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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely scores big in bonding package

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/16/20

ELY – The city’s West End development project is set to move forward next spring following passage of a nearly $1.9 billion bonding bill that was approved this week by both houses of the …

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Ely scores big in bonding package

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ELY – The city’s West End development project is set to move forward next spring following passage of a nearly $1.9 billion bonding bill that was approved this week by both houses of the state legislature and is awaiting Gov. Tim Walz’s signature.

Ely mayor Chuck Novak voiced a sigh of relief Thursday night as he celebrated the news of Ely’s $1.5-million portion of the funding package. “We have the plans ready for the Trailhead building that will anchor our west end development project,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the bid proposals out this fall yet and hope to start work early next year.”

The Trailhead Complex at the entrance to Ely on Highway 169 serves as a trail head for the David Dill Taconite Snowmobile Trail, Prospector’s Loop ATV Trail and Mesabi Trail. The facility will also function as a rest stop and tourist information center for visitors.

In 2018, the city received a state bonding award for $1.3 million to begin the planning, engineering and site design of the facility.

The multi-faceted Ely Trailhead Complex features a 3,400-square-foot trailhead building and extensive parking areas in the shadow of the city’s water tower. The four-season facility could include cultural heritage displays, regional business and tourism attraction information, ADA restrooms, interpretive kiosks, and changing areas.

The West End Redevelopment District portion of the project will include roadway and utility extension. Novak said he wants to talk with city council members about extending Pattison Street, behind the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, and finding additional funding sources to continue with the extensive renovation and expansion plans to include workforce housing and proposed growth at the city’s hospital. “We also have to figure out what we’re going to do with the old city garage property,” he said.

The funding package approval ends months of a partisan stalemate that was the biggest piece of unfinished business left over from the 2020 regular session. The list of projects includes dozens of capital projects ranging from water systems to public safety to parks.

The bill also included $7.5 million to keep correctional facilities in Togo and Willow River open through next June. Both had been slated to close in the next couple of months because of budget deficits in the Department of Corrections brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate voted 64-3 on Thursday to send the bill to Gov. Walz who was set to sign the bill this week. Twenty-five House Republicans crossed over last Wednesday night to join the House Democratic majority and pass it 100-34.

Other North Country projects

Here is a partial list of northeastern Minnesota projects included in the bill:

● Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Biwabik, Town of White - $5 million for the East Mesabi Joint Water System.

● Buhl - $1.5 million for wastewater, clean water, and sewer infrastructure.

● Chisholm - $1.9 million to construct a new public safety facility for police and fire.

● Deer River - $4 million for sewer and water system improvements.

● Hibbing - $1.3 million for the mine view facility.

● Hill Annex Mine State Park - $2 million for design and engineering of projects to respond .to rising water levels at the Canisteo and Hill Annex Mine complexes.

● International Falls - $1.8 million for reconstruction of the runway, taxiway, and apron at the International Falls/Koochiching County Airport.

● Koochiching County - $3 million for a rail grade crossing separation where County State Aid Highway 24 crosses railroad tracks near International falls and Ranier.

● Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park - $5 million for the Soudan Underground Mine shaft rehabilitation, and $5.8 million for Lake Vermilion State Park development.

● Nashwauk - $750,000 for engineering on a regional wastewater treatment system to serve the communities of the East Itasca Joint Sewer Board.

● St. Louis County - $950,000 for right-of-way acquisition and construction of Voyageur Country ATV Trail connections in the Orr, Ash River, Kabetogama Township, and International Falls areas, $1.365 million for a regional behavioral health crisis facility

● Silver Bay, $1.1 million to design and construct a multimodal trailhead center, including a wayside rest area.

● Togo - $2.6 million for a new sewer treatment system at the Minnesota Correctional Facility.

● Twin Lakes Township - $7.5 million for a water distribution system along Highway 210.

● Two Harbors - $11.5 million for a new water treatment plant.

● Virginia - $9.5 million for a regional public safety center and training facility for police and fire.

● Willow River - $1.877 million for communications equipment at the Minnesota Correctional Facility.

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