Steve Giorgi
Executive Director
Phone: 218-780-8877
Email: SGiorgi@ramsmn.org

Image "Hull Rust" by Amy Flanigan

RAMS hearing 1940

Scheuring Speed Sports Aurora, MN photo by Paul Pluswick

Commissioner Mark Phillips 2015 Annual RAMS Meeting Vice President Jim Fisher /Director Steve Giorgi

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski 2016

Cuyuna

Tower Airport photo by Adrian Koski

Moon over Queen City photo created by Matt Herberg

RAMS delegation with Senator Klobuchar

2016 Press conference on US Forest Service - Virginia, MN

Mayor Novak Ely Whiteside Park

Pioneer Mine Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski

NEWEST CORPORATE MEMBERS TO JOIN RAMS:

Twin Metals MN and MN Power, two companies with strong ties to northern Minnesota, have decided to become Corporate members of the Range Association of Municipalities & Schools.  Corporate members often are vendors or companies that work hand in hand with our public sector members and MN Power is certainly that.  Twin Metals has been a wonderful addition to the Ely community and the region and RAMS has been working hand in hand with both of these companies in the fight to have the US Forest Service renew leases for the Twin Metals project.  RAMS is delighted to add these two new members to our growing list of membership.  On behalf of the board, I thank you for joining our ranks.  “ONE RANGE – ONE VOICE “ 

Fostering economic development across Minnesota’s Iron Range

One Range… One Voice

Ensuring the voices of our Range cities, townships, and schools will be heard on the issues of economic enhancement and quality of life.

Serving Cities, Townships and Schools since 1939.

The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) was created in 1939 by the joining together of the Range Civic Association and the Range Municipalities Committee to promote legislation beneficial to its membership.
The main function of RAMS is to monitor proposed State and Federal legislation and determine how it may affect Association member units of government. The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) works closely with the Iron Range Delegation, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) , and area economic development entities to further community development and quality of life for all member units.


Hoyt Lakes, MN Mayor

Mark Skelton

 

Message From the Board

As a member of the RAMS board of directors, I find the RAMS organization a great asset to my duties as mayor of a small Iron Range community.  The RAMS motto of “ONE RANGE – ONE VOICE”, speaks volumes for what RAMS represents. RAMS is an organization that brings together our area school boards, townships and cities helping us collaborate and cooperate on issues that pertain to us as a region.  As a small city in this region of the state, I can that we appreciate all of the efforts set forth by the RAMS’ organization.

Message From Director

2017 Another Year Filled With Challenges for the Range

I could have waited another week and the never ending campaign season would be over and I would have the results of the election and have a better sense of how the results would impact our region.  Regardless of the election results, I do know that the Taconite Assistance Area (TAA) will have issues that will need to be addressed by those elected to represent us at our state legislature as well as on the Federal level in Congress.

Unemployment for the central range, and ironically, Grand Rapids, will continue to be an issue and the efforts to bring economic diversity to the TAA will continue to provide challenges to our community leaders as well as to the IRRRB.  Hopefully, the Louisiana Pacific project will remain in Minnesota and bring with it much needed higher paying positions with a Fortune 500 company, an occurrence that is extremely rare for northeastern Minnesota.  Continuing efforts from the "Recharge the Range" event are taking place with a half dozen sub committees working on targeted areas of our economy and region, from tourism, to downtown revitalization, to large business sector and natural resources.  These efforts require additional participants to keep them vibrant and fresh, so please consider sitting in on a meeting and perhaps joining in on the conversation, research and hopefully development of new initiatives across the region.  (check with Sara Ferkul at the IRRRB for a schedule of the committee meetings. Ferkul, Sara (IRR) <sara.ferkul@state.mn.us>

An issue that will create many a headache for local elected officials is the new "Wild Rice/Sulfate Standard" that is to be implemented by January 15, 2018.  Yes, I realize this doesn't take place until 2018, but the rule making process begins in the spring of 2017 and will be of critical importance if there is any hope of slowing down this fast approaching train wreck.  A short history of this issue:  the original standard was implemented in 1973 (10 mg/l sulfate level in waters - not potable water).  The standard was never applied to any permits until the PolyMet project and then to Keetac when there discharge permit was up for renewal.  In 2011, the legislature directed the MPCA to study the impact of sulfate on wild rice and determine if a new standard was required.  The same legislation established the 1/15/18 date for implementation of the new standard.  The MPCA has conducted multiple studies using the University of MN, at both the Duluth and metro campuses.  The MN Chamber of Commerce has also contracted for an independent study as have several large corporations.  The findings are varied and complicated, but the one underlying finding is the FACT  THAT SULFATE IS NOT DIRECTLY HARMFUL TO WILD RICE!

