” on January 27th.

Government.44.21: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Welcome Brett and Leisa, thanks for those inspiring self-intros.

Rather than wait any longer for Carla, Alene and Mike, I’m opening up this topic for audience participation as of this post. (Carla, Alene and Mike, go ahead and chime in with your self-intros whenever you arrive.)

Audience: feel free to post questions and comments either to specific panelists or to the whole group.

Government.44.22: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Hi. This is Carla Johnson, Director of the Northfield Community Action Center. It excites me to participate in this kind of information-sharing forum about the Community Resource Center. Thanks, Griff, for “hosting” us!

I came to Northfield in 1969 to attend St. Olaf College and returned here to live as a “townie” in 1975, so I’ve lived here for about 23 years. Tomorrow will be the beginning of my 9th year working at the CAC, first in the capacity of Volunteer Director/Food Shelf Manager and since 1994 as Executive Director.

Facility issues have been on the front burner for the CAC since I joined its staff in 1990. The Food shelf programs moved off-site from the building in 1985 because of growing need and the Clothes Closet moved off-site in 1990. Staff offices for the CAC are in the basement and on the second floor of the current building. As Scott Neal mentioned, some additional seeds were sown for this new building last spring when the City inspected the current building and found it severely inadequate in handicap accessibility, fire and life safety standards and general overuse for the organizations using it.

I participated from the first meeting to see if there was enough interest and willingness to work hard with people from different sectors in the community to make this collaborative facility a reality. There has been tremendous commitment on the part of the participants to share ideas, come together on a common purpose and work toward the best interests of all the groups involved.

My thanks to the people involved with the referendum campaign…I hope that by the end of this week-long forum, we will all agree that voting “YES” on the January 27 referendum is absolutely the right thing to do!

Government.44.23: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Hi Carla, welcome to the panel. I didn’t know you arrived in Nfld the same year as Robbie and I: 1975. Pre-kids!

Jane I agree, the details are important and I’m sure they’ll be fine tuning. I don’t think there’s any smoking gun here that would cause me to question the viability of the project at all. I’m impressed and excited by it and hopeful that the collaborative effort can be a model for other projects.

Government.44.24: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Thanks, Griff, I’m glad to be learning some new tricks here!

I wanted to respond to Jane’s question about operating leases and space for the organizations. The CAC space in the new building will include administrative offices, Food Shelf distribution space, Clothes Closet sales area and a warehouse area for the FS and CC. The total space is about 5,500 square feet.

At $2.78/sq.ft. lease rate, the CAC will pay about $15,300 per year to the City. Currently, we do not pay any rent in the Community Services Building. We do pay for space that the Clothes Closet/Food Shelf occupy on Division Street. Because of the City’s decision to use some CDBG funds to help off-set operating costs in the new building, we will be paying about the same amount to be in the new building as we pay for rent now.

The new facility also includes a lot of shared space that the main tenants and community groups can use — classrooms, board and meeting rooms. This is one of the cost-saving measures built into the building and one of the reasons it makes so much sense to do a joint project. Most organizations need spaces for board meetings, staff meetings, etc. Rooms of this type are not usually used all the time. By having a number of organizations share these spaces, there is less duplication than there would be if we were all in stand-alone facilities.

Government.44.25: Mike Thorsteinson (mike) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Hello. My name is Mike Thorsteinson, Executive Director of Three Rivers Community Action. This will no doubt be an entertaining experience.

Government.44.26: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

I’m going to try and provide some information here about the School’s participation in the project, and I hope Dr, Kyte will chime in with some as well.

The “capital lease commitment ” from the school is a technical term. It is a financing mechanism by which schools lease property from other parties (both private and public) for their public purposes. The proposed lease of space in the NCRC to the School will yield over a twenty year time frame one large stream of revenue which the City will subdivide into two separate streams of revenue for our books. One stream will cover the School’s operating costs. That will go into the NCRC Operating & Maintenance Fund that we will establish. The other stream will yield $250,000 which we will use to service the debt (technical talk for “pay back the loan”) the City is going to incur to build the NCRC.

The big question seems to be: “Did the School District get out of a big financial contribution for the project?” I’m not sure how to answer that. When we originally started this project, the donation from the private giver is being given “through” the CAC and the Senior Organization. The Senior Organization has $500,000 of their own money which they are not putting into the base project. The CAC also has funds which they are not putting into the base project. The School is putting in a minimum of $250,000 of their own funds into the project. From the perspective of the project and the City, the project is still a 50%/50% mix of private/public dollars. The total project funding hasn’t changed.

Government.44.27: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

I did talk to Ken Bank today (Hospital Admin) and he said that their $250,000 should NOT be listed as a line item in the sources of revenue for the construction of the building. He said he was going to phone you, Scott, with the explanation so you could explain it here… better than I can.

So in the meantime, it seems to me that the way it’s listed in the CRC PR material is technically incorrect, but the way it’s listed on the CRC FAQ web page is correct:

I.e., the school district should be listed as $500K and the hospital’s donation of $250K as just a footnote/asterisk.

Government.44.28: Charles Kyte (ckyte) Thu, 15 Jan 1998

Let me try to shed a bit more light on the schools financial contribution.

The schools original offer was to pay back a $500,000 loan to the City as it’s share of the ‘capital’ cost of this project. To come up with the money, the City was going to bond for $2.7 million instead of $2.2 million. Several City Council members expressed a concern that this seemed like the City was helping out the School District. Using this plan the interest rate on this loan would have been slightly less than 5%.

The private donors didn’t want this concern to damage the project even though it was perfectly proper. They proposed another solution to remove any sense that the school was being helped out by the City. The solution was to have the school borrow $250,000 from a bank at a higher rate of interest (approx. 8%) To offset the higher cost of the payments for this market rate loan, the donors would raise an additional $250,000 to cover the schools remaining commitment to the project. Thus the private donors agreed to come up with $1.25 million in total as opposed to the $1.0 million originally offered.

If the bond issue passes, the donors will each decide the method through which they will pass their donations to the project. Some may prefer to go through the Senior Citizens so that they can remain anonymous ( the Sr Citizens are not a public gov’t organization, so anonymity can be protected). Others may want to give their contribution directly to the City. Others may want to channel their donations through the CAC or the School District for tax purposes. This will all unfold after a bond issue is passed.

