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Landfill vote delayed, Ed's Bakery to get a facelift (uncut)

All three audience members at the Cloquet City Council meeting Tuesday were there for a vote — on requests for increased hours and paper sludge at the industrial landfill near Hilltop Park — that was postponed at the request of the landfill owner.

This is the second time SKB Environmental Cloquet landfill (formerly known as Shamrock landfill) officials have asked that the request to change the conditional use permit (CUP) be removed from the council agenda. During the council's work session, Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger told councilors and Mayor Dave Hallback that SKB asked to sit down with them at a future work session.

Initially, Ward 2 Councilor David Bjerkness suggested the landfill officials come to the work session the same day that the vote on the permit is rescheduled.

"It's not a public hearing so they won't have a chance during the meeting," Bjerkness said, suggesting they limit the landfill officials to a half hour.

"So we're going to let SKB speak to us but not let the public defend themselves?" Ward 1 Councilor Jeff Rock responded.

Bjerkness and Rock both agreed the citizens "have been defending themselves on the phone," with Rock later noting he's gotten more calls on the landfill issue than anything else.

After more discussion, the council and mayor decided not to meet with SKB before the vote, which has not been rescheduled.

Regarding the cancellation and rescheduling of the CUP hearings, Fritsinger told the Pine Journal that Minnesota statute says the applicant may send written notice to request an extension of the time limit, which SKB did Thursday (after the Pine Journal was published).

"If SKB does not want their application heard at this time, the city does not have the 'right' to hear it," he said, noting that SKB provided an additional 30 days for the application to be heard.

Councilor Bjerkness also asked how the city had notified neighborhood residents about the landfill hearings. Fritsinger said city code requires notice within 350 feet, "which is nobody," he said. So the city extended the required notice area out to a quarter mile, but it still includes only about five properties.

Also during the work session, councilors gave city staff permission to solicit bids for a community sign with electronic messaging that could be placed near Highway 33 either in front of the Cloquet Armory or across the street. The estimated cost of the sign is $35,000 to $40,000 and it is in the city's budget.

Fritsinger said construction of such a sign could have the added bonus of replacing all the banners that local non-profit organizations put on city park fences, particularly at Pinehurst Park.

"It's about marketing more than anything," Bjerkness said, "and trying to shape people's perceptions as they drive through our community."

During Tuesday's formal Council meeting, Councilors and Mayor Dave Hallback approved the following actions:

• Approved $25,000 the city had committed for improvements of the Ed's Bakery building at 1013 Cloquet Ave. The money will be used for exterior improvements, with current owner Cornerstone Bank contributing an additional $2,670.

• Approved Terry Lyytinen and Nate Wilkinson as new members of the Cloquet Planning Commission;

• Approved Cory Martinson and John Fryc as new members of the Cloquet Parks Commission;

• Appointed At-Large Councilor Adam Bailey as alternate to the Cloquet Area Fire District Board;

• Councilors and Mayor Hallback also unanimously voted to support amendments to the Cloquet Area Fire District enabling legislation that would clarify the fire district's ability to issue building bonds and also increase the maximum levy for ambulance services outside the fire district to .048 percent of estimated market value. Those communities currently don't pay their fair share of the actual cost to provide ambulance services to their area.

"The request would allow the cost of the ambulance service to be better spread out across its service area," Fritsinger explained. "It would mean a reduction in the amount that the city residents and businesses are paying now [if passed by the Legislature]."

Editor's Note: A shorter version of this story ran in the print issue of the Pine Journal due to space constraints.