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Council approves major street reconstruction

Ongoing issues with flooding at the corner of Selmser and 21st Street causing repeated storm sewer and sanitary sewer backups into nearby homes was the impetus for the city of Cloquet’s next big street construction project.

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With the unanimous approval from Cloquet City Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren at Tuesday’s meeting, city officials hope to begin work in May on the complete reconstruction of 22nd Street from Carlton Avenue to Prospect Avenue, as well as Selmser Avenue from 20th to 22nd Street. In addition to completely replacing the 60-year-old road bed, the project includes the complete replacement of the existing sanitary sewer, water and storm-sewer utility lines.

Although Selmser will remain at its current width of 30 feet with sidewalks on either side, city officials plan to increase the width of 22nd Street from 30 to 34 feet by eliminating the boulevard on the west side of the road. Sidewalks will remain on both sides, but parking will be eliminated on the east side of the road.

Assistant City Engineer Caleb Peterson described 22nd Street as a “collector street” and noted that the road carries a fair amount of traffic — much of it to and from Cloquet High School — some 2,200 cars a day. He added that navigating the road now can be challenging when there are cars parked on both sides of the road and cars traveling in both directions. Peterson also said that eliminating parking on one side of the road will bring it into line with state guidelines.

Several residents attended the public hearing on the street project Tuesday. They asked about access to their homes during the project period — Peterson said workers would “do their best” to make sure homeowners can get in and out of their driveways in the evenings, but warned that the worst times for access will be when the water and sewer lines are being replaced.

One resident also asked about estimated costs to homeowners along the route.

Cost of the project is estimated at $1.38 million. Funding for the project will come from four sources, including municipal state aid ($571,00), water fund ($278,000), sanitary sewer fund ($186,000), storm sewer utility fund ($120,000) and permanent improvement fund ($230,000).

In addition, Peterson said, residents adjacent to the streets will be assessed a portion of the costs. According to city policy, that includes cost for 10 feet of blacktop and half the costs of the curb along their property line, in addition to any sewer connections.

“Typically the cost will be between $5,000 and $6,000 and the city will assess that [on residents’ property taxes] over 10 years,” Peterson said. “But you can pay it off at any time.”

Total assessment costs for the project were estimated at $320,500 (or 23 percent of the total project cost) in the staff report.

Once the city’s bidding process is complete, Peterson said staff will meet with the contractor and send out a letter to affected residents explaining the schedule, access and other information including contact numbers for residents who have questions or issues with the project.

Residents of the low-lying homes at the intersection of 21st and Selmser should be pleased with at least one element of the project: the intersection’s single 12-inch storm-sewer line will be replaced by a 42-inch storm-sewer line.

During the work session prior to the formal meeting, Councilors, the Mayor and staff met with Cloquet Planning Commission Chair John Sanders and Planning and Zoning Administrator Al Cottingham to discuss current initiatives. Following that meeting, they also discussed the issue of the July Fourth Celebration in Cloquet and the lack of people willing to volunteer to work or help plan the event.

In other matters Tuesday, the Council and Mayor took the following actions:

  •  Approved the appointments of Pete Radosevich to the Cable Commission as well as Debra Burm and Barb Ross to the Rental Housing Task Force.
  •  Approved the purchase of two 2014 Dodge Police Pursuit vehicles from Cloquet Ford Chrysler at $25,653 each.
  •  Approved the purchase of a hot water steamer unit at a cost of $11,192 for the utility department to replace one that was 21 years old. The equipment is used to open up frozen culverts, storm sewers and occasionally fire hydrants.
  •  Approved the selection of Springsted, Inc. to assist in the process of hiring a new Chief of Police. Current Police Chief Wade Lamirande has given written notice that he plans to retire May 2, 2014. Although the hiring process will be external, internal candidates will also be considered.
  •  Approved the purchase of a Ford Focus for the Community Development Department from Ranger GMC in Hibbing for $15,804.
  •  Tabled the proposed purchase of four pickup trucks by the Public Works Department from Ranger GMC in Hibbing and Nelson Auto in Fergus Falls.