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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely considers moving designated polling place

Keith Vandervort
Posted 12/10/20

ELY – As the city of Ely contemplates conducting a special election early next year to fill an empty mayor’s seat, city council members are considering a move of the city’s lone …

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Ely considers moving designated polling place


ELY – As the city of Ely contemplates conducting a special election early next year to fill an empty mayor’s seat, city council members are considering a move of the city’s lone polling place from the Senior Center to City Hall.
At their Dec. 1 meeting, council members agreed to postpone approving Ely’s official designated polling place until their Dec. 15 meeting
The council officially received a written notice from Erik Urbas that he is declining to accept the mayoral position he won in the November general election. Urbas had pulled out of the race in August, citing health concerns, but his name remained on the ballot. He beat incumbent mayor Chuck Novak, 924-800 votes.
A vacant mayor seat will be officially in place on Jan. 5, 2021, and at that time council members are expected to name an acting mayor and open a filing period for candidates for the city’s top job. If more than two candidates file their candidacy, a primary election would be needed prior to a special election in the early months of the new year.
In preparing for additional electoral responsibilities, City Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski got the ball rolling last week by recommending that the city continue to use the Ely Senior Center for election activities.
Council member Al Forsman asked for more time to consider the issue and indicated that it may be time to move voting to City Hall, a main reason why the landmark city building was renovated and made ADA-compliant several years ago. Recent attempts to change the voting venue received swift backlash from a dedicated lobby of supporters of Senior Center voting.
Forsman previously favored the Senior Center as the city’s voting place but appears to have changed his mind. “I’m willing to relook at my stance because voting has significantly changed (due to COVID-19) and it might be more appropriate to have voting closer to (city) offices so I’m open for that,” he said.
Mayor Chuck Novak reminded council members that the decision to change the polling place location for next year must be made by the end of this year.
Langowski noted that relocating the city’s polling place has been discussed “quite a bit over the years, especially since City Hall was renovated. “It would be great if we could have all of our elections here in council chambers, I think with all of the others things we have to do for social distancing and the set-up we have at the Senior Center, at least for 2021, I’m comfortable with the status quo, at least for 2021.” He added, “I like the direction Councilman Forsman is going on this.”
City staff worked through two elections this year with mandated public health protocols in place for social distancing, sanitizing and mask wearing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The renovation and modernization to City Hall six years ago, especially with adding an elevator, provided for the possibility for voting in the second-floor chambers, a logical and convenient and secure move for city staff. All absentee voting is held in City Hall.
Previous attempts to move city voting out of the Senior Center was met with opposition by some long-time election judges and others in the community.
The city council is set to discuss and vote on the resolution on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Truth in taxation
Council members were set to host a Truth in Taxation hearing. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 in City Hall on the 2021 budget and proposed property tax levy for city residents. Information obtained by the Timberjay prior to the hearing indicated a proposed city tax of $1,892,300, a seven-percent increase ($123,800) over 2020.
Estimated taxable market value remained steady at $149,724,357 in 2021, compared to $149,464,152 in 2020. Local Government Aid increased by $84,000 (3.14 percent) to $2,448,500 in 2021, compared to $2,364,000 in 2020.
More information on the public hearing will appear in the Dec. 18 issue of the Timberjay.


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