In any case, the minimum coming from the donors will now be at least $1.25 million plus the land donation. There is a good chance that even more will be donated than already shown. A number of us are working to that end. One thing is certain—this community is made up of a lot of generous people. So Griff, if you may want to be part of the donor group, I would be glad to set up a meeting with you in the near future?

Government.44.29: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

Charlie, as soon as I get my coffee in the district’s Lincoln Bedroom, I’ll have my people get in touch with your people. 😉

Thanks for the background and details. Who else has questions about the finances? I probably will have more but let’s get other threads of conversation going. Here are some common questions I’ve heard:

* Is it wise to combine HeadStart 4 yr. olds with teens from the ALC with Senior Citizens in the same facility… will the Seniors really want to be around noisy kids that much?

* A few years back, the big plan was to combine all these facilities into a huge civic center that would include an ice arena and swimming pool. If the town approves the CRC, does this effectively dash the hopes that a civic rec center will ever be built?

* The commitment of the Block Grant money for years to come… can we really depend on that money being there year after year? And won’t other programs in town that have gotten Block Grant money in the past be hurt?

I’d welcome both panelist and citizen comments on these and any other concerns.

Government.44.30: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

One of the reasons that the ALC and Head Start functions were placed in such close proximity to one another was that there is a high potential that some of the ALC students who are parents will have kids who are eligible for Head Start. Also, the proposed child day care center in the facility will coordinate with Head Start to provide care before and after Head Start times. We believe that the presence of Head Start and the proposed child day care center will compliment the ALC program and allow more people to participate in the ALC program.

Government.44.31: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

Is relying on the federal Community Development Block grant program to help operate the CRC a good idea?

I think it is. The history of the CDBG program is that it started in the 1960’s as federal program intended to assist local communities to alleviate poverty. Like many Great Society program of the 1960’s, this program has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, until its current size. In its current format, the CDBG program is fairly dependable. It is not the large controversial program it was once perceived to be. I think it is a good bet that it will stay where it is, if not slightly increased in the upcoming few years.

Government.44.32: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

Does the CRC project kill a future project that may incorporate recreation facilities.


City staff have been working on a recommendation for the City Council’s consideration on the pursuit of such a project sometime in the future. Unlike the group involved in the CRC, the groups that would use a potential recreation center have not cooperated very well together, nor have they started to do the necessary ground-work to build community momentum for such a facility.

I think the cooperation will come among these groups, but it’s not here yet.

Government.44.33: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

I would like to respond to part of Griff’s question concerning the seniors being around noisy kids. With the proposed layout of the NCRC I doubt that the kids or the seniors will run into each other very often unless they want to.

With the campus style design each area would have it’s own parking and entrances. For those who haven’t seen a proposed building layout there are posters at some area businesses and the banks or post your name and address and the Partner’s in Building Community will send you a brochure. There are two other sections that separate the Senior Center and the youth wing.

Having talked about the ways in which these areas are separate, I think it only fair to also say that there are both seniors and children who enjoy each others company. In this facility you have the best of both worlds, your privacy and your community. It would seem that this building could provide an ideal opportunity to start some of the intergenerational things that Jim Gambone talked about when he was here on behalf of the Healthy Community Initiative.

Government.44.34: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

I thought Orrin Delong, representing the Seniors, gave a great presentation at the Chamber mtg on Wed. He said most seniors love to be around kids, but 1 or 2 at select times, not big groups and not all the time.

This facility, like you said, Leisa, provides the best of both: proximity with flexible boundaries.

Scott, thanks for those responses. I’d like to invite other panelists to comment as well.

And while we’re at it, think about what the city should do with the current CAC/Seniors bldg at Woodley and Division. Sell it for private development? Build a mansion for the mayor?

Personally, since I live just two blocks away, I’d like to see something that might become a neighborhood gathering spot, like the Ole Store or a beer/wine pub or a soda fountain.

Government.44.35: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Fri, 16 Jan 1998

I’d like to respond to the conversation about intergenerational possibilities in the facility. I believe it is one of the most desirable features of the project design. This is a facility with spaces for folks from all walks life and different ages.

There will be potential opportunities for volunteering easily accessible to many people. Seniors might help take care of babies, ALC students might work at the Clothes Closet or Food Shelf, to name just a few. There may be more opportunities for the Cannon Valley Elder Collegium to expand its teaching to include some different age people, or classes that focus on intergenerational topics.

Internship opportunities abound for college students and high school students in a facility like this. It is my hope that other nonprofit organizations — perhaps Project SIGHT or the Healthy Community Initiative or the United Way — might choose to locate their offices in this building and in so doing, bring more and more attention to the wide variety of programs, services and concerns for the health and well-being of the whole community.

The space has been designed so that the community can “grow into it”. It’s my belief that once the building is up, there will be no end to the number of groups that want to use it for meetings and organizations that want to locate in it.

Government.44.36: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

Cool. Thanks for those scenarios and that vision of the future possibilities, Carla. Definitely inspiring!

Friday’s Nfld News has three articles/columns on the CRC. I’ll link to them as soon as their webmaster gets them up.

Government.44.37: Mike Thorsteinson (mike) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

The future opportunities for “collaboration” should the Community Resource Center pass are numerous. Locating Seniors, ALC, Northfield CAC, and Three Rivers Head Start in one facility will lead to the development of relationships between the organizations that create changes in how we do things presently. One example could be the sharing of receptionist services and allowing savings to go back into programs. We can look at joint purchasing ( perhaps through the city or school),networking computer systems, customer transportation needs, etc.

Joint planning for future Northfield needs will be enhanced by locating in the same facility. A recent example of how collaboration within communities can improve service delivery occurred last month in Faribault. Faribault schools, Three Rivers, Wilson Center, and the county applied for a competitive demonstration program to provide services to 0 to three children and their parents. The project was funded because of the collaboration that existed between organizations.

Government.44.38: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

I wanted to share my perspective on your question, Griff, about the block grant funds, since it is an avenue of program funds that the CAC has counted on for a number of years.

