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Council approves new cannabis moratorium

Katie Clark

ELY- At its July 2 meeting, the Ely City Council once again dug into the weeds of Minnesota’s changing rules on legal cannabinoid products, approving a moratorium on all new “adult cannabis businesses.” The moratorium specifically mentions not only the sale, but also the testing, manufacturing, cultivation and distribution of THC products.
The moratorium has been in the pipeline since the June 18 council meeting. That’s when the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the city limit cannabis cultivation to industrial (M) and commercial (C) zoning districts, a recommendation that surprised the city council. The council presented the proposal and asked the city fiscal to prepare a proposal for a moratorium for later consideration.
The ban on new cannabis businesses will be in effect until January 1, 2025, or until the effective date of a new city ordinance products that contain “cannabis containing THC.”
“This moratorium does not limit the current sales that occur within the community under the licenses provided,” explained City Attorney Kelly Klun. “It restricts new sales and, in particular, it restricts the cultivation, manufacture or distribution of THC products until the council can study this further and we receive guidance from the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management.”
Trail contribution
In other business, Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski reported that Ely area groups received three local development and trail maintenance grants. The funds come from the Federal Highway Administration and their award is handled through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The City of Ely will be the fiscal agent for the grants. The Ely Nordic Bike and Ski Club is receiving the largest of the grants, totaling $200,000 for the development of more mountain bike trails in the community.
The Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club received $75,000 to purchase new trail grooming equipment, while the Prospector Loop ATV Club will receive $75,000 also for trail maintenance equipment.
In other action, the council
• Voted to discontinue its cable TV service from Midco, which currently serves the city’s garage and city hall. “We used to get our cable for free,” Langowski told the council. “Now there’s a new Federal Communications Commission rule that we either have to pay or have the service deducted from our franchise payment.” The city receives a franchise payment from Midco that is funded through a fee included in consumers’ TV bills. The fee supports the city’s broadcasts of government meetings and other telecommunications needs.
Midco had previously provided service to the city garage and city hall at no charge, but that would have increased to $165/month at each location because of the change.
“It was an expense that we hadn’t budgeted for,” Langowski added. “We asked Midco if they would come down on that price and they were reluctant to do so.”
• Heard an update from Langowski on the Ely trailhead facility on the western edge of town, where construction started in the last week of June. “They’ll be pouring in tomorrow,” he commented. “We will schedule groundbreaking on that facility at some point, with a date yet to be determined.”
When completed, the facility will be a 3,400-square-foot, four-season building with heritage displays, information on regional business and tourist attractions, ADA restrooms, interpretive kiosks, vending machines, trail maps and changing areas. It will connect the 145-mile Mesabi Trail, the 165-mile Taconite Trail and the 130-mile Prospectors Loop.
• Approved the purchase of ten dark sky compatible decorative fixtures for Sheridan Street from WESCO for $8,490. This purchase is part of Ely’s ongoing rolling city lighting upgrades to support the federal dark sky designation for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and local tourism initiatives for dark sky.
• Approved the hiring of Ryan Puzel, AJ Walker, Mike Muhvich and Kenzie Peterson as probationary firefighters, pending pre-employment physicals, drug tests and background checks. “With the approval to hire these four,” said Fire Chief David Marshall, “the fire department will have a full roster of 35 for the first time in I don’t know how many years.”
• Approved a budget committee recommendation to purchase propane from Ferrellgas at $1,399/gallon.
• Approved the purchase of petrol and diesel from St. Louis County at the Joint Workshop Workshop.
• Approved contract with Custom Theaters of Ely to replace City Hall’s door lock system for the quoted price of $27,485.
• Approved payment of the $16,200 invoice from H&S Electric for work at the Ely Arts and Heritage Foundation for $8,100. The invoice was for electrical work at the Miners Dry Building in preparation for the Ely All Class Reunion activities last week.
• Approved the payment of the following: $464,955 for Ely Utilities Commission May bills; $500 to Mick Shusta for “A Operator” services; and $1,979 payment to Frontier Energy for residential rebates.
• Approved a $6,697 payment to Dave Berg Consulting for an electric rate study. Council also approved a recommendation by the Ely Utilities Commission for the rate subcommittee to use the new study to create an updated rate policy.
• Approved the following payment claims: $410,670 from the city and Ely Utilities Commission through July 2; $4,182 from SEH for work on the Prospector ATV trails; and $11,341 from AE2S, for three invoices for general consulting services and work on the wastewater treatment improvement project,
• Appointed Hudson Kingston to the library board.
• Approved Resolution 2024-025 to appoint election judges for the 2024 primary election.
• Approved the hiring of Andy Luthens for the city’s open civil engineering position.
• Approved Resolutions 2024-026, -027 and -028, authorizing the City to apply for and receive funds from the Minnesota Commercial Redevelopment Grant Program, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board’s Regional Trail and Public Works Grant Program for fiscal year 2025.
• Approved the request from Dutchman Tree Service to hold a climbing event at Whiteside Park in partnership with Young Life for the Fourth of July afternoon youth event.

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