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Council meeting highlights many changes at Cloquet Police Department

Police Chief Wade Lamirande thanks the city staff and Cloquet City Council members — and many council members before them — for supporting him first as a police officer and then as police chief. There will be an open house to honor Lamirande from 1-4 p.m. Friday, May 2, at City Hall. Jana Peterson/ 1 / 3
Mayor Bruce Ahlgren praises longtime Citizens Advisory Board member James Hagen for his 40 years of service to the CAB and the police/fire civil service commission as well. Jana Peterson/ 2 / 3
Police Chief Wade Lamirande and Deputy Police Chief Terry Hill stand with the department’s newest police officer, Kristina Kohlmeyer, after her swearing-in ceremony during Tuesday’s Cloquet City Council meeting. Kohlmeyer is the city’s first female police officer since 1982. Jana Peterson/ 3 / 3

Cloquet City Councilors greeted the city’s first female police officer in over 30 years and said farewell to Police Chief Wade Lamirande, who is retiring May 2, during Lamirande’s final City Council meeting as chief.

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Mayor Bruce Ahlgren and other city officials also honored James Hagen Tuesday for 40 years of service on the police department’s Citizens Advisory Board.

“My dad taught me a long time ago to make this city better,” Hagen said.

After new police officer Kristina Kohlmeyer was sworn in and Hagen honored by his longtime friend, Mayor Ahlgren, Lamirande stepped to the podium in the Council Chambers.

“I want to say a few words of gratitude to the staff and all the councils that have supported me in my time as a police officer,” he said. “Jim Hagen sat on the interview committee when I was hired 24 years ago. He’s done a lot to help build both the police and fire departments: countless hours, lunchtimes, evening meetings, difficult staffing issues and hiring new staff.

“I’m ecstatic to have had a little part in hiring our first female officer since 1982,” he added.

Lamirande said he was thankful for all the opportunities he’s had, the training he’s received and the support he’s been given. He said it was time to retire, especially in light of changes to the PERA retirement laws that go into effect this summer.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be chief of police, especially in your hometown,” he said.

Deputy Police Chief Terry Hill was unanimously approved to be interim police chief effective May 3. A planned presentation on the search process for a new police chief and the job profile was delayed, because the consultant didn’t have time to get input and complete the position profile before the meeting, City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said. The search process is expected to last several months.

There will be an open house to honor Lamirande from 1-4 p.m. Friday, May 2, at City Hall. Readers can also look for a more in-depth interview with Lamirande in an upcoming issue of the Pine Journal.

Although half the crowd of about 30 residents was there for the police department ceremonies, the other half came for a public hearing on proposed street improvements to White Pine Trail from Spring Lake Road to Trettel Lane, and also Trettel Lane from White Pine Trail to Airport Road.

“I think it’s long overdue,” said resident Keith Bassett of the plan to pave the dirt roadways, which feature ruts in the spring and dust in the summer. “It’s long overdue and I appreciate the Council support.”

City Engineer Jim Prusak referred to a resident petition to have White Pine Trail paved that was presented to the city in 2011, explaining that the project could not happen before the city completed other tasks, including widening the road, grading drainage ditches and installing a 10-inch water main along White Pine.

Although construction designs are not yet complete, Prusak said the plan is to construct a rural-style roadway, with a 24-foot-wide bituminous pavement and gravel shoulders without curb and gutter.

Cost to residents adjacent to the road, he estimated, will likely fall around $18.50 per foot of property adjacent to the road. He estimated the total cost of the project at close to $400,000, with residents picking up about 25 percent of those costs.

The Council and Mayor voted unanimously to approve the project, and received a rare round of applause for their vote.

Prusak said the road project would probably not start until July or August, but should proceed quickly once begun.

In other matters Tuesday, the Council and Mayor:

  •  Approved plans for a planned Cloquet clean-up day June 7, when residents will be allowed to bring yard waste, appliances, tires and the like at reduced rates to the city event, which will be held at Shamrock Landfill.
  •  Approved a gap-financing loan request for $54,050 (at 2.5 percent interest) for Wood City Lights, LLC, which is purchasing Erickson Hardware. Owners John and Julie Haverkamp plan to continue to operate the hardware store and move Wood City Lights and Sound from Scanlon Way to the Cloquet Avenue store. The Haverkamps have secured primary financing from Frandsen Bank. They expect to spend about $50,000 to renovate the building.
  •  Discussed with Prusak a number of proposed landscaping projects along Highway 33 and Highway 45, to help beautify the main entrances and thoroughfares through the city. The discussion was tabled and Prusak said he would appreciate any suggestions from area residents for landscaping ideas on city- or state-owned property around town.