The City Council has agreed to use about half of each annual allocation of Dakota County Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG) to help offset operation costs in the NCRC. I think this is great, because it makes the costs for rent, maintenance, utilities, etc. much more manageable for an organization like the CAC since we have not had to incur these costs for the past twenty years while located in the current community services building. I do think its a good idea for any organization to budget funds to pay for space…and the budget shift when you haven’t been doing it before is a little tricky.

I also was pleased that the Council chose to keep half of the annual CDBG allocation available for program services and other areas that it can be used for.

Again, the CAC has used these funds to help deliver programs and services to the very low income folks in the community — in the past years for child care assistance, youth camp scholarships, and most recently to help fund a staff person who administers the emergency shelter program for homeless people in the community. Without the block grant funds, I’m not sure how we would fund these assistance programs.

So, from the CAC perspective, having some of the block grant funds available for facility operations and some available for program services is a perfect use of the money.

Government.44.39: John Hatch (jhatch) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

Are there any limits on who can use the available spaces or how they can be used? Will, for instance, religious groups or political groups be able to rent and use space, either on a single use or a continuing use basis? I haven’t seen plans so I’m speculating, but I was wondering whether there would be any spaces that could be used for performances, meetings, celebrations, classes, practice space. Basically, what’s going to be available, who decides who can use it, and how would such decisions be made?

Government.44.40: Susan Hudson (shudson) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

What about the swimming pool? I understand that it will be therapeutic not recreational, but is it for seniors only? Can my family have access to the pool or will there be an age requirement?

Could my Investment Club use the space or would such an organization incur a user’s fee?

Government.44.41: Kathy C (finehoney) Sat, 17 Jan 1998

I am concerned about this project setting back a much needed community and recreation facility. I believe all of the programs mentioned here, including a place for seniors, could be incorporated into one facility. I won’t vote yes because I feel certain that my concerns are legitimate.

Government.44.42: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

John, there is space in the proposed multi-purpose section of the building which will be available for groups to utilize. The city will own and operate the building so I’m assuming that they will also be coordinating the rental of the space in the multi-purpose section. It is my understanding that there will be a user fee assessed to groups using the space but I don’t believe any fee schedules have been arranged yet. As to what will be available, there is a large gathering room with an attached kitchen and several smaller multi-purpose/meeting rooms which will be available for public use.

Government.44.43: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Good to have some plain old citizens step to the microphone here. Welcome, John, Susan and Kathy!

Attendance update: there is now a total of 36 people following this discussion (24 plus the 9 panelists plus me) so it’s a similar-size crowd to the Chamber breakfast earlier this week; and about 4 times the size of the crowd that appeared at the Jaycees!

Carla, thanks for that explanation re: the community block grant fund. I never knew, till this week, that neither the CAC nor the Seniors Org, paid any money to the city for the use of the Community Services Building. So it does make sense that the city allocate half of that annual allocation for operation costs of the CRC. As you said earlier in post:24, (it didn’t sink in till I just reread it!) you still are going to have to pay rent of about $15,000/year but that’s about what you pay now for the Clothes Closet/Food Shelf space on Division Street.

Government.44.44: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Mike and Carla, are there any projects you’ve been considering that you’d like to collaborate to get funding for… similar to the one you described in Faribault in ?

Of course, that kind of collaboration doesn’t require being in the same facility, but what I hear people saying is that it’s much more likely… so I’m wondering if you’ve got any ideas simmering your “back burners.”

Government.44.45: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

As for the use of the public spaces in the new CRC, I’m guessing that the guidelines would be similar to what exists now for the meeting room at the Nfld Public Library (a city-owned facility, operated by city staffers), i.e., local non-profit and government-related groups can reserve the room for free; others pay an hourly fee. So for example, our NCO board can host a meeting at the library for free, but Susan, your investment club would pay a fee.

Scott Neal, as city admin, you’ll be responsible for the CRC. Am I correct that the public spaces will be handled much the same as the library meeting room? Or the meeting rooms in the city hall, for that matter?

Government.44.46: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

The therapeutic pool planned by the Seniors is SEPARATE from the funding for the rest of the facility, i.e., neither the referendum bond money nor the private donations will be used to construct it. The Seniors are raising money for it on their own.

So it’ll be a private pool, Susan, and thus, I’m guessing that they’ll restrict its use to seniors most of the time.

And from what Orrin Delong said earlier this week, they’re likely to have usage fees for the Seniors so my assumption is if they do open it up to families on occasion, that they would require a usage fee. I’m hoping we get Aline Fink in here on Monday to add more on this.

Government.44.47: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Can some of the panelists respond to Kathy’s concerns in post:41 about this project derailing a community recreation facility? Lots of people in town have talked about a need for a community pool and a much bigger ice arena.

Scott Neal addressed this issue a little bit in post:32 but he just said the groups backing such an arena and pool aren’t collaborating with one another. I’m assuming this means the colleges, the school district, the city, the hockey assoc, and the swim club, correct?

Kathy, I know you weren’t swayed by his argument but could you say more about why you weren’t convinced?

It probably would be helpful if panelists could provide a little background on the civic center project that was proposed back in the early 90s, and give their opinion on why that project went down in flames.

I do know that’s there’s not enough space on the current site for an arena or big public pool and the requisite parking. But that doesn’t really answer Kathy’s concerns. And I’ve heard other arguments about why such an all-in-one/combo facility may be a bad idea anyway… but I can’t remember what those arguments are, at the moment!

Government.44.48: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Hi everyone. It’s great to have such good participation. No, Kathy, the present project won’t solve all the community’s needs. The NCRC was precipitated by the emergency situation at the Community Services Building and the group which worked it out limited itself to programs related to the CAC and senior program.

Seniors have raised some money to which they will add more if the referendum passes in order to build a wellness center including s small pool which I thought would be available to all citizens who need specialized facilities. The site donated for the NCRC is too small for the large facility combining these services with recreational ones would require.

I had worked on two previous committees which had hoped to build a large, more broad-based facility, but am convinced that in Northfield, we need to solve these problems on a less ambitious basis. I hope the group Scott referred to will be successful in working out a proposal before too long.

Here are a few more questions for the experts which I couldn’t answer at a small forum at my church this a.m.:

* With reorganization, won’t the school district have space for the ALC elsewhere?

