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Thomson Township seeks clarification on Cloquet Area Fire District's levy authority

The township's legal counsel believes the fire district does not have the authority to levy taxes in the township, as it is not a full member of the district.

FILE:ThomsonTownHall
The Thomson Township Hall Izabel Johnson / 2021 File / Pine Journal
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ESKO — As a result of ongoing discussions between officials in Thomson Township and the Cloquet Area Fire District, township officials are seeking clarification on whether the fire district can levy taxes on township residents.

Dave Pritchett, the township's attorney, said based on his understanding of the statutory language, the CAFD does not have the authority to levy the residents of Thomson Township. The township is now consulting with the county officials to see whether that is the case.

Pritchett said at a May 5 meeting that he believes the township does not fall under the fire district's levy authority.

"There is a constitutional provision that seemingly prevents the kind of taxation they are doing, because we are not subject to the board " he said.

While not a full member of the district, the township does have representation on the CAFD board with a Carlton County board seat occupied by township supervisor Jason Paulson.

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The district held a special meeting on June 3 where the recent proposal given to the CAFD was also presented to the township board.

During the special meeting, the board made the decision to move forward with taking the legal opinion to the county attorney and auditor.

Fire Chief Jesse Buhs, who was present for the meeting, said the CAFD's legal counsel believes the district does have the authority to levy the township.

Buhs explained that because it is a special district, once the CAFD certifies a levy, Carlton County is then in charge of applying the levy to taxpayers. While the township is not a district member, it does fall into the CAFD's primary service area, which is set by the state Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board.

Buhs added the special meeting held by the township was a good opportunity for him to answer township questions about costs in the district.

"It was really a very productive and beneficial meeting," he said. "That was our promise toward the end of last year to have that transparency and accountability when it comes to budgeting."

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
The second public hearing on the topic is scheduled for March 9, and is being held after residents provided comments and concerns during the first hearing on Jan. 26.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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