Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely Council continues to study recycling options

Keith Vandervort
Posted 8/8/18

ELY – The city of Ely continues to look for a new location for the St. Louis County recycling facility, currently located on the west end of town where a new trailhead complex is being …

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Ely Council continues to study recycling options

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ELY – The city of Ely continues to look for a new location for the St. Louis County recycling facility, currently located on the west end of town where a new trailhead complex is being proposed.

The city council’s Sanitation Committee met last week and talked with county officials about the issue.

City property owners are charged $60 per year by St. Louis County for access to the recycling bins and brush drop-off area. Along with fees collected by local businesses, the county brings in $230,000 per year to operate the facility.

According to City Council member Al Forsman, the city of Ely also contributes $3,230 per year.

Besides providing recycle facilities, the county’s environmental services division provides hazardous waste disposal, load-fee sites (such as the site on Highway 21 outside of Ely), and solid waste disposal.

Because this is an enterprise fund, the operation’s costs and revenues have to break even, he said. “General funds cannot be used for this,” Forsman said. “They are breaking even now. There is no tax subsidy used.”

“Ely’s recycling center has three times the volume of recycling than the North Woods (Highway 21) location,” Forsman said. “Any recycling facility relocation must be on a public property, like a city or township.”

In a veiled suggestion that the recycling center could be located in a nearby township, he added, “What we have going through there is from more than just city residents. This is just as important for residents of Morse and Fall Lake townships, as well as Eagles Nest.”

St. Louis County can help with setting up a new facility, but not with operating costs, according to Forsman.

City Council member Heidi Omerza admitted she “doesn’t go to transfer stations, and pretends they don’t exist because that works better in my household.” She asked if all transfer stations in the county have recycling centers.

According to Ely Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski, St. Louis County has 51 sites that offer recycling bins.

“Recycling has very little value right now,” Langowski said, “but it is the right thing to do.”

He also noted that the county has shut down many brush drop-off sites because of the problems associated with residents using it as a general dumpsite. “Just go look at our site and you’ll see what I mean,” he said.

He reminded the council that last month a city resident suggested initiating a curbside recycling pickup service in Ely, an idea not well-received by the city’s contracted curbside garbage pickup service. “It comes down to how much people are willing to pay,” Langowski said. “The (recycling) service is now being provided through assessed property tax fees, obviously, if you go beyond that, it is going to have to get paid for somehow.”

Discussion on a suitable location for the recycling center will be moved to the Joint Powers Economic Development Board.

Community Center

The city council and the city attorney continued to discuss the sale of the Community Center Tuesday night, and went into closed session to formulate a counter-offer to a purchase agreement presented for the property.

City resident Angela Campbell, who is running for a seat on the council this year, appeared before the council and expressed her disappointment in the way the city is handling the issue.

“I do not like the shroud of secrecy over the sale of the Community Center. As a taxpayer, I believe that whatever is taking place should be public. We should know about it,” she said.

“City Attorney Kelly Klun referred to the proposed purchaser as K. American Foundation. I did a search on that, and what I learned is that there is no K. American Foundation, but there is a Korean American Foundation,” Campbell said.

She called for the public to be properly notified and be able address any concerns before any sale is made.

Mayor Chuck Novak assured Campbell, “There will be an opportunity at some point.”

He said an offer to purchase was presented to the city council that includes a confidentiality clause against disclosure. “The council has not submitted a response to the proposal,” he said. “If we agree to respond to that, then the proposed purchaser would have to submit an actual purchase agreement. Then it becomes full out in the open.”

Novak explained that city property can only be sold, according to state statute, by ordinance, that includes a first reading at a council meeting, a public hearing, and a second reading at a council meeting to bring closure to the matter. “There will be public input on this. We are following the legal process,” he said.

In her report to the council later on the agenda, Klun said the council is working on a counter-offer to the proposal. “The name of the party is K. American Foundation, uh, America Foundation, so if I misspoke as to the name of the entity, I want to clarify that. It was certainly not an attempt to be deceptive,” she said.

A Google search brought up results for “Korean American Foundation,” but not “Korean America Foundation,” nor “K. America Foundation.”

Other business

In other business, the council took the following action:

Approved a storefront loan for $17,500 for Serson Enterprises, Inc. 402 E. Sheridan St.;

Authorized payment to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities for general dues of $6,014, and $1,191 for the Environmental Action Fund;

Agreed to provide in-kind services for the Northern Lights Clubhouse.for the 5k Glow Run.

on Sept. 21;

Approved city liquor licenses from Sept. 1, 2018 to Aug. 31, 2019 pending receipt of proper paperwork.

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