* Who is the architect? Is the design REALLY going to be adequate for the needs or was it limited by what the committee thought would be saleable to the community?

* Will the kitchen be available for all to use? (Apparently the one at the present building is not.)

* What kind of transportation is planned for those using the building’s services?

I hope Carla, Scott, Charlie or Aline will help me out with these.

Government.44.49: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Wow, lots of good questions and comments!

In reference to John’s question about space availability for the community. There will be both leasable space for other organizations in addition to the four main tenants of the building, as well as meeting room space, similar to what’s available now at the community services building and library, etc.

I would think that anyone interested in possibly leasing space in the building could contact Scott Neal and make those interests known to him. We are in the process of creating a governance model for the building even though it’s owned by the City…kind of a tenants association with representatives of the different leasing organizations meeting regularly to talk about building issues, including issues about space use. It is my understanding that this association will be led by a City representative, and it will be the decision-making body for the facility. Scott, if I’m wrong about that, let me (the these folks) know!

Certainly there will be classrooms, meeting rooms, large gathering areas that community groups can use on a one-time or regular basis, like the stamp club, AA or Al-Anon groups, Healthy Community Initiative meetings, to name just a few.

As far as collaboration goes, Griff, I think part of what’s been exciting about working with this group of folks to design a building, has also been the strengthening of relationships between people and organizations. This is what leads to other collaborative projects, I think.

Two things come to mind…they do and don’t have to do with the facility. The CAC received grant money from the Minnesota Futures Fund to focus on ways the organization needs to rethink its programs, and operations in response to the federal welfare-to-work initiative. We’ve been holding regular focus groups with low-income community members since the fall, to find out what they perceive the biggest barriers for themselves as they consider returning to work. Child care is a big issue. This new facility has space designed for some kind of child care facility, and right now there isn’t any group or organization prepared to offer child care there.

Staff from the City, Three Rivers, CAC, Rice County and local child care providers have been meeting to share ideas about how to address this issue. Currently, there is a child care needs assessment in progress that will help guide the process. it’s early in the planning, but this is one example of how bringing people together because there is one thing going on (the building development) can lead to something else. If some kind of community-supported day care went into this facility, it could benefit Head Start parents, ALC parents, and perhaps find volunteers from ALC and the senior organization to add dimensions to its program. Who knows? Seems like some of the possibilities are endless.

Government.44.50: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Kathy, I certainly hope that this project won’t derail any plans that might be started to create a community recreation facility. I, too, think that a new pool and ice arena are necessary.

The CAC had new facility issues as part of it’s 1987 strategic plan and participated in the early 1990’s civic center project. I thought that was a good plan, and would have loved to have it come through, because the CAC was already in a pinch for space.

It’s been hard to wait ten years for enough momentum in the community to come together to do a facility project addressing the human service needs…and that doesn’t diminish the need for a recreation facility too.

I don’t know many details about why the civic center project didn’t work out.

The CAC also participated in the middle school re-use plan a few years ago. That part of the referendum didn’t pass. That might have been a good solution for the services building, too.

This one seems to be the right time, right place, generous donors, and right circumstances to move forward. I certainly hope that after following this discussion for the week, you might change your mind and see that it’s a good thing to do this project — I hope you decide to vote YES on January 27.

Government.44.51: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Jane, here’s what I know about the architect question. Wayne Hilbert of CHN Architects in Apple Valley did the original site plan and building design after meeting with the planning group and the individual tenant organizations.

Each group assessed its space needs and these were designed into the building. Wayne also spent a great deal of time helping us figure out what kinds of spaces we needed/used that could be shared with other folks in the building — board rooms, classrooms, meeting rooms, etc.

Since we were trying to design a building that might take us 20 years into the future — that’s how long the current community services building has been operational — we had the daunting task of dreaming about what might be great to have as expansion space, and the reality task of convincing the community to pay for the building now.

I think the design is very adequate. There is some unleased space already in the plan that will be build. There is also room on the site for additional space, about 15,000 square feet, I think. With a campus style design, it seems like additional space down the road will probably be necessary, and we don’t have to design it or pay for it right now.

Government.44.52: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

I haven’t been involved in any specific conversations about transportation plans for this building, Jane. Because it’s within the city limits, the transit bus will certainly be an option for public transportation to the building.

There is very adequate parking designed for the site. That’s one of the big issues for the community services building now — inadequate and unsafe parking, particularly for the seniors who use the building. The lot is inadequate, the entrance and exit onto Woodley are hazardous many times of the day. Some times when the building is fully occupied, people have to park two blocks away, because the lot is full and the streets are full.

The Clothes Closet program of the CAC will move to this building, too. The facility will have much better parking for this program, as well as more visibility and will be on one level.

CAC staff believe that most folks accessing our programs and services use car transportation to reach us, so being in a different location won’t change things all that much. The new site is nearer to Koester Court, Jefferson Square, RV Clinic, so some folks might have better access than they do now.

Government.44.53: Brett Reese (breese) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

It’s great to see the dialogue generated at the Northfield Cafe. I’d like to respond to Kathy, post:41, relating to her concern for the need of a more civic-type facility which also included recreational facilities such as a pool / hockey arena.

I was not part of the group that worked on such a project several years ago, but I believe there are several reasons that it didn’t become a reality.

1. Cost; Due to the cost of such a facility, it didn’t get the support necessary. I believe the cost was $15 million+, and that it primarily would have been financed by taxpayers. In the case of the presently proposed CRC, the group working on the project sought to come up with a scaled-down project that meet the immediate space needs of the organizations but which wouldn’t be cost prohibitive. The taxpayers of Northfield are asked to finance only $2.2 million, which comes out to $30 annually on a property accessed for $100,000, or 10 cents a day. The lower taxpayer need is a result of generous donations by the private sector who believe in the need of the CRC.

2. Broad-based support. Due to the large scale of the Civic project and the many factions involved, the groups couldn’t get together and present a plan that had broad-based support. This is not the case of the currently proposed CRC. Private citizens, City of Northfield Officials and representatives from the 4 community service organizations have been meeting and planning since the Spring of 1997. They have been cooperating in an atmosphere of “give and take” / compromise in order to develop a project that is acceptable to them, and also have the broad-based support of the community.

