County on fast track to secure building site information from city of CloquetCloquet city administrators got a bit of a jolt Tuesday when an e-mail from Carlton County asked them to provide extremely detailed information about a potential site in downtown Cloquet for a new county health and human services building – by May 16.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Cloquet city administrators got a bit of a jolt Tuesday when an e-mail from Carlton County asked them to provide extremely detailed information about a potential site in downtown Cloquet for a new county health and human services building – by May 16.
The site selection committee, made up of county commissioners and employees, including Dick Brenner, Paul Gassert, Pat Oman, Ted Pihlman and Michael Stafford, would like 49 questions in 18 categories answered so they can compare the five potential building sites before making a recommendation to county commissioners. The questions came from Wold Architects and Engineers in Minneapolis, who have been commissioned to study and design a new facility.
The e-mail message sent to Brian Fritsinger, Cloquet city administrator, from Michael Stafford, Carlton County director of personnel and emergency management, also specifically asked, “What is the cost for the county to obtain a clear, buildable site at [the downtown Cloquet] location?”
Cloquet was asked that because land would have to be acquired in order for the deal to work, according to Oman, who attended the meeting Tuesday. Oman also said the county and city of Carlton would also be asked that question about their potential sites.
City council members overall were flummoxed that the county would ask for such detailed costs and other information to be obtained so quickly.
“Can we do this by May 16?” asked Tom Proulx, councilor at large, at the working session of the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday. “It just seems unfair to ask this to be done in two weeks when we’re talking about a multi-million dollar project.”
The downtown Cloquet site, which is one of five in the county under consideration, is located across from Cloquet City Hall on the 1300 block of Avenue C, where K1 Sportswear and Cloquet Dry Cleaners are currently located. The facility would also replace the current county human services building at 1215 Avenue C as well as the Golden Token and an auction house.
The county owns the building and land where the human services department is located and the rest is privately owned land, according to Oman.
Of the other four sites, only one is in Cloquet, at Tall Pine Lane and 14th Street, where Real Estate Corporation of America is planning to build a retail development. The other sites are in Carlton, next to the County Transportation Building, and two sites along Highway 210, one where Ulland Brothers gravel pit is located and one across the highway on county-owned land.
City council members agreed that the new facility, which will house county offices including health and human services, county assessors, auditors, recorders, soil and water, along with other possible departments, should be in Cloquet, where the majority of the county’s population is located.
“We built the city hall here to keep businesses downtown,” said council member Neil Nemmers. “We made the right decision and let’s put the county building here too.”
The mayor agreed.
“[This process] has become a bidding war,” Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said. “It shouldn’t be if base clientele is located in Cloquet. Moving to the country would be a bad business decision. This doesn’t sit well with me and it’s not good for taxpayers.”
Council members directed Fritsinger to do his best to answer the questions and determine the costs for the site selection committee. They will also consider throwing a sixth site into the ring – at the Cloquet Business Park on Highway 33.
The site selection committee plans to meet May 20 to review the lists of criteria for the five sites. This meeting is not open to the public, Oman said. After that, the committee will give their site recommendation to county commissioners, who will make the final decision.
Last month, members of the Carlton County Board gave Wold Architects and Engineers of Minneapolis a unanimous go-ahead to enter into the schematic design phase of a plan for the new facility.
The design phase of the planning process will cost an estimated $120,000-$150,000, which the county hopes to later recapture through the issuance of public bonds if the project moves forward.
The Wold firm earlier conducted a facilities assessment for the county and identified the human services building as a primary need of the county, in addition to various upgrades to the law enforcement center and the courthouse.