City looks at redistricting; Nemmers resigns seatAs the results of the Minnesota redistricting plan were released this week, the city of Cloquet prepared to follow suit.
By: Janelle Verke, Pine Journal
As the results of the Minnesota redistricting plan were released this week, the city of Cloquet prepared to follow suit. The state redistricts every 10 years and as the process progresses, each county and city follows suit. With that in mind, Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger has quite a task ahead of him.
During the working session prior to the regular meeting of the Cloquet City Council Tuesday evening, Fritsinger showed council members how things are shaking out with the city’s ward redistricting project.
“As far as the state goes, with the House we saw that the district was changed so we actually do not have a representative,” he explained. “On the Senate side, things didn’t change much.”
Redistricting local wards comes down to two main things for the city: population and natural boundaries. While the numbers don’t necessarily have to be balanced, they do need to be reasonable and they do need to work within how the county sets up districts. At this time, the city has five wards, but the city is looking at various other configurations, including possibly dissolving Ward 4 and absorbing it into Wards 1 and 2 or going with two at-large wards instead of one.
“The challenge is really balancing with the county,” Fritsinger said. “In the initial proposal we end up short [in population] in some areas. That is something we still need to work on.”
Another issue with the initial proposal is that Councilor David Bjerkness would actually be outside of his current boundary. Fritsinger said he was working on a way to keep Bjerkness inside his current ward boundary.
Fritsinger said that right now he is simply looking for feedback on how to make the redistricting work for residents, councilors and the county.
“Everything is on the table right now,” said Mayor Bruce Ahlgren. “We haven’t made any final decisions.”
Councilors are expected to vote on the new boundaries during the first meeting in April.
In other business at Tuesday night’s council meeting, 21 people were appointed to the city’s Parks Master Plan Task Force. Originally the task force was supposed to have 15-16 members. After a review of applications during the working session prior to the regular meeting, however, councilors decided to accept all but one person.
Councilor Barb Wyman recommended that all applications be accepted to provide a variety of backgrounds and a substantial base to move forward with plans. Fritsinger agreed that those who sent applications for the task force represent people from many walks of life in the community.
After careful consideration, the councilors did not accept an application from one person living outside of the community with the thought that since Cloquet taxpayers are paying for city parks, they should be the ones working on the project.
A motion was made by Wyman, seconded by Bjerkness and passed unanimously by the council to accept the applications.
After serving on the Cloquet City Council and representing the city’s 4th ward for 30 years, councilor Neil Nemmers officially resigned his seat at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Nemmers said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he and his wife have numerous retirement plans and he didn’t think it would be fair not to be able to devote 100 percent of his energy to the people he represents.
After a motion by Councilor Roger Maki and a second by Councilor David Manderfield, Mayor Bruce Ahlgren had praise for Nemmers.
“Neil has served loyally and faithfully for 30 years,” Ahlgren said. “He has been highly respected.”
The motion to accept Nemmers’ resignation was passed unanimously.
Nemmers’ term is due to expire at the end of this year. The city will now advertise for and interview applicants to fill the position for the balance of the term, with an eye toward filling the vacancy by April 1.