There no doubt is the need for a recreational-type facility. But as Scott Neal mentioned earlier, this is being addressed in the form of another project. However the various organizations need to work together in an atmosphere of cooperation, like that of the group who planned the CRC.

It is my belief that passage of the CRC referendum will actually help in making the recreational facility a reality. It will demonstrate that organizations working together- private citizens, City officials, industry and groups with needs, can be successful in creating, developing and presenting a project that can be accomplished.

Government.44.54: Charles Kyte (ckyte) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Jane, you asked if the School District would have space for the ALC without participating in the CRC project. We could come up with space at Longfellow Elementary where the ALC formerly was housed. However we have ideas about expanding our Kindergarten programs (hopefully to an all-day program for some or all sections). Also, the State is increasing funding for Early Childhood Family Education as research indicates that the 3-4 year age level is a time when we can really enhance children’s chances for a successful education. Both of these expansions would best occur at Longfellow. If the ALC returned there, the growth of these other programs would be stifled.

The attraction of the CRC building for the ALC is that this program and adult education would finally have a first class home.

Government.44.55: Ken Bank (kenb) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

The Hospital’s Board of Directors decided to make a major contribution to the CRC because they felt it to be an extremely exciting and important project that clearly fits within one part of the Hospital’s mission that challenges the Hospital “to play a leadership role in improving the health status of the community.”

Increasingly, we have sought to define “health” in broader, more holistic terms that are focused not only on curing illness, but also on creating and enhancing wellness. Supporting the efforts of:

1) the Senior Organization to offer social, recreational, and wellness/fitness activities for their members;

2) the CAC to provide emergency and sustaining services to our community’s most vulnerable members; and

3) the School District and Three Rivers to build “assets” among children and create forums for intergenerational activities is clearly part of that view of “health.”

In fact, one of our board members noted that the simple fact that so many diverse individuals and entities are working together to make this desperately needed facility possible is in itself a sign of a healthy community and on that basis alone deserves our support.

I am sorry that there seems to be so much confusion and debate concerning the application of the Hospital’s donation. From our Board’s point of view, there is no question that they want the resources applied to the benefit of all the entities that are part of the CRC. To ensure this, the Board made the contribution contingent on receiving a plan from the CRC Steering Committee as to how the funds would be used. As we understand the plan, each participant has an obligation to raise a certain amount as its individual contribution. This donation simply provides some of the dollars that can be counted toward each of those individual goals.

By no means does our contribution change the project budget nor the original obligations of any party involved. Although we are totally supportive of the School District’s needs and funding plans as they pertain to the CRC, we are not intending that our contribution of $250,000 should go to any single entity — and we are certainly not the much-discussed “anonymous donor” so frequently referenced in regard to the School District.

Government.44.56: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Usually the Nfld News gets the Wed and Fri. articles posted on its web site over the weekend but not this time. So rather than wait any longer, here’s a couple of pertinent paragraph’s from Tad Johnson’s article on Friday titled:

Chamber members get CRC pitch; financing for project continues to undergo change

“For the first time, Northfield Hospital’s $250,000 donation was added to the financial package. It had been reported earlier that the Northfield school district would dedicate $500,000 to the project, but now the district will borrow $250,000 through a capital lease agreement with the city.”

“Changes in funding like this have already taken place as the project has progressed. A previous $1 million donation has covered the capital costs for the Community Action Center and Northfield Senior Organization.”

“In a previous News article, Superintendent Charles Kyte indicated the district would receive a $250,000 anonymous donation, but he was actually referring to the hospital’s donation, which is going to the CRC project as a whole.”

Government.44.57: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

So given Tad’s, Ken’s and Charlie’s comments, can someone on the Partners committee revise the line-item budget that’s included in the CRC promo material… and somehow more accurately portray the donations, the bank loans, and lease arrangements?

The CRC PR flyer currently reads:


City of Northfield $2,200,000 (general obligation bond)
Senior Citizens, Inc. $500,000 (anonymous donation)
Community Action Center $500,000 (anonymous donation)
Land Donation $300,000
Northfield Hospital Donation $250,000
Three Rivers $100,000
Northfield School District $250,000 (capital lease commitment)
Tax Increment Financing $350,000
TOTAL $4,450,000

Government.44.58: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Brett, thanks for the background on the civic center. Anyone else have anything to add to that?

I think your argument that “passage of the CRC referendum will actually help in making the recreational facility a reality” is a very good one. Kathy, does it convince you?

Carla, thanks for all those answers to all those questions. I’m glad to hear the day care issue as it relates to welfare-to-work changes is on the front burner.

And Charlie, I must say I’m pleased to hear you speak so supportively of the ALC program, its need for a first class facility, that these kids are not all at-risk but that in many ways, the district’s approach to them has failed.

One architectural question from me: what is being planned re: wiring the building for digital communications, both internally and hooking the facility up to the Internet?

Government.44.59: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 18 Jan 1998

Ken, you said in your post:55 that

“As we understand the plan, each participant has an obligation to raise a certain amount as its individual contribution. This donation simply provides some of the dollars that can be counted toward each of those individual goals.”

This has not been said before to my knowledge, and I’m wondering what it means exactly. “Help the CAC raise the money to cover its $500,000 commitment – citizens and companies should make checks out to…” ??

It’s confusing because while the big donation came in a lump to the whole project, the decision was made to divvy it up to the various agencies… and now the Nfld Hospital is doing the reverse, i.e., instead of targeting their donation to a specific entity, they’re giving it to the whole project.

I don’t mean to imply anything sinister here… just that the approach to selling the financial plan to the citizenry gets more confusing the closer one looks.

Government.44.60: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

I think you’re right Griff, the financial plan is confusing but when I look at the goal – THE NCRC – it makes more sense to me. There is a lot of support for the NCRC and fortunately for the residents of Northfield much of the support has come in the way of donations. I tend to be a bottom line person so from my point of view $1.25 Million has been donated to fund this project. Land was donated with the value of $300,000 (I would like to point out that the land donation went to the project as a whole, lowering the cost to all involved without actually going to any specific organization – much like the hospital donation). The school district is committed to a $250,000 capital lease, Three Rivers has added $100,000 and 350,000 will come from Tax Increment Financing. That leaves the $2.2 Million for the bond referendum.

