IRRRB sends money Ely’s way, table now set for more grants

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board had a full plate during a meeting held Wednesday in Eveleth. The board carved out two projects for Ely and during the discussion on two others, it appears more could be heading this way.
The two projects include an often discussed infrastructure project and the chance to bring over 20 jobs to Ely.
The 17th Avenue project looked to be stuck in the mud just a month ago, but the IRRRB gave the go ahead for $450,000 in grant funding for the project. Couple that with an anticipated $750,000 in state funding and a $400,000 match from the city, the nearly $1.6 million project is set to go
The second project has been moved to Ely after originating in Babbitt.
Rural Living Environments, which operates similar facilities in Babbitt, will build a $500,000 structure at a location adjacent to the Grahek and Sibley apartments.
More than 20 new jobs will be created in Ely for the facility that will serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board will award the city of Ely $140,000 for infrastructure and site work.
The project will employ anywhere from 24-to-26 people when fully operational.
There were a number of other projects discussed and two of those could impact Ely.
The Grand Rapids school district applied for $4.7 million from the school collaboration fund. Special legislation was passed to encourage/force districts to consolidate in order to receive funding. But this didn’t fit the Grand Rapids project. The board passed it anyway.
There appears to be a chance for school districts that need access to those funds but don’t exactly fit the bill to now be approved. Ely falls in that category being at the end of the road. Until there can be legislation passed to change the boundaries of the Lake Superior School District and move Fall Lake Township into ISD 696, Ely is stuck at the end of the road.
Several board members voiced support for school districts to bring what they feel is their best project to the board.
“This is a good opportunity for all of our school districts, there’s a lot of money in that account,” said Rep. Jason Metsa. “You have my support for fair and equal treatment to all of the school districts throughout the Taconite Relief Area.”
Also discussed Wednesday was a $5 million request for mountain bike trails in Cohasset, Chisholm and Giants Ridge. The $5 million would come out of the IRRRB’s rainy day fund.
That may have been what initially upset Sen. Tom Bakk who strongly cautioned this grant could open the floodgates for more trail projects. He also was disappointed the project hadn’t first applied for other state funding.
Bakk gave the Prospector ATV project as an example which has $2 million in state funding to date. This trail system will connect Ely to Babbitt, Tower, Embarrass and the North Shore.
A text from the Echo office was read by Bakk during the meeting. The message asked about funding for ATV trails when $5 million was being approved for mountain bikes.
Bakk showed support for the Prospector project and said he would expect other trail projects to apply as well. This may be the opportunity needed to complete the 250-mile ATV trail system that has been in the works now for four years.
Good news for Ely came in waves from Eveleth Wednesday. We expect more to come.