City Council reappoints mayor, amends temporary liquor license ordinance

After a few jokes about interviewing the former mayor before reappointing him, Cloquet City Council members unanimously reappointed Bruce Ahlgren to the position to kick off their meeting Tuesday.

After a few jokes about interviewing the former mayor before reappointing him, Cloquet City Council members unanimously reappointed Bruce Ahlgren to the position to kick off their meeting Tuesday.

In June, councilors agreed to bring Ahlgren back as soon as the glitch in a state law regarding his retirement plan would allow.

"It's been a long 30 days and I'm happy to be back," Ahlgren said. "I'll do the best I can for you and the city," he told councilors.

Ahlgren was serving his third term as mayor when he resigned from office on June 5 in order to satisfy the legal requirements of his retirement fund.

Ahlgren retired from his position as Carlton County Court administrator in late March, and in order to receive benefits from the fund, he had to resign all public employment, including his mayoral position. The retirement had to be effective for 30 days, so Ahlgren could not be reappointed as mayor until July 10.


In the interim, city council member Herb Johnson served as acting mayor.

Ahlgren's appointment will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2008. A special election must be held in 2008 for the remaining two years of the Mayor's term which expires in 2010. This must be done because the vacancy occurred before the first day to file affidavits of candidacy for the next regular city election, and because more than two years remain in the term, documents said.

In other business, council members approved an amended ordinance that will allow the Cloquet VFW to obtain temporary on-sale liquor licenses for the next five Friday Fest events in the historic West End of Cloquet.

"The ordinance was amended to make the city code consistent with Minnesota state statutes," explained Brian Fritsinger, city administrator. "The language does require as a condition that the event be officially designated as a community festival."

The current code limited the number of licenses to be issued to any one non-profit organization to one per year.

The amended ordinance states, "The purpose and intent of [it] is to protect the public's health, safety and welfare with regard to the issuance of temporary 3.2 percent beer sale licenses and to enhance the promotion of properly designated community celebrations."

It adopts the provisions of a Minnesota statute as a guideline and states that the city council will determine on a case-by-case basis the number of clubs, political committees ... (charitable, religious or non-profit organizations in existence for three years) that will be issued a temporary on-sale license to sell 3.2 percent beer in the city.

They may also authorize the sale of 3.2 percent beer at a different location within the city other than the one owned or permanently occupied by the licensee, if the site is approved by the city council.


The city council will determine the number and duration of any multiple temporary licenses and cannot grant more than 12 days per year. The VFW was approved for five on Tuesday and with a few others, Fritsinger estimated that approximately four more were available for this year.

This does not affect the organizations who apply for only one temporary beer license per year. Before Friday Fest, typically two or three organizations applied for these licenses per year, according to Fritsinger.

The question of the ordinance was raised this spring after the VFW applied for six temporary licenses for the monthly events to go through November.

They had also asked that those buying beer be permitted to stroll along Avenue C, which would require amending the ordinance that only allowed a non-profit to have alcohol at one single event and stated that an area for drinking must be confined. The idea of amending the ordinance and providing alcohol at the events sparked protest from some area neighbors and businesses.

The VFW was granted one permit and was able to sell alcohol at the first Friday Fest, on June 29, in an area on Vine Street.

Eric Blesener, council member and Cloquet police officer, was on duty that night and said he did not hear of any problems from the two officers working the event.

"I didn't hear a peep about it," he said.

"I heard at least a half dozen positive remarks, including that [the organizers] are excited to do it again and that says a lot to me," added councilor Deb Hill.


Council members unanimously approved the amended ordinance, approved Friday Fest as a community festival and approved the VFW's request for five one-day temporary 3.2 percent beer licenses. The VFW will be required to pay a $50 fee for each license and provide the city with a certificate of insurance in a specified amount.

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: .

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