The Cloquet City Council held their first meeting of the new year Tuesday, Jan. 5., selecting two members to serve on the Cloquet Park Commission, as well as amending a city code affecting local pawn shops and approving a proposal for an electrical system upgrade.

In a unanimous vote, the council appointed John Badger and Tom Urbanski to the recently expired seats on the city’s park commission, citing their experience with sales taxes as the main reason for the decision. The two were selected from a pool of five candidates.

“I cannot tell you how exciting it is that we had five candidates,” city administrator Tim Peterson said. “It just kind of shows that citizens in Cloquet are willing to step up.”

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Before casting a vote, councilor at-large Lara Wilkinson shared her disappointment surrounding the lack of female representation on the commission. While one woman applied, there are currently no women who serve on the commission.

Wilkinson asked that female candidates be prioritized in upcoming selections.

“Even though it’s very disappointing on some levels, we have to do what’s in the best interest for this city,” said Sheila Lamb, Ward 2 councilor.

Ward 4 councilor Kerry Kolodge, who made the original motion, asked that after three years of service Badger and Urbanski step down and allow others to fill their seats on the commission. The council also discussed possible future positions within city government for the remaining candidates.

Following the appointment of the seats, the council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to amend a city code and fee schedule which changed the transaction fee for pawn brokers from 100% to 75% of the processing fee for programs designed to decrease sales of stolen items. The ordinance was proposed due to the implementation of a new system, LeadsOnline, which partners with the website eBay to monitor pawn sales.

LeadsOnline’s processing fee is double that of the current program, which would result in higher payments by pawn brokers. In an effort to mitigate a drastic fee increase, the council voted to reduce the percentage paid. All together, the changes are likely to increase the average fee paid by pawn brokers by approximately $25.

“Certainly this is something that we support,” Peterson said. “It works with our local business, but it also … allows us and our police department access to a larger database.”

Lamb added that due to a personal experience with stolen property being recovered as a result of the database, she “wholeheartedly” supports the ordinance.

The final unanimous vote of the evening came as a result of a request for approval for an upgrade to the electrical system at the city's Lake Superior Water Pump Station Two, located in West Duluth.

The upgrade would be the result of a collaboration between the city, Sappi Fine Paper and Saginaw Power and Automation to improve the pump's engineering.

The pump upgrade would be the second part of an improvement project for reservoirs located on the city-owned Lake Superior waterline.

The final cost estimate for the upgrade was $25,400, but, according to Cloquet Public Works director Caleb Peterson, Sappi Fine Paper would pay the majority of the cost, as the project is an independent operation.

Peterson also said that both the city and Sappi Fine Paper are comfortable working with Saginaw Power and Automation.