Having never had any large sums of money myself that I could donate to worthy causes I can only guess at what things you look at before making large donations. From all of the collaborative efforts that have went into the planning of this facility I would guess that both the anonymous donor and the Hospital Board made their decisions based on their desire to support a need in the community that was also in sync with their philosophies. And, Griff, as for who the citizens and businesses should make their checks out to…Aren’t you glad that we can show our support without writing a check with that many comma’s in it?

Government.44.61: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

True enough, Leisa!

BTW, isn’t the dollar donation total actually $1.5M?

1,000,000 original donation
250,000 new donation to cover district’s borrowing
250,000 Nfld Hospital

The Nfld News now has the CRC-related articles up:

Tad’s article is at:

In My Opinion: Northfield Community Resource Center proposal makes ‘cents’ By Brett Reese

Making the Grade: Community Resource Center answers many problematic issues By Charles Kyte

Government.44.62: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

BTW, all the Nfld News articles are on the CRC site at:

Government.44.63: Brett Reese (breese) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

OK Griff, lets review the funding of the project again. There is a great deal of information that is going around. Since the project was initially announced, funding has gone through some changes, primarily due to the generous donation of $250,000 from the Northfield Hospital Board. Ken Bank did a nice job in explaining it in post:55, and we as a community certainly appreciate their support of the project.

1. In answer to your post:61, to my knowledge there is no additional donation of $250,000 covering the School District’s borrowing. The School District’s direct contribution to the project is $250,000, which comes in the form of a capital lease obligation. The School will be paying a higher rental rate initially than the rest of the tenants over a period of time (I think its 10 years) in order to pay off their capital lease obligation. The rental rate it will be paying is still a good deal and less than going market rates. In addition, perhaps some of the donations (anonymous, Hospital) may be ear-marked for them, along with the other organizations.

2. The project’s total estimated cost is $4.45 million, which includes the Hospital’s $250,000 donation towards the cost of the project.

3. You outlined the breakdown of the Total Capital Revenue in post:57 very well. The only change that I think is necessary is to add the following to the Northfield Hospital Donation of $250,00:

(to be divided among the various organizations)

Does this help answer some of your questions? Is further clarification necessary?

Government.44.64: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

I just want to thank you, Ken, for your eloquent perspective on the hospital Board’s commitment to supporting and enhancing the “health” of the community through its generous donation to this project.

As Chair of the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, whose Executive Council has also unanimously supported the creation of this facility, I know that this project exemplifies community health in its broadest definition. From intergenerational opportunities, to support for asset-building in youth, and attention to the most vulnerable members in our community, nothing else that I’ve seen lately could call attention to these efforts in Northfield as well.

Government.44.65: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

Brett, you say in post:63 “to my knowledge there is no additional donation of $250,000 covering the School District’s borrowing.”

But Charlie said in post:28 that there is: ====== “The solution was to have the school borrow $250,000 from a bank at a higher rate of interest (approx. 8%) To offset the higher cost of the payments for this market rate loan, the donors would raise an additional $250,000 to cover the schools remaining commitment to the project. Thus the private donors agreed to come up with $1.25 million in total as opposed to the $1.0 million originally offered.”

Government.44.66: Brett Reese (breese) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

You are correct in post:65 Griff. At this point in time, private cash donations total $1.25 million (anonymous + Hospital), but not the $1.5 million outlined in post:61.

My point in post:65 is that there is not a “donation” of $250,000 covering the School District’s borrowing”, but as Charlie indicated in post:28, a loan will be obtained, that will be repaid by the School District through their capitalized lease. Thus the loan of $250,000 and the capital lease of $250,000 are one in the same- representing $250,000 contributed directly by the Northfield School System for their participation in the project. The mechanics work like this:

1. A loan for $250,000 is obtained and used to assist in paying for the cost of building the CRC.

2. Through the School System’s capital lease, monthly lease payments will be used to paydown the loan.

3. Eventually the loan will be paid off, and perhaps then the lease payments made by the School will be reduced by that amount. That needs to be worked out between the School and the City of Northfield (owner of the CRC).

I just wanted to make it clear that at this time, there is $1.25 million in private cash donations pledged to this project. Plus the land donation of $300,000. And who knows, perhaps more will be coming!

I think it is important to point out that City taxpayers are asked to pay only $2.2 million through general obligation bonds towards the CRC project that is estimated to have a total cost of $4.45 million. Now that is leverage of City dollars, and I don’t think the cost to City taxpayers will ever be less! That is why from a financial perspective, it is important to Vote YES on January 27th!

Government.44.67: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

Griff, you’re really reading the papers carefully, and I admit that the funding figures are fluid!! At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I don’t think that fluidity eliminates the uniqueness of this venture: a collaborative public/private project, prompted by space needs some very important agencies and catalyzed by private philanthropy. To my thinking, fluidity may be a necessary complexity collaboration can create. The collaborative problem-solving mode also can create communication snafus. I think this is what happening here. A solution and the financial details imposed from above would be cleaner, but who wants to trade away a community solution for something we could understand but wouldn’t own?

I find it fascinating that the public discourse seems to be focused on the bricks and mortar aspects of this venture. There appears to be less interest in debating the relative merits of the programs to be housed in the center. Is that because everyone understands and supports the programs? If so, I’d like to think that also reflects their understanding the need in our community for the programs and support for the programs to meet the needs. Any thoughts?

I’ve had several other recent contacts with voters as a member of the referendum speakers bureau and have a couple of questions for the experts on the panel:

Was the principal donor’s contribution restricted in any way? For example, that all public entities participate? That a certain location be used? Other?

Have the soil characteristics of the site been analyzed to determine whether this kind of construction is possible/wise? Does the $350,000 figure for “Land Improvements” reflect results of that analysis and the cost of work needed to prepare the land?

Did the school district participate in funding the recent improvements of the City Hall? If so, doesn’t this venture continue a tradition of cooperative work to provide space for public programs?

(The came from today’s Breakfast Club at Happy Chef.)