Why is this new rule a potential problem for local communities?  The answer lies in the fact that there is  very limited technology available to treat sulfate.  The best know method involves "reverse osmosis" which is a very energy intensive, filtration system that comes at a high price tag and results in a brine or salt product after the filtration, for which there is no available depository.  Since wastewater plants are run as enterprise funds (user fees must pay for the cost of operation and service) this will result in double digit increases in user fees for local residents and businesses making the lives of our elected officials just that much more difficult. The RAMS board of directors just passed a resolution on this issue, and your community should consider doing the same.  Click here to view Resolution 05-2016 Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Resolution:

Regional access to high speed, quality broadband continues to be an economic driver that is not being addressed from a regional perspective.  Communities really need to band together and make this a priority with our legislative delegation so that they support higher levels of funding, such as Governor Dayton's request for $100 million in the 2016 session. Many areas of the TAA have been identified as "underserved" or have no service which should be unacceptable for any of our elected officials, our residents and our broadband providers. RAMS made this a legislative priority in 2016 and will certainly include it on our agenda for 2017.  Start the conversation in your community and perhaps you will be surprised at the need for improvement with the broadband issue.

Precious mineral mining, or mining in general should continue to be a priority for our region and we all must be ever vigilant monitoring the activities of the extreme environmentalists who are always looking for a reason to halt mining in our region, and that includes mining of taconite. RAMS has and will, continue to support allowing mining companies to explore and submit permits for leases on both state and federal lands, to submit permits to mine, and if and only if they can meet the strict environmental permit standards established by the many regulatory agencies, be allowed to commence a mining operation.  RAMS accepts that the Range is a "center of mining excellence" and that has been proven over 130 years of mining in our back yard without any significant environmental disasters.  The dumping of tailings in Lake Superior was as close as we have come to a significant disaster and that practice was halted in a much shorter time frame than it takes for the regulatory agencies to issue a permit to mine in this state.

The Essar project should be a regional priority as it is the only permitted mine, not in operation in Minnesota, other than the currently closed Keetac and Magnetation operations.  While there is a lot of legal activities yet to be resolved with the Essar project, it holds the promise of over 70 years of mining from the richest body of ore on the Range, and of such silica content that it is easily made into a flux pellet that can be used in electric arc furnaces, the wave of the mining future.  RAMS will continue to monitor this project and hopefully in 2017, a resolution on ownership, financing and the security of state land leases will be resolved and the project will recall the fully paid contractors back to work and finish building the plant.

Iron Range school districts continue to struggle with building issues, whether it be there are old, aging and in need of significant repair, or they are undersized, over sized and difficult to re-purpose.  Mt. Iron-Buhl will be breaking ground in the spring of 2017 on a new high school campus with a target date of opening in September of 2018.  What will happen with the old high school in downtown Mt. Iron will then become the center of another debate - to save, to raze, to re-purpose.  Eveleth-Gilbert is having a referendum of sorts with the election of school board members.  Can they keep two separate campuses operating, and if so at what cost, or do they move to one campus?  Declining enrollment and diminishing reserves seem to be a lessor importance than keeping a campus in both cities even though they have been a consolidated district for nearly 30 years.

2017 hopefully will also be a year of prosperity and growth for our region as more and more large city residents are making a move back to more rural communities.  Our healthcare industry has blossomed in the past decade and the never ending recruiting of physicians and technical employees continues to be a high priority for these facilities.  Quality of life, upscale housing, quality education and quality rental housing are all challenges that are faced by these healthcare providers when trying to attract physicians to our region.  Progressive planning by our community leaders is needed to be in a better position to provide these amenities across the Range.  Collectively and through collaboration and strong leadership, the Range can adapt and progress and face these challenges.  Individually, few will succeed.  Let's embrace the RAMS motto for over 75 years: "ONE RANGE - ONE VOICE" and work together to achieve a better tomorrow.



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