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Sold! Carlton County to buy Cloquet City Hall

If all goes as planned, Carlton County will be the owners of Cloquet City Hall sometime early next year.

The Cloquet City Council closed its meeting Tuesday for 15-20 minutes to discuss offers on the building and the asking price. Upon reopening the meeting, the council voted unanimously to permit staff to work with the county to finalize an agreement to sell the building for $750,000 payable over a five-year period.

The city is selling because City Hall will be moving a block away in 2019.

In May, the council approved the terms of a purchase agreement for the Members Cooperative Credit Union building and plans to move both staff from City Hall and the police department into the building at 101 14th St.

The purchase price for the MCCU building is $1.8 million. The estimate for renovations to the building are between $1.8 million and $2.2 million, which will come from general fund reserves.

The move should save the city more than $3 million over its original plans for the existing police and fire building at Cloquet Avenue and Sixth Street. A 2014 facility plan put the costs of renovating and rebuilding the current police and fire building at $6.4 million, plus an estimated $775,000 in work planned to rearrange office space at City Hall.

City Administrator Aaron Reeves said the city did not do a formal listing for the sale of the building.

"It was strictly by word-of-mouth or reaching out to potentially interested parties," he wrote in response to the Pine Journal. He said the city received only two actual offers: the one from the county and one from a private party.

"The county's offer was the highest by hundreds of thousands of dollars," Reeves said, noting that the money will go toward the remodeling costs at the new building. "In addition the council felt strongly that it was in the taxpayers' best interest to have it sold to the county to assist them in their space needs, ultimately saving the taxpayers of Cloquet more money."

The city will not take possession of the MCCU building until probably January, giving the credit union time to construct its new facility on Minnesota Highway 33 next to Dollar Tree.

According to a previous Pine Journal story, the planned renovations at the MCCU building would not be too extensive, although the city would remove several offices on the north side of the building to create a new council chambers and some walls would be moved to change spaces around. Some features, like the built-in vault that would become an armory for police guns and ammunition, will easily be repurposed.

A large parking garage for police vehicles would be constructed where the drive-thru banking is now. The resulting facility will be larger than what the city actually needs for current staff, leaving room to grow.

The City Hall building was constructed in 1990. Prior to that, City Hall was located on Arch Street, opposite Wentworth Park in the West End of Cloquet.

Reeves said there were no limitations on the use or sale of the City Hall building, but the council believed the county's use was in the city's best interest.

"More governmental services offered in Cloquet is a benefit to our citizens and other downtown business owners," he said.

Water treatment plant under construction

In other matters Tuesday, the council approved a bond purchase and project loan agreement from the state's Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. They money will pay for the $6.6 million water treatment plant, which will filter manganese from the city's Well No. 8.

Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral that is not yet on any official contaminant list, but scientists are now questioning its impacts to human health so building the treatment plant is a proactive move by the city. The loan will be paid back through water rates, so the city doesn't have to bond for the project.

The treatment plant is under construction near the entrance to the city's public works garage on Armory Road.