The Cloquet City Council has approved a special law allowing the city to pursue a 0.5% sales tax to fund repairs at Pine Valley Park and Cloquet's hockey arenas.

The council passed the law 6-0 on Tuesday, July 20, with Ward 5 council member Lyz Jaakola absent. Under Minnesota Statute, council approval was the next step to enact the sales tax after it was recently passed within the Minnesota Legislature's special session omnibus tax bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on July 1.

However, the process is not over yet, City Administrator Tim Peterson said. The sales tax will still need to be brought to the public for a vote through a referendum question on the November 2022 general election ballot.

If passed, the money from the tax will go towards funding repairs and improvements at Pine Valley and Northwoods Credit Union hockey arenas, as well as Pine Valley Park. Peterson said there are an array of improvements and repairs that would be included in the project, with more than $6 million to be designated towards the ice arenas and over $2.1 million to Pine Valley Park.

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Local hockey receives support

Along with the sales tax, a newly approved grant from the city will also provide support to hockey in the Cloquet area.

The council voted 6-0 Tuesday to award the Minnesota Wilderness hockey team a $20,000 grant aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Peterson, the team came to city officials for financial assistance after facing a lost season in 2020. The team was still required to pay their lease, despite not playing any games, and was also forced to relocate its annual camp, which was costly, Peterson said.

“As a part of the ongoing discussions with them, staff thought it was in the best interest to offer up some assistance," Peterson said. “We want to obviously keep them in town.”

The money for the grant came from the estimated $1.37 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds set to be received by the city throughout the next two years.

Issuing the grant to the Minnesota Wilderness is an allowable expense under federal guidance, which says households, businesses and nonprofits are all eligible for assistance using American Rescue Plan Act funds. For businesses and nonprofits, this includes but is not limited to grants and loans aimed at mitigating financial hardship, such as declines in revenue or periods of business closure.