Government.44.68: Susan Hudson (shudson) Mon, 19 Jan 1998

Yes, I support the project but… I’m not a senior, my kids aren’t in ALC, we don’t use the Clothes Closet or Food Shelf, we own our home, etc. Will I ever get to use the building? Why not make things easier for groups who need meeting space (not just my Investment Club, that was just a case in point) and who don’t qualify to use the Northfield Library. By making use of the facility available to all, you would truly have a Community Resource Center, by providing a place for ALL people in the Northfield community to use and possibly cross paths with others they might never have met.

I am concerned that there are people out there who are being asked to pay for a facility that will never be used by them, even for a fee.

Government.44.69: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

Susan, I understand your concern about who will be able to use the space at the NCRC. It is my understanding that any group, such as your investment club, would be able to rent space for one time events or for ongoing meetings. Carla and Griff have both talked about this in Post:49 and Post:45 respectively. Carla also talked about the governance model that is being formed to help run the building after it is open. The goal for this center is that it TRULY is a COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTER, and I would think that the governing group would work very hard to make sure that it does serve the community.

Government.44.70: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

There was a question about the architect for the project.

As the NCRC is proposed as a City project, the City Council will award a design contract to an architect. As of this date, the City Council has not been asked to approve such a contract.

The NCRC working group has an existing relationship with Mr. Wayne Hilbert of the CNH Architects firm of Apple Valley. Mr. Hilbert has prepared the various drawings you’ve probably seen of the proposed NCRC. He’s also done all the price and cost estimating.

We can always change architects when we do the actual project. I’m not sure that would be a good idea, even if we could save money, because so many of our public statements for the project have been based on the work of the current architect. Changing architects also changes the future accountability of the project, and that would concern me a great deal.

Government.44.71: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

Were there donor restrictions on the anonymous donation?

The donor wanted the groups to cooperate on a joint use facility. The donation was for a cooperative joint use facility. There would not have been a donation for three or four separate building projects around Northfield for the same groups.

There was not a requirement by the donor of a specific site for the building. Many sites were examined and evaluated as to the optimal combination of site amenities and acquisition cost. The proposed site had the best combination of factors.

Government.44.72: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

I’m glad Jane McWilliams introduced the concept of “fluidity” into the discussion. I can’t think of a better term to describe the private financial contributions to this project.

The only financial contribution to the NCRC project which is not fluid is the City’s contribution. This is appropriate. The property tax payers of Northfield will contribute, if they so approve on January 27th, an amount not to exceed $2,200,000 to the project. Their contribution level is capped.

BTW, I’m pleased to accept any other private financial contributions to the project at any time.

Government.44.73: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

What will happen to the current Community Services Building if the referendum succeeds?

I don’t know, yet. I have not asked the City Council to consider this question. It is likely that the City will raze the current building, clear the lot, and sell it to the private sector for development. I would not favor redeveloping the building into another public or quasi-public use. If that were a good idea, we’d be doing it right now for the CAC and the Seniors.

Government.44.74: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

There have been concerns offered lately about how the NCRC project effects the future of a community recreational facility. I’ve tried to answer this question/concern as directly as I can. I’ll give it another try here.

I believe the NCRC project is a good model for developing a community public facility in the late 1990’s. Get private contributors involved, minimize tax payer liabilities, and get the potential facility users involved in planning the facility and doing the leg-work in getting the public to support the facility. I think it’s a good strategy.

If this initiative succeeds, I would propose to use a similar strategy for the development of a community recreational project. I’ve had the opportunity, in my former community of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, to participate in the construction of a community recreation center from beginning to end. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. I know that Northfield is capable of generating support for such a facility.

The NCRC project will not kill a future recreational facility. The NCRC project will show us that Northfielders can work together successfully on a community project. The NCRC project also gives us a model for a successful community project. Maybe most important, the NCRC will provide us with the momentum, the opportunity and the confidence we need to succeed with a more complex community project, such as a community recreation project.

Government.44.75: Brett Reese (breese) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

Jane, in further response to one of your questions in post:67, and which Scott Neal answered in post:71, regarding donor restrictions. I believe the donations from both the anonymous individual and the Northfield Hospital Board are contingent upon the passage of the City referendum of January 27th. If City taxpayers do not step up and pass the $2.2 million bond obligation which assists in the financing of the $4.45 million CRC project, then the donations are off. If that happens, its probably back to square one and the four major community service organizations are on their own.

That, I think, would be a shame. This is such a unique opportunity, of four organizations working together to provide basic needs for members of our community, for City officials to help develop and lead the project, with private individual participation and $$$ contribution. Wow! It’s great to see that finally, people and differing organizations, can agree! I don’t think a project of such magnitude has had such cooperation, support and participation!

Government.44.76: Brett Reese (breese) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

Note to Susan in post:68. I see your point, but never say never. We all will be seniors someday and may utilize the facility at some point in time.

This facility is designed for expansion, and should serve the community well into the 21st Century.

As to making it available for meetings, social gatherings, etc. I think it is the intent of the City and governing body to do so.

Again, this project is designed to meet the basic needs of a wide variety of groups, those having needs, struggling in life, etc. As a community, I think it is our obligation to help in meeting these needs of people within our community. Once these are meet, then we can go on and provide for other needs, which aren’t so basic, like a recreational facility.

Government.44.77: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

It seems that once the district retreated from its original plan to loan the city $500,000 (via an increase in the bond to $2.7M), there’s been an (understandable) attempt to put the best spin possible on how they could still appear to be sticking to that $500K amount.

The $250,000 lease commitment plus the hospital’s $250,000 donation did the trick initially… but the hospital did not want to appear to be giving money to the district and not other organizations, so they instead gave it to “everyone” or “the project.” In other words, the CRC committee considered the hospital as the district’s $250,000 “anonymous donor” initially but that didn’t wash with the hospital board.

And that leaves the district back at $250,000, and no donor for an additional $250K.

Which is fine with me! I just wish everyone could’ve been a little more upfront about it all. I don’t think the citizenry would think less of anyone.

I thought the School Board was overreactive to Dave Garwood-Delong’s comments. [Dave’s always making wisecracks and snide remarks. Lighten up, folks!] So their last minute decision to pull back from the loan/ bond deal put Charlie and the CRC committee in a tough spot to come up with another plan in a hurry and make it all look hunky dory.

