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Dave Peters, Published October 25 2013

2012 flooding pushing Minn. towns closer to consolidation

THOMSON, Minn. – It looks like the flooding that hit the Duluth area in June 2012 might claim one more victim: the small city of Thomson.

The residents of Carlton and Thomson, two small towns southwest of Duluth, are voting Nov. 5 whether to consolidate. A vote in favor by both would mean Thomson would become an official neighborhood of Carlton at the end of 2014. That would reduce the number of Minnesota cities to 853.

Residents in Carlton and Thomson have been talking formally for several years about consolidating, but the floods that evacuated Thomson and cut off services really taxed the part-time staff of the town and made the need greater, city clerk Ruth Jorgenson said.

“We’re neighbors,” she said. “This would be tying the knot, making it legal.”

Benefits of merger

State law requires consolidating cities to touch one another. Carlton, population 862, and Thomson, population 159, just barely do, sharing a boundary for a couple hundred yards where the St. Louis River spills out of the Thomson Reservoir.

Residents have held a visioning session and public hearings to discuss the proposal. The two towns already share a lot of services, said Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert. “The two entities get along and they always have.”

When heavy rain caused widespread damage in June 2012, Thomson had to evacuate the entire town. Carlton has pledged to take over administrative duties related to the flooding. It already supplies water and ambulance service to Thomson.

A merger would save a little money and not affect property taxes much, said Tracey Hartung, Carlton city clerk.

As for the name? The consolidated city would continue to be Carlton, but Thomson would be designated as an official neighborhood and would elect a council member.