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Pillow Rock not going anywhere anytime soon

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/16/16

ELY – Uncertainty on the Ely City Council’s position on the future location of the Pillow Rock was clarified this week – sort of.

Kara Polyner asked fellow council members to take a stand on …

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Pillow Rock not going anywhere anytime soon

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ELY – Uncertainty on the Ely City Council’s position on the future location of the Pillow Rock was clarified this week – sort of.

Kara Polyner asked fellow council members to take a stand on the issue once and for all.

Council members approved the Pillow Rock’s move to the North American Bear Center Bear Center in a 6-1 vote in July, but when residents began voicing concern about the move, they voted to hold a public hearing on the issue.

The 2.7-billion-year-old greenstone glacial erratic, a rock moved by a glacier and then left behind when the glacier melts, is so unusual that reportedly members of the Apollo 15 crew once visited it as they prepared to head to the moon.

The public hearing this fall was well attended by curious residents, however, just nine people had the courage to publicaly state their opinion. Seven people said they were in favor of keeping the rock where it is, in an obscure location (actually on Main Street) in the middle of a residential area on the city’s north side, surrounded by overgrown brush and a dilapidated fence. Just two people said Ely would be better off if the rock were relocated to the Bear Center where a planned educational presence could attract more tourists.

The council has not discussed the issue since then. Elections have come and gone and the incumbents are safely in their seats for another term. Polyner, who did not seek re-election, said she was looking for a resolution on the matter.

“Since (the hearing), there is still a group of people who are wanting to meet and move the project forward, but there is still some uncertainty on what the council’s decision is,” Polyner said.

Mayor Chuck Novak, referred to Robert’s Rules of Order in explaining that because the tabled motion was not picked up at the next council meeting, the motion is “dead in the water.” Up to this point the council has taken no official position on the Pillow Rock.

To get a feeling of the council’s position and to hopefully settle the issue once and for all, Polyner made a motion to keep the Pillow Rock where it is currently located for now. Paul Kess supported the motion.

“At that hearing, and since then, it seems that most people are in favor of leaving the rock where it is,” Kess said. “We owe the public some sort of decision and to give the public some sort of sense of where we stand on this.”

Novak agreed that the public hearing indicated that those who spoke up were in favor of leaving the rock where it is. “I got the poll at the barbershop that goes absolutely the other way,” Novak said. “Who ever shows up at the meeting wins the popularity contest and the council goes in that direction. There has been a lot of talk in town that people don’t care, they like the idea or are opposed to it.”

Heidi Omerza said she was open to any and all ideas. “I just want something to happen with the Pillow Rock. Either it stays, and the area gets cleaned up, or it gets moved to a better place. I just want something positive to happen with the Pillow Rock.”

Kess said the public hearing was held to take input from the public and then respond to it. “We can’t kick this can down the road forever. Let’s just make a decision. At first I was in favor of (moving) the Pillow Rock. After hearing the public opinion, I changed my mind and realized that this is a public asset and its value lies in the history that it brings to the city of Ely. It is not just the geologic history, but the people have spoken up and value it. That convinced me that it should stay where it is.”

Dan Forsman said he was concerned that a definitive action with no timeline, could “block any ideas from a future generation” and wanted to be open to new ideas.

Polyner pressed for a position from the council. “As of now, and I don’t see any council member bringing this up again, let’s just say that the Pillow Rock will stay where it is,” she said.

Novak said the council’s position is that there is no position. “The Pillow Rock stays where it is unless the council takes action,” he said. He suggested a motion that says, “The Pillow Rock stays where it is for now until an acceptable proposal is brought forward.”

Kess pushed for the council to take a stand. “We are not really rejecting the proposal to move it, because we have no position,” he said. “I say we should take a position. How hard can this be?”

On a 6-1 vote, with Dan Forsman voting against, the council voted to keep the Pillow Rock where it is for the foreseeable future.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• Delayed the second reading of the Point of Sale ordinance pertaining to sewer inspections for real estate transfers for more preparation time;

•Approved a resolution declaring the property at 1355 North 19th Ave East as blight;

•Appointed Angela Campbell to fill the open position on the House and Redevelopment Authority for a two-year term;

•Approved a resolution to levy a list of current delinquent assessment, water, sewer and electric accounts against property taxes;

•OK’d a resolution allowing the Knights of Columbus to conduct bingo on Nov. 20 and Dec. 18, 2016, and Feb. 12 and April 9, 2017.

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