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

RAMS hearing 1940

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski 2016

Cuyuna

Moon over Queen City photo created by Matt Herberg

RAMS delegation with Senator Klobuchar

2016 Press conference on US Forest Service - Virginia, MN

DC delegation on land withdrawal 2017

Mayor Rick Cannata Wild RIce/Sulfate rally

New bridge at night photo by P Pluswick

Hwy 53 bridge Nov 2016 photo by F Luomanen

Pike Bay Marina Lake Vermilion

Tom Rukavina at rally prior to MPCA hearing at MCC

Range Officials with Congressman Stauber

Itasca Ski Hill

Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition Launches Statewide Speed Test Initiative

If you live in the land of ten thousand lakes, your help is needed. The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition has launched a speed test initiative to collect much-needed data from everyone in the state so that lawmakers and stakeholders can better direct broadband expansion efforts now and in the future. Hop over to the speed test page and give them a hand.

…Read the article…

Newest members of RAMS…  Boise Fort Tribal Nation is the latest member of RAMS Corporate members.  This is a historic occasion for our organization and we are excited to have Boise Fort on our ever growing list of Corporate members.  Carlton County joined RAMS as a Corporate member in July of this year also!
RAMS is excited to announce that Crane Lake Township has joined the ranks of RAMS pushing our public membership to the largest in the history of our organization!  The continued growth of RAMS just enhances and strengthens our voice across the region, at the Capitol and with our Federal delegation.  Also joining on the Corporate membership side is DSGW Architects a firm that works with many of our local communities and school districts on building projects across our region. Anyone interested in membership contact Steve at: sgiorgi@ramsmn.org 

DATELINE – Thursday, May 21, 2020   BROADBAND SPEED TEST – TAKE IT NOW!

Two more counties have jumped on the speed test project bandwagon as this data is critical for broadband expansion in rural areas of the state and especially idenfication of unserved, or underserved areas based on FCC guidelines.  Itasca and Koochiching County both agreed to begin conducting a crowdsourcing speed test project so that they will be prepared for possible rural broadband projects in their remote counties.  St. Louis County in partnership with RAMS led the way and the results have been fantastic to date.  Tests from cabin owners and more remote communities are vitally important and will be targeted in the weeks to come in all three counties.  RAMS is excited and proud to be a partner with these counties and will assist with the projects as long as necessary.  GO TO THE BROADBAND TAB to see the maps of these projects.

St. Louis, Itasca & Koochching County in partnership with the Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) is pleased to announce the formal public kickoff of a crowdsourcing project covering all areas of those Counties.  This broadband speed testing initiative is being conducted by GEO Partners, LLC during a time when more people are at home per the Governor’s “Stay at Home” directive. This includes over 30,000 students (K-12) as well as parents required to work from home and thus should provide the most comprehensive, accurate accumulation of actual broadband speeds ever conducted in the County while demand on the system is highest.

The data collected via a one minute speed test can be conducted from any device connected to your broadband signal including cell phones and will result in statistically valid data and mapping. This data will then enable any locale in St. Louis, Itasca or Koochichinng County to utilize the validated information for a broadband expansion project and seek grant funding from the FCC, USDA or Border to Border state program. We anticipate a higher than normal volume of participation, partially because of all the students who are struggling to stay connected to their E Learning while living in rural areas in the county.

RAMS, as an organization has been a strong advocate for broadband expansion across the region.  RAMS’ and St. Louis, Itasca and Koochiching County Commissioners recognize that high speed quality broadband is a critical utility to economic development, education, business and virtual healthcare.  RAMS is grateful to the partnership with St. Louis, Itasca & Koochiching County on this project and encourages everyone to TAKE THE TEST and SHARE THE LINK https://expressoptimizer.net/public/   TAKE IT NOW! Your participation is important and no personal information will be collected.

Newest members of RAMS – We are excited to announce the continued growth of RAMS with the addition of the Minnesota Building & Trades to our corporate membership group.  The Building & Trades have worked with RAMS and other cohorts promoting safe and environmentally regulated mining projects, pipeline replacement projects and Union jobs that provide liveable wages and benefits.  Anyone interested in joining RAMS, email Steve at: sgiorgi@ramsmn.org.  Biwabik Township is also the newest public sector member of RAMS and continues the growth of RAMS with our area townships.  Walt Hautala a long time member of the RAMS board of directors, serves as the chair of the township supervisors.  WELCOME to RAMS.  Thank you for your support.

