VA Clinic set to expand

$2.8 million project begins in fall

by Tom Coombe
A $2.8 million project in Ely’s business park will help secure the future of the Veterans Affairs Community Clinic.
Ely city officials have approved over $140,000 in design work for the project, which will double the space utilized by the VA in the city-owned “Sato Building” on Miners Drive.
Work on the project is expected to begin in September and take about a year, according to Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer and operations director.
Langowski represented the city in discussions earlier in the month and updated council members, who also serve as the city’s economic development authority on Tuesday.
“I did spend two days in Duluth with our design team and the general contractor and the VA folks,” Langowski said Tuesday. “They called it a design intent drawing meeting... That’s moving forward pretty quickly.”
During the course of discussions, designs for the 7,450 square foot addition to the building were presented and refined, and it’s anticipated the VA will give final approval by early-September.
If that occurs, construction would begin.
“We’d hope to have it dried in before winter sets in, so carpenters can work on the inside through the winter,” said Langowski. “By late next spring we’d have them occupy the new space, and then remodel the existing space so it would be complete sometime next August.”
The city will seek Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board funding to pay for some of the site improvements, and the expansion comes with the VA agreeing to a 10-year lease that could be extended for an additional 10 years.
“We have 20 years, (with) 10 years firm,” said Langowski. “We will finance the project and be paid by the VA at occupancy and over the first 10 years of the term to pay the financed improvements.”
Earlier in the summer, the VA announced its intent to continue leasing space in Ely. It capped months of discussions and negotiations between the city and the VA, which opened a clinic here in 2013 and shares space with the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Sato Travel.
The clinic serves hundreds of veterans and has become a primary stop for primary, mental health and telecare.