Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Carlton waterline to Junction passes Minnesota House

 


The Minnesota House of Representatives, guided by Representative Mike Sundin and Representative Mary Murphy (Chair of the House Bonding Committee), passed a $9 million bonding proposal for the construction of the waterline from the City of Carlton to the Junction/Smithville neighborhood along the Hwy 210 corridor. Commissioner Mark Thell reported the progress to a joint meeting of the Carlton County Board, leaders of the Fond Du Lac Band, and City of Cloquet administration on May 6 held at the Casino Hotel.

Activists for the 210 waterline project are now waiting for the Minnesota Senate to consider what projects they want to refer for State Bonding. Plans call for a booster pump on the south side of Hwy 210 just south of the Casino to provide a back up water supply for the Casino-Hotel complex.

Extensive hydrological testing has been done in the Junction area and most wells are less than 30 feet in depth, test positive for arsenic, and households use bottled water for drinking. The Commissioners agreed to expedite water test results to the Fond Du Lac leaders after Chair Kevin Dupuis made a request. The Band will contact their Capital lobbyist to talk to Minnesota Senators who could help expedite the bill’s passage.

Discussion ranged over several areas. Carlton County Board Chair Dick Brenner brought up continuing planning for a new County Jail, “We have looked at a number of jails including the newest jail in Chisago County. The funding package and the size of the jail are soon to be determined. The newest style of jail is based on pods.”

In answer to a question of what is a pod, Brenner explained, “Pods are groupings of 16 cells which are self contained and can provide programming focus in each pod centering on perhaps mental illness issues, chemical dependency, a male or female pod population, age, etc. It is a start to handling the multiple pattern of bookings for some jail clients.”

County Coordinator Dennis Genereau added, “A possible growth in the jail population could be handled by adding another 16 cell pod. At the present we are looking at an 80 to a 100 bed facility.”

Chair Dupuis asked, “We know of the need for a new jail yet we also can seen an explosion of drug abuse and a dramatic increase of young women being incarcerated. What other actions can be taken? Removing a woman from the home causes a dislocation of the family unit and then that has to be addressed by our social services.”

County Attorney Lauri Ketola responded, “Now that we are replacing an old jail, this is the time to address programming needs so that we can reduce the number of repeat offenders. It is not uncommon to have the same person come into the jail 10-12 times a year.”

Land Commissioner Greg Bernu brought up a proposal for the Fond Du Lac Band to purchase about 2600 acres of County Tax Forfeit land within the Reservation’s boundaries. He said that two parcels just south of the Cloquet Airport runway would be reserved for a buffer area.

Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert explained, “We have been down this road before. The last major land exchange deal with Fond Du Lac was very cumbersome to expedite. An outright sale would work better. In an agreement the sale of these parcels could be in $200,000 to $300,000 blocks over, for example, a ten year period.”

The Fond Du Lac leaders said they would meet soon, discuss the proposal, and get back to Bernu.

A major discussion then focused on Fond Du Lac concerns with the Big Lake Sanitary District. Chair Dupuis said that discussions are at a standstill with the sewer proposal. The Band said they are restricted by Federal law so that no taxes or fees can be paid on Reservation Trust Land. Fees, they reaffirmed, on sewer service to the Big Lake area residents would be prohibited by the Federal legal safeguards on these lands held in trust.

Chairman Dupuis explained that a new sewer to Big Lake would spur building and create more congestion than there is now. Band members already living on the lake are overwhelmed by the summer recreational noise that is not regulated by any governmental unit. He asked what the County could do.

Gassert responded. “We have no authority over the Big Lake Sanitary District any more than we have over the Fond Du Lac Reservation. The District is an independent agency.”

Chairman Dupuis observed, “We have worked on this issue for over 20 years and no progress has been made. We wish to protect the water but cannot find any common ground with the Sanitary District. We are hanging there.”

Even with all these issues still unresolved, Chairman Dupuis thanked all the emergency services that turned out for the Burlington Northern coal spill on Reservation land and St. Louis River Waters. He said that there is still coal residue in the spill area and a noticeable oil slick on the river’s waters. But, he added, the situation would have been very difficult for the Band’s leadership without the emergency services strongly requiring the railroad to clean up their mess.

The dialogue will continue. Quarterly joint meetings will be called to improve the communication between Cloquet, Carlton County, and the Fond Du Lac Band.

 

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