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CLOQUET: STATE OF THE CITY 2017

After my first two years as your Mayor it is my honor to provide you with the 2017 State of the City report.

To begin, I would like to acknowledge and thank my colleagues on the City Council with whom I have been very proud to serve. Council members Steve Langley, Kerry Kolodge, Roger Maki, Dave Bjerkness and Jeff Rock. They continue to do a wonderful job in representing the residents of their Wards and the citizens of the community as a whole. I'd also like to thank former Council member Lara Wilkinson for her dedication and insights during her time on the Council.

They have been extremely helpful in providing advice and guidance as I have taken on the role as Mayor. My comments address what we have accomplished together as a group, not as individuals, but as a team. I believe we have continued the long-standing tradition of working together for the City's best interests.

I also want to thank the staff of the City and Cloquet Area Fire District for their day-to-day service to Cloquet. Their dedication to public service and devotion to always putting the needs of our residents first continue to help our community be great.

Last, but not least I want to thank the many who volunteer for Cloquet, including the paid on-call members of the CAFD, Committees, Commissions, boards, and other critical service organizations for their tireless efforts on behalf of the City. The many hours, energy, and talents you all so selfishly give to our community are very much appreciated.

WHERE WE HAVE BEEN: A REVIEW OF 2016

It is often said that the only constant in life is change. At the same time the pace of change we see today seems to be even greater given society's trends and expectations. This is especially true in the area of city government.

Operationally, 2016 brought us a number of changes and additions to our city staff. Most significant was the retirement of Jim Prusak, long-time Public Works Director. Jim oversaw much of the community's improvements in parks and public works over the past 40 years and his knowledge and skills will be missed.

The City explored the concept of merging with the City of Scanlon. A great deal of time and resources were invested in analyzing the merits of this change. While not closing the door on this cooperative venture, the City has opted to put it on the back burner until further consideration can be given to the topic in the future.

The City has also seen significant change in our infrastructure. As it ages and deteriorates it has required significantly more investment of public monies. Unfortunately, the cost to repair these critical items is greater than the City can afford. However we continue to reinvest in projects and initiatives to give a facelift to many of our parks, streets, and utilities that contribute to our quality of life.

In 2016, the City repaired more than 2.8 miles of roadway expending $1.6 million for improvements to Third Street, Holmes Drive, Carl Street, West Taylor and the I-35 frontage road.

The City also continues to reinvest in its park system as over the past year it spent over $1.4 million at Fauley, Veterans and Hilltop Parks. We also added a Safe Routes to School sidewalk along Slate Street to Churchill School after receiving a federal grant of close to $150,000.

MOVING FORWARD INTO 2017

Much of the progress of change within the community over the past several years has been due to the City Council's commitment to engage in goal setting and strategic planning exercises. We will do more over the next few months. When complete, action plans will be developed and a complete copy of the goal-setting report will be made available on the City's website for all to see.

In 2017, some key areas of interest include:

-Budget: We have a commitment at the City to be good stewards of the public's money. We continue to maintain a balanced operating budget and currently prepare a four-year budget to help us understand the future impact of our decisions and to help us stay fiscally responsible.

-Community Investment: We must invest in our businesses, promote economic development, improve recreation and replace and repair our infrastructure. The community is over 100 years old and unfortunately the cost to make these investments is not cheap. There is no doubt that we have deferred maintenance issues throughout town and the City is committed to developing a plan to fix our infrastructure issues. Major projects planned for 2017 include the rehabilitation of Broadway Avenue, $600,000 of street repairs, and the redevelopment of Dunlap Island into a major destination park, new skate park at Athletic Park and bike path at Pine Valley.

-Veterans Memorial Dedication: The City undertook a major renovation of Veterans Park this past year and will complete the project this spring with the final improvements to the new Memorial Wall. I need to thank the many veterans and veteran organizations in the community for their efforts over the past 20 years to see this park renovated. While the plan has not yet been fully implemented, the vision is well underway and I look forward to its dedication later this spring/summer.

-Public Safety: Public Safety continues to be a priority for our city and citizens. Over the past year we have added three officers to our staff in the Police Department and, after almost a 10-year hiatus, we hope to reach agreement with the Cloquet School District to collaboratively share a School Resource Officer who will work exclusively within the schools during the school year.

-Community Events: In our efforts to attract business, we must find some innovative ways to move our city forward. We must encourage more activities, festivals and community events like the Fourth of July celebration, Home for the Holidays, Labor Day celebration and Wood City Music Festival. Alyson Leno and her events committees have done a wonderful job growing our events and are always looking for volunteer help.

-Other Items: In 2017 we will continue to strengthen our efforts of cleaning up blighted properties; investigate opportunities for a new municipal well and water filter plant; collaborate with the Fond du Lac community on issues of mutual interest; work with MnDOT to identify a solution to the dangerous intersection at Highway 33 and I-35; and, develop a new city website to enhance our communication and engagement with our residents.

IN CLOSING

I know that wanting Cloquet to achieve greatness will not result in great things for our city. It takes hard work, collaboration, courage and strong leadership. I look forward to continuing efforts with our City Council, including our newest member Adam Bailey, to work in the best interests of each and every member of our community. It is imperative that the Council and our staff remember that we serve at the desire of the public and that first and foremost is our responsibility to protect our citizens. We will have their best interests in mind with everything we do and every decision we make. I am proud to be Mayor of Cloquet and the fact that so many of our residents take pride in living here is a large part of why I maintain that pride.

Lastly, I want to thank you for your continued support. It is my honor and privilege to serve you as your Mayor. I am confident and committed and looking forward to the future. I look forward to the coming year as we work together to continue to make Cloquet a great place to live, work and conduct business.

Read the unedited version of this State of the City online at the city of Cloquet's website at http://www.ci.cloquet.mn.us/.

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