Politics and Government

St. Cloud mayor calls for more housing, downtown investment

A historic theater and street are seen
A historic theater, shops and businesses line St. Germain Street in downtown St. Cloud. City leaders are asking the Legislature for $100 million in state bonding for improvements to make downtown more walkable.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

St. Cloud’s longest serving mayor, Dave Kleis, painted a positive picture of the city during the nearly hour-long State of the City address Tuesday, but said it needs more housing and downtown investment.

Kleis said the city’s financial picture is strong. Serious crime is down, he said, and residents gave city services high marks in a recent survey.

But Kleis said the city does face challenges, including an increase in fentanyl overdoses, calls to police for behavioral issues linked to mental health and homelessness. He said the city needs more housing for every income level.

“We need to have attainable housing, so that anyone — no matter where you’re at in the spectrum of needing housing — everyone should be able to attain housing,” he said.

Kleis said the city is continuing efforts to add housing downtown, and make the area more walkable and vibrant. It’s seeking $100 million in state bonding money to further those efforts.

He noted that a St. Cloud resident, Felicity-John Pederson, who owns a full-scale model of a space shuttle, is interested in relocating it to a new children’s museum being built in downtown St. Cloud.

“What an attraction,” he said. “You bring people downtown, people want to live downtown. You create something that really is that vibe that you need.”

Kleis said St. Cloud also needs to build a new fire station due to growth on the city’s south side, something it hasn’t done in 15 years. He said the city will ask voters to approve the project this November.

Cooking oil to energy

Kleis also announced the city is starting a program to recycle used cooking oil. 

St. Cloud’s innovative nutrient energy facility at its wastewater treatment plant has a digester that converts waste from local breweries and food processors into renewable biogas. 

Kleis said they’re expanding the program to city residents, who can drop off their used cooking oil, lard and grease at four city locations. 

“We’re going to take that and make energy out of it,” he said. “We’re leading the way on these issues, and we’re doing it to reduce your costs, to protect the environment.”

A person speaks
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis speaks during an interview in St. Cloud on Sept. 21.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Kleis said the city plans to start collecting residential food waste next year.

The mayor also commended a St. Cloud resident for her quick action to rescue a man whose vehicle crashed into a house last month.

Antionette Lee was driving behind the vehicle on Feb. 20 when its driver had a medical emergency, drove off the road and hit the house on Division Street. The house then caught fire.

Kleis said Lee stopped, got out of her car and pulled the driver out of the vehicle. She “absolutely saved his life,” Kleis said.

Lee is an artist and founder and CEO of a business called No Limit Painting.

The vehicle’s driver was taken to the hospital. No one was home at the time of the crash.