So what’s done is done. I think the project is in great shape for the referendum; there’s lots of support out there for it (including yours truly) and I look forward to be an aging Senior using the facility in just a few more years. 😉

Government.44.78: Brett Reese (breese) Tue, 20 Jan 1998

Griff- I will be out of town tomorrow (Wednesday). But I want to thank-you on behalf of the Referendum Campaign Committee- “Partners in Building Community,” for the opportunity to discuss the Northfield Community Resource Center on the Northfield Citizens Online Web Cafe. What an experience! A lot of good questions, dialogue and comments. You are an excellent host and keep the topic rolling. This was my first time on the NCO Web Cafe, and hope to follow and join in on future topics.

I am curious as to how many “participated” and “browsed” through the Cafe on the CRC topic. Could you please post this? I will be sure to check it out late tomorrow night.

The committee also appreciates your support- a vote Yes- on Tuesday, January 27th to the CRC. So much has been said about the positive aspects of the project in the comments of the panel members and participants. It really is a good deal- for the service organizations, their users, members and clients, the citizens of Northfield, the City of Northfield, and the entire Community. It will reflect very positively on the Community, a Community that shows it cares in meeting the basic needs of its residents.

Government.44.79: Leisa Irwin (lirwin) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

Griff, I would like to second Brett’s “Thank You” and I also thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. Now that I have a little bit of know how, I will look forward to watching the site and participating in some other discussions. Does this mean I’ve lost my status as a “CLUELESS NEWBIE”? I look forward to seeing the stats Brett asked for and thanks again for your support.

Government.44.80: Scott Neal (scott) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

I’ve appreciated the chance to answer questions in the cafe format. it’s more of a conversational tone, and that feels comfortable to me. This is the type of conversation we might have had in someone’s living room “back in the old days”.

Speaking as Scott Neal, City Administrator, I hope everyone votes, This facility is well designed. The financial plan is the best combination of public and private capital dollars that I can imagine for a project like this. The operating financial plan is supported by the users and the City’s federal funds, taking property tax payers off the hook, which is where they usually want to be.

BTW, I’ve already voted. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s FREE! You can do it on your schedule (well, almost) at the City’s Finance Department between now and January 26th from 9 am to 5 PM. Call 645-3014 for more details.

Thanks to all who participated in the forum.

Government.44.81: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

Another THANK YOU to everyone who participate in the forum this week. Good job hosting, Griff, I’d love to be invited back again for another topic.

I’ve got an In My Opinion column in today’s paper (Wednesday), with my own strong sentiments about the importance of people using the opportunity they have to vote YES on this referendum.

We talked a lot about the finances of the project…and that’s important for us all to understand. I hope there is also a stronger sense of the vision for community that this project can stand for.

This is not a private project, done so that someone can charge fees and make money…like a business would be.

It is not a public project, done by the government with rules and regulations.

It is a project that brings together the best aspects of both these sectors into a social/community arena where the object is the care and concern of the well-being of people…essentially a “not profitable” social capital investment.

What we’re learning is that none of us could have done this alone. We needed the resources and creativity, trust and willingness to participate of each sector to make it possible. Again, this seems to be a demonstration of something that’s not happened before in Northfield in quite this way.

I want us to celebrate this new way of working together for the benefit of the people in the community who will use the facility, whoever they are. We can be proud of this accomplishment…and voice our support by voting YES on January 27 so that we can continue strengthening a new kind of partnership.

On behalf of all the people served by the programs and services of the CAC and the other organizations involved in this project, we value your support, hope you will vote YES, and thank you for caring about the health of our community.

Government.44.82: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

Brett, a total of 42 people have, at one point or another, been here for this forum. Twelve different people have posted comments, which is a somewhat lower posting percentage (28%) than the 40-50% we’ve had for other forums. But this has been more of an informational forum, not problem-solving or debate oriented, so that seems to make sense.

Government.44.83: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

I’d like to first thank all the panelists, but especially those who really hung in there over the entire week and chimed in repeatedly:

Leisa, Carla, Charlie, Jane, Scott, and Brett.

And the clueless newbies (Leisa, Carla, Charlie and Brett) also deserve some extra kudos for getting the hang of this type of conversational forum. Pick up your Cafe merit badges over there in the corner by the couch.

Thanks to the rest of the folks who took time to visit and read along. Whichever way you vote on the referendum, you did your duty as citizens by actively becoming more informed about this issue.

And a final thanks to the City of Northfield (Scott Neal, Karl Huber, and the city council) for continuing its financial support of NCO which helps to make forums like this possible.

We’ll soon have up a lightly edited transcript of this entire forum on the NCO web site. I’ll post a note about it here.

Watch your NCO-News (email announcement newsletter) for details on the next web forum: commercial/industrial sustainable development, coming in Feb, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Government.44.84: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Wed, 21 Jan 1998

I have appreciated being able to bring things to the discussion that I’ve picked up while circulating in the community during the past week. Thanks to each of you for responding to my questions. It has helped prepare me for further contacts with people in the supermarket, and on the street, in addition to in the formal forum format.

Thanks to NCO and to you Griff for providing an additional medium for getting the word out.


Government.44.85: Kathy C (finehoney) Thu, 22 Jan 1998

Thanks for all the information. I will take everything into consideration when I fill out my ballot. Some issues still on my mind are: If this is passed will the seniors vote no for a recreational facility in the future? (They will have what they wanted, why pay more taxes?)

I was told a few years ago the main reason the community civic center was dropped like a hot potato was because of the up coming school referendum. Certain people were concerned if the civic center passed it would eliminate the chances of needed school tax dollars.

Regardless if that is true, this fact remains. Taxes are high already, adding the CRC will increase them more. Another passed school referendum would add to that. So what are the chances of a civic center being passed? I would like to see it all packaged together so citizens of all ages would have a place to gather as a community.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll be enjoying this CRC as a senior in 30 years before I see a civic center built in Northfield.

Again, thanks for your time.

Government.44.86: Griff Wigley (motet) Thu, 22 Jan 1998

I’m fine with keeping the conversation going a little while longer, for those that still want to participate.

Kathy, I’m glad you came back to deal more with this issue about the effects the CRC might have on the civic center. Anyone else want to chime in on this issue?

BTW, the transcript of this entire discussion is now up on the CRC web site:

I’ll keep adding to it as we get more comments here.