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City Council approves new K9 officer for police department

It's official. Cloquet is getting a new K9 officer. On Tuesday, Cloquet City Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren voted unanimously and with no discussion to approve the continuation of the police department's K9 program, which was on hiatus after ...

It's official. Cloquet is getting a new K9 officer.

On Tuesday, Cloquet City Councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren voted unanimously and with no discussion to approve the continuation of the police department's K9 program, which was on hiatus after the recent death of Tessa, the Cloquet Police Department's previous K9.

The new dog will specialize in narcotics detection, just like Tessa, who was responsible - with her handler Cloquet Sergeant Detective Scott Holman - for the recovery of more than a million dollars' worth of illegal drugs in Carlton County and surrounding areas.

Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande was happy with the council's support.

"Just to get this approval is huge," he said. "Now we can proceed [with finding a new dog]."

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Lamirande noted in his staff report that his department prides itself on being proactive with traffic stops and vehicle searches and the department has been making concerted efforts to "combat an increasing drug problem within the city."

"We have not only seen an increase in drug usage, we have also seen an alarming increase in the type of drugs entering our community," he wrote. "Officers frequently see large amounts of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack and recently an increase in prescription drugs and heroin."

Lamirande said with the increased ingenuity of drug traffickers hiding contraband, having a trained K9 helps officers find drugs they may have overlooked otherwise.

Among quick facts from the Chief were:

+ A dog's sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than humans.

+ The presence of a police dog can prevent physical confrontation, thus lessening the chances of officers getting injured.

+ Police dogs can "pay for themselves" in the form of drug busts, seizures and saving staff time [during searches, for example].

Lamirande said two officers had expressed interest in being the handler, but Holman was selected because of his training and track record, as well as the fact that the city won't have to pay for the eight weeks of training required for a new handler.

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The cost of purchasing a fully-trained K9 is between $6,500 and $7,500, which would pay for the dog, travel associated with getting the animal, training and a health guarantee for one year, Lamirande estimated. The ongoing costs for training and care of a K9 averages about $5,000 a year, he noted in his report.

The CPD already had $10,000 in a fund from hosting the USPCA Canine Nationals in 2009, and recently received an anonymous donation of $3,000 to go toward a new K9. Department supporters are also selling T-shirts in memory of Tessa to help raise money to support a new K9. (Call Theresa at 218-428-5510 for more information.)

Lamirande said the department could purchase a new dog within two weeks, although the dog likely wouldn't finish its training and arrive in Cloquet for approximately three months.

In other matters Tuesday, the Council and Mayor:

+ Held a public hearing on the adoption of an assessment for the removal of a public nuisance and hazardous condition (a vacant home that had been knocked over and left to lay on its side) at 739 Larch St. Property owner Isaac Wolter contested the city's policy of charging 8 percent interest on the assessment of $4,300, which was the cost of demolition, removal and site filling of the home incurred by the city. Wolter asked that the council consider a lower interest rate, and said he was not told there would be any interest charged when he met with the city attorney.

Finance Director Nancy Klassen said the interest rate was set by state statute, which guides that hazardous structure removals be assessed at 8 percent by a municipality.

"It would be going against state statute to change the interest rate and I don't recommend that," Klassen said.

The vote was unanimous to leave the interest rate at 8 percent and Mayor Ahlgren recommended Wolter pursue a cheaper loan through a bank or credit union.

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+ Councilors approved plans to hold the Home for the Holidays celebration Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1. Sponsored by Cloquet Ford Chrysler and Members Cooperative Credit Union, the annual event includes a parade and other free community events.

+ Mayor Ahlgren declared Oct. 21-27 as Friends of Libraries Week.

+ Councilors also approved the appointment of election judges for the General Election Nov. 6 and heard an update on the sales tax referendum education process from City Administrator Brian Fritsinger.

Related Topics: CLOQUET CITY COUNCIL
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