Ely’s city council is on the verge of taking a bad situation and making it worse. Much, much worse.
Sometime soon, perhaps Tuesday, council members could take the almost incomprehensible step of increasing building permit fees in Ely.
Even in the wake of calls at the council table that fees should be lowered, a proposal to increase most fees has come forward.
Even after revelations that the city paid a $128,000 tab for building official services last year, for a position that averaged 32 hours per week, council members are considering a plan that could increase those costs.
Late in the week, just as the Echo was going to press, some common sense emerged when mayor Chuck Novak said publicly he’d oppose increasing permit fees.
He joins Paul Kess and Al Forsman, two council members who have championed the issue, taken a leadership role and have clearly looked out for Ely residents.
by Steve Simon
Spring is now upon us, and that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. It’s a good habit that many of us practice.
Spring is also the time Minnesota legislators make decisions about our future, so it’s a good time to talk about good habits.
We have a great opportunity this year in Minnesota to increase civic participation among young people and instill in the next generation of Minnesotans the values that have made our state a role model for the nation.
The Minnesota legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds the ability to pre-register to vote, so when they turn 18 they are automatically registered.
It’s about getting good habits started early, and encouraging young people to think of themselves as both civically engaged and as voters before they turn 18.
Seems promising, right? It is, and I strongly urge the Minnesota legislature to pass pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Three visitors to the Town of Morse monthly meeting likely didn’t get the reception they were looking for Tuesday night.
While the discussions were cordial the end result was a resolution opposing what had been brought before the board.
The DNR’s Lori Dowling-Hanson, Shaun Hamilton of the Trust for Public Land and David Kess pitched making yet another island on Burntside Lake a Scientific & Natural Area (SNA).
The Morse board was bypassed two years ago when Gaul Island left the tax roles and become an SNA. That was the pretext of the meeting Tuesday, to discuss what went wrong on the communication between the DNR and the township.
Instead, the trio brought another plan to remove some of the highest value real estate in northern Minnesota from the tax roles. While there would be some reimbursement through the PILT (payment of lieu of taxes), it won’t be equal to what would’ve been received and never as much if there had been improvements made.
I took the opportunity to drop in to the Tuesday Group that is held in Ely by what appears to be an informal group of people getting together for an “info-tainment” luncheon to listen to a guest speaker present on various topics.
This past Tuesday’s topic was “Saving the Boundary Waters” which was presented by Becky Rom, who is a Burntside Lake resident and environmental activist.
Curiosity got the best of me and I had to go see what was up since it is a well-known fact that the Boundary Waters usage is declining. That means that it is running the risk of heading into obscurity on a national front as one of the greatest places to visit. We all know the kids aren’t coming anymore.
I’ve spent the last few months reading Echo letters and thinking about how we got to this point in the debate over Ely’s future.
Not much has changed and those opposed to mining are sticking to their guns; Range population numbers, decreased mining payrolls, that Ely isn’t dying it’s just redefining itself, the population in the Ely area is growing not shrinking, businesses are flourishing, mining kills everything, Mount Polley could happen to the BWCA, foreign ownership, tourism is saving Ely and the proclamations are always written as undisputable fact.
My name is Mike Gavan, I’m 39 years old and live in Midhirst in Taranaki, New Zealand, with my four children and gorgeous wife.
About two weeks ago I was visiting my wife in her second hand shop when I came across a small pair of delicately made snow shoes about 8 inches tall.
On closer examination I found the name Frank Stupnik, Ely, Minn written on the bottom side of one of the tiny snow shoes.
I couldn’t help but wonder who had made these snow shoes and how they had made their way to the other side of our planet to make it to my wife’s second hand shop.
My wife said they were a handed in donation and therefore could not be traced, so here I am, looking in the only place to look, Ely, Minnesota.
A new formula for determining how to protect wild rice may not make it off the drawing board. The MPCA hastily revealed the formula after the governor made comments that the agency was using obsolete science.
“If the standard is obsolete and it’s not validated by current science and information, then to stick with it and close down an industry isn’t really well advised,” Dayton said to MPR.
One guess what industry he’s referring to. If you guessed mining, give yourself five points. If you realize that wild rice is being used as the spotted owl in stopping mining in Minnesota, give yourself another five points. You aced the test.
The MPCA is in a lose-lose situation trying to come up with a standard that protects wild rice and doesn’t cost municipalities and mining companies billions of dollars.
Hats off to Ely council member Paul Kess for shining the light on an issue that certainly needs more scrutiny and investigation - the city of Ely’s stringent requirements and exorbitant costs for building permits and inspections.
It’s hard to conceive how Ely’s annual building inspection expense of more than $135,000 is justified - when a review by Kess released this week showed that some neighboring communities don’t spend anything close.
And in some cases, including right next door in the Town of Morse, there’s absolutely no expense at all.
Need new siding, a deck, or a water heater in Morse Township? Simply call your contractor and get the ball rolling.
But in Ely, homeowners are saddled with hefty permit fees, and at the end of the year the city government has an eye-popping, almost incomprehensible bill.
How incomprehensible? Try $35 an hour, 32 hours a week and up to an 85 percent cut on all permit fees collected.
Minnesota cities are committed to good wastewater treatment. That’s a huge cost for cities and one we take very seriously. Here are a couple of facts about sulfate in water.
1. There are bodies of water with much higher sulfate levels and wild rice is growing just fine.
2. Drinking water standard for sulfates is 250 ppm; this means it is safe to drink at the level.
3. The state of Minnesota is the only state with a sulfate standard at all, and it is only in waters where there is wild rice.
In 1973, the state of Minnesota adopted a sulfate standard of 10 ppm in all municipal and industrial discharge permits that discharge into bodies of water with wild rice. The standard was adopted using research from the 1940s.
The proposed BWCA land exchange is out for comment and if history is an indicator, don’t expect this version to get very far.
The Forest Service would acquire 30,000 acres of state land in the BWCA in exchange for 984 parcels of federal land totaling approximately 39,074.65 acres scattered throughout Cook, Lake and Saint Louis Counties outside the BWCA.
Already groups like the Friends have come out opposed to any land exchange. They want the feds to buy the state land.
This portion of the project is only the first step in this attempt to right a wrong. There is a total of 83,000 acres of school trust land that was taken into the BWCA where it doesn’t generate a dime for the state’s school trust fund.