Weather Forecast


Council debates sale of hard alcohol at Wilderness games

A measure to allow sale of hard liquor as well as beer and wine at Minnesota Wilderness hockey games narrowly passed at the Cloquet City Council meeting Tuesday.

"I'm not understanding the need for hard alcohol at a city-owned site," said Councilor David Bjerkness, who also asked whether any youth hockey games or practices would follow Wilderness games, something City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said was unlikely.

"It was a leap last year for the council to grant a beer license," Bjerkness added.

In a rare public debate, other councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren chimed in.

Ahlgren expressed concern that the alcohol be stored in a secure area; Councilor Kerry Kolodge wanted to know if the sales continued through the entire game -- they stop 10 minutes before the end of the game -- and Councilor Lara Wilkinson asked what the city could do if the sale of hard liquor caused a lot of problems.

Fritsinger suggested "tailoring the conditions" of the approval to address any specific areas of concern.

"The team is making the request for alcohol [sales], but they don't want to make an alcohol-driven product because there are youth and families there," Fritsinger said. "It's a fine line."

He told councilors there were no reported problems with last year's beer and wine sales, which were also handled by The Jack (Lumberjack Lounge) under an extension of its license.

Key issues and conditions include the following:

Sales are restricted to the arena itself. There can be no alcohol consumption outside the arena or in the locker room areas.

The Club indicated it would provide up to 5 or 6 security personnel as it did last season.

The sales can only occur during Wilderness home games and any excess alcohol would have to be stored in a secure area between games.

A motion by Bjerkness to only approve sale of beer, wine and malt liquor at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena failed 3-4. A second motion by Kolodge, who made the point that an ounce of alcohol is the same amount of alcohol as a beer or glass of wine, to approve the license to sell hard alcohol as well as beer and wine, passed by a vote of 4-3, with Councilors Bjerkness, Wilkinson and David Manderfeld dissenting.

Councilors and the mayor also approved a lawful gambling premise permit application that the Cloquet Amateur Hockey Association is submitted to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board.

In other matters Tuesday:

Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren welcomed Charles Martin to the Cloquet Police Department, after Martin took his oath of office in front of several fellow officers and family members.

Another new member of the force, K9 officer Raja, was absent from the council meeting, although Police Chief Wade Lamirande noted in a recent letter to the Council that Raja and her handler, Detective Scott Holman, passed their exams and returned to Cloquet and police work here.

Councilors unanimously approved a change to a conditional use permit (CUP) for Zack Sand and Gravel as recommended by the Cloquet Planning Commission. A condition of the original CUP was "the completion of the private road accessing the Zack gravel mining operations by no later than Sept. 30, 2010," a road that was intended to be the access to and from the pit at the intersection of Stark and Freeman roads.

According to the staff report, the private road is still not complete, and there is concern regarding the ability of loaded trucks to use the road because of the finished grade, which means some trucks will need to continue to use Kallstrom and Freeman roads to access the pit, in violation of the conditions of the permit.

Both the Planning Commission and Councilors voted unanimously that the CUP be amended as follows: The private road needs to be completed and operational by Oct. 31, 2013, or the gravel operation will need to cease until the private road is completed and operational by all users. No truck traffic will be allowed on Kallstrom and Freeman Roads."

"The Commission already waited four years," City Planning and Zoning Administrator Al Cottingham said after the meeting.

Councilors also approved a comprehensive plan land use amendment and rezoning case, as recommended by the Planning Commission. Councilors unanimously approved a request by Travis Farleigh to rezone the property at 608 Carlton Ave. from "Neighborhood Commercial" to "Low-Density Residential" so he could convert the existing vacant commercial building into a residential home.

Councilors approved a joint study of the Highway 33 South Corridor from Interstate 35 to the bridge over the St. Louis River with the Minnesota Department of Transportation at a cost of roughly $25,000 each.

In the work plan submitted by city engineering staff, potential recommendations for improving the Highway 33 corridor included: the development of an access management plan, new frontage roads, additional traffic signals and improved pedestrian facilities. Access management is the process of managing access to land development while preserving capacity and improving safety along abutting roadways.

Councilors also approved plans by Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to construct a paved bike trail along the south side of Big Lake Road from University Road to Loop Drive. The project will also include widening of the intersections at University Road and Trettel Lane to provide turn lanes off Big Lake Road.

The proposed trail is identified as an important east to west connection to the city's Master Trail Plan and has been a goal of the Band for some time. The current trail ends at Pinewood Drive, however the staff report stated that FDL staff expressed a desire to coordinate with the city and county to provide future connections with Doddridge Avenue and Pinehurst Park.

The project is being funded using federal aid allocated as part of the State Transportation Improvement Program with a local match provided by Fond du Lac. Federal costs for the shared use path are estimated at nearly $300,000 with a $102,000 local match. Intersection improvements will be split, with $320,000 coming from federal aid and $80,000 paid by Fond du Lac. There is no cost to the city of Cloquet.