Veterans turn out in force for council meetingThe master parks plan wasn’t on the agenda Tuesday night, but it was the major topic of conversation during the formal Cloquet City Council meeting.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The master parks plan wasn’t on the agenda Tuesday night, but it was the major topic of conversation during the formal Cloquet City Council meeting.
A group of eight veterans association and auxiliary members launched a preemptive attack on possible plans to move the Veterans Plaza from its current location to Voyageur’s Park, where the stockade and wooden voyageur statue now stand.
Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger explained that discussions about Veterans Park and the memorial plaza, tank and other military items there have taken place within the volunteer citizen Master Parks Plan Task Force, not the City Council or even the Parks Commission. Only after the task force is finished will the plan make its way to the commission, then the council.
“The Council hasn’t seen anything; they haven’t talked about any plans,” Fritsinger explained. “At this point, there is no design [for a new Veterans Memorial Park]. This is simply a concept that the consultant put together.”
He explained that the task force has been meeting for more than a year, trying to come up with the first-ever master parks plan, a plan that would look decades into the future for all the city’s parks. In addition to their monthly meetings with a consultant and city staff, the group has also hosted two public meetings to gather communitywide input as well as encouraging residents to fill out online surveys about their hopes for the city’s park system.
The audience was initially unmoved by his explanation.
“Are you going to slide this by when we’re not here?” asked Louie Hubbell, former VFW commander.
Velda Beck wanted to know what happened to the master plan adopted by the City Council for Veterans Park in 1999, a plan which featured extensive landscaping and walkways through the park at the center of town.
“That plan has been taken into consideration by the task force,” Fritsinger said. “Obviously, the work they’ve been doing could mean that plan could be changed.”
Assistant City Engineer Caleb Peterson, who has acted as the city’s liaison to the task force, suggested the different veterans organizations in town meet with him and the consultant in a separate meeting from the ongoing task force meetings.
He said the task force appreciates the input from the veterans on both sides of the issue, because they’ve struggled to get a lot of community input throughout the process.
“Early on [in the parks planning process], we sat down and talked with some athletic associations about what their needs and wants were,” Peterson said, explaining that he and one of the city’s consultants on the parks plan were the “we” he was referring to. “At that point, we weren’t thinking about Veterans Park, so we didn’t contact any veterans groups. But I think it’s important to offer you the same opportunity.”
Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren addressed Hubbell’s initial question toward the end of the discussion, after recommending that Peterson get names and phone numbers from everyone at the meeting Tuesday to arrange a future meeting.
“We don’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” Ahlgren said.
In other matters Tuesday, the Council and Mayor did the following:
-Approved the appointment of David Johanson to the seven-member Library Board.
- Authorized the purchase of a new mower for $54,107. This mower is used on a daily basis throughout the summer to mow grass at all of the city’s athletic fields and parks. It has a 10-foot wide cut, which has allowed the city to eliminate at least one full-time mowing position. The city will provide its current mower to the Cloquet Youth Baseball/Softball Association for its use at Braun Park.
- Approved a conditional use permit for Kiminski Paving, which requested the CUP to allow for outside storage at its facility on 1441 Moorhead Road. The request was made to allow the paving company to store asphalt, concrete and gravel, which it crushes and recycles for use as base material in construction projects.
- Approved changes to the City Code, dropping language pertaining to commercial kennels in Section 8 and addressing it only in the city’s zoning ordinance, which is Section 17 of the City Code, basically eliminating redundant language and policies in the City Code. Council members voted to delay any action on the city’s regulations regarding private kennels, which apply to pet owners with four or five pets.