RAMS announces a new website dedicated to broadband. Information, news about projects in our region, topical information and more.  Click on the tab on the RAMS website (broadband) or connect directly via: http://broadband.ramsmn.org…Enjoy this one stop location for regional broadband info.

DEED Announces 2019 Border to Border Broadband Grant recipients:
https://mn.gov/deed/assets/2019-project-summaries_tcm1045-416356.docx

Range Association of Municipalities & Schools – RAMS
Winter is Upon Us…and other updates:

Peter Clevenstine and Governor Tim Walz

Good things are actually happening on the Range…Here’s a snapshot of my perspective as the RAMS director:

Governor Tim Walz has been traveling across the state to see first hand what some of the state requested bonding projects are so he has a better understanding of their importance and need when it comes time for him to submit a list of projects for the legislature in 2020.  One of his visit included the Iron Range, where he stopped at the DNR Core Library in Hibbing.  The library is filled to capacity and has requested funding for an additional building that would enable the DNR to continue to collect, catalog and store the precious core samples from across the state.  The Governor also checked out the DNR runway at the Hibbing airport where it was obvious how sorely the runway needs to be replaced to assure the safety of our DNR pilots who fight fires and provide rescue services from this location.  This is the first time a Governor has conducted such a “bonding” tour and RAMS is happy he chose to do so.  With $5.3 BILLION in bonding project requests already submitted, it will be a challenging session for the Governor and our Range delegation as they try to secure funding for those most needed projects.
The Virginia and Eveleth/Gilbert school districts continue the hard work of consolidating the two neighboring school districts into one that will include the construction of a new high school in the Midway area, along with a new elementary building in Eveleth behind Progress Park and a new one at the Roosevelt High School site in Virginia.  Joint power agreements have been signed by both boards and a new advisory board is working regularly to deal with a myriad of issues facing the districts.  Public surveys and meeting were held to help develop a new name and mascot for the District and a public announcement is scheduled to take place at the first hockey game between the two districts.  Land acquisition is ongoing, a draft concept of the high school campus is soon to be revealed and in 2020 formal action to consolidate will take place.  This is an amazing development for the Iron Range and has spurred discussions between other school districts in the area as collaboration and cooperation continues to blossom in our region.

In Grand Rapids construction of two new elementary buildings is underway and may open next September for the students.  The Mesabi East school held a grand opening of their athletic complext including turf football, baseball, soccer fields, now all located next to the school. The Ely school districts has conducted surveys of the community to gauge their support for improvements to the district buildings that may include a new gymnasium as well as an enclosed passageway between the buildings and other needed upgrades.

PolyMet wins another case as the courts dismiss mulitple lawsuits over the project including the land exchange and rules for mining permits.  A case still left to resolves involves the water quality permit and dam safety permit.  PolyMet remains confident that they will prevail in these cases and hopes to make an announcement on financing for the project in the near future.

Twin Metals hopes to soon submit a “Mine plan of operation” to state and federal environmental agencies as they continue to finalize their mine plan.  Recently Twin Metals decided to use the “dry stacking” method rather than a more common dyke and damn tailing basin as dry stacking has long been considered a much safer yet more expensive system for disposal of tailings.

No new developments to report on the Mesabi Metallics (Essar) project in Nashwauk.  The requirement to have completed the pellet plant by Dec 31, 2019 looms ahead with no chance for completion.  This will allow the DNR to consider withdrawing the leases for the state lands currently leased to Mesabi Metallics.  Another concern is the deadline of January 20, 2020 when Mesabi Metallics has to pay $12 million in royalties to the state.  RAMS continues to maintain dialog with the DNR and the Governor’s staff on this project that is so important to everyone in the region.

IMPORTANT DATE TO REMEMBER – DECEMBER 19TH
RAMS ANNUAL MEETING AND DINNER @ the Mt Iron Community Center.

Nomination forms have been sent out – deadline is Dec 10th to return the form as we have 12 vacancies again this year.  Elections are held at the annual meeting.

To RSVP contact Lois at: rams@ramsmn.org

GOOD LUCK AND SAFE HUNTING IF YOU GO OUT!!

