Major grant to help fund construction of new library
City of Ely to receive $458,699 from MDE
Terry Jackson

ELY - Ely Public Library Director Rachel Heinrich brought good news to the first Ely City Council meeting of the new year this Tuesday evening. She was notified earlier in the day the library services division of the Minnesota Department of Education granted Ely $458,699 for construction of the city’s new public library.

The grant award is for more than 75 percent of the amount the city had sought. The total construction cost for the new library is estimated to be $1.49 million. The city council applauded Heinrich for her efforts and moved to send her a letter of commendation to thank her for her hard work in obtaining the grant money.

Committee assignments will remain the same as last year with the exception of Councilor Paul Kess replacing Councilor Jerome Debeltz on the budget committee. Kess will also be acting mayor for the new year.

Councilor Heidi Omerza reported on a grass-roots effort to stimulate the economy in Ely. Local business owners are invited to join a discussion at Vermilion Community College (VCC) led by representatives from the University of Minnesota on business expansion and retention on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. Omerza encouraged all business owners and other interested parties to attend the meeting to learn how a program called Minnesota Main Street can result in revitalization of Ely’s business district.

Mayor Ross Petersen emphasized the importance of getting user groups together to develop a plan for the community center. Councilor Kara Polyner assured the council that the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) is working toward that goal. American Produce, a group proposing vertical farming at the community center, is meeting with HPC almost weekly. “HPC also has ideas for other potential renters,” said Polyner, “and we encourage anyone wanting to utilize the community center to attend one of our meetings.”

A motion was passed in support of drafting a resolution to work towards becoming a Minnesota GreenStep City. The program is a free sustainable cities program designed to recognize cities that achieve sustainability through implementation of GreenStep’s best practices. City Clerk Harold Langowski said an intern can be provided this summer to identify what practices are already in place and what needs to be completed to certify Ely as a GreenStep City.

Polyner introduced a community-based planning and design principle established by the Minnesota Design Team. A community design team would come to Ely for $5,000 and provide an overall vision on the use of current assets and develop an action plan on building the community for a healthy future. “It is like having a new set of eyes come in and look at us from the outside,” said Polyner.

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