2019 NEWEST MEMBERS TO JOIN RAMS:

Balkan Township – Thanks to Peter Clevenstine
City of Eveleth – Thanks Mayor Bob Vlaisavljecich
City of Cook – Thanks Mayor Harold Johnston

The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools is always looking to add to the membership base.  The RAMS motto: “ONE RANGE – ONE VOICE” becomes even stronger with every new member.  Already in 2019, RAMS has been pleased to announce the addition of 3 new Corporate Members:
Colosimo, Patchin, Kearney & Brunfelt LTD. – Thanks Mitch Brunfelt
Komatsu Mining Corp.   – Thanks John Ward
ICS Consulting  – Thanks Jeff Schiltz

RAMS is grateful to the continued, growing support of our regional business community.  RAMS is grateful to these companies for their support and membership, and encourages your community, or business to consider becoming a member.  Contact Steve at:  sgiorg@ramsmn.org for more information.

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.


Grand Rapids Schools

 Pat Medure – Board Director ISD # 318 – RAMS President

For eighty years RAMS has been working to promote legislation that is beneficial to our area and its membership.  We are “One Range, One Voice”.  The RAMS Board of Directors, are elected and appointed officials from cities, townships and school districts from across the Iron Range.  We monitor current and proposed state and federal legislation that may affect our quality of life.

Our Executive Director, Steve Giorgi has been working with our local communities to expand and enhance broadband access across the Iron Range. With the expansion of broadband across the Range, RAMS Board of Directors understand this will create economic opportunities for our area and enhance the quality of life we so enjoy!

We also monitor the local mining issues that are so important to our area, which has been part of our life on the Range for the past 135 years.  Whether it be iron ore mining, taconite mining, or the future copper nickel mining, we understand the importance of mining and RAMS will continue to be a player to promote mining in a safe and friendly environmental way.

From East to West, North to South RAMS is “One Range  –  One Voice”.  We are all in this together.

 

Message From Director

2020 – A Year We Will Never Forget

PANDEMIC…CORONA – 19….STAY AT HOME…SELF QUARANTINE…SOCIAL DISTANCING all reflect the vocabulary that we have suddenly had to learn and become familiar with during this historic time in America. Everything that we once considered normal, routing or mundane is now questioned or presents a challenge that we never gave a thought to previously. Need to discuss an issue with your co-workers – simple, meet in the conference room. Now, since you are working from home, under the “Stay at Home” declaration, someone needs to schedule a Zoom meeting or Google chat.

Elected officials have had to quickly learn about video meeting formats, decide how or when to allow public participation and hope that they have enough broadband bandwidth from home to even connect to the meeting. The State Legislature has quickly developed new rules and adjourned the Legislature for weeks at a time, conducting leadership meetings to quickly develop a relief bill for the COVID -19 pandemic that provided for waiving the waiting week on unemployment, altered the eligibility rules for UE and allotted millions of dollars for short term low interest loans to businesses. School were closed and instructed to develop plans for “distance or E Learning” in an eight day window provided by the Governor. Businesses were identified as either “Essential” or “Non-essential” and only the essential were allowed to continue operating.

RAMS as an organization immediately went to work reaching out to our school districts to try and assess the issues on connectivity with students in our rural environment and to see what could be done to assist with this issue. The Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) offered to increase speed and bandwidth to all locations connected to the middle mile fiber network and create hotspots in school, library or town hall parking lots to reduce travel time or provide a location for rural students to utilize as a spot where they could connect a device and receive or send their class assignments.

RAMS also scheduled a meeting with Iron Range Mayors along with Congressman Stauber, Senator Tomassoni and Rep Dave Lislegard. Area mayors were able to learn more about the State legislative relief package as well as the CARES Act, the Federal $2.3 Trillion dollar relief act. RAMS circulated emergency declarations shared by Mayor Novak and encouraged all mayors to adapt similar resolutions as soon as possible to provide their communities with all avenues of relief that may become available.

Fortunately, to date (April 20) the Iron Range has not seen or heard of many reported cases of COVID 19. Unfortunately, we have also heard from medical experts who learn more about the virus every day that many people may be infected, and are able to spread the virus while being asymptomatic. This makes this virus that much more difficult to treat and diagnose. Testing is not nearly as available as it needs to be, and Minnesotans remain hopeful that the Mayo along with the University of MN will be releasing and providing testing that is quick, using a finger poke that reveals if an individual has developed antibodies that have fought off the virus and may also provide a method of treatment for those who are infected and suffering the effects.

 

Personal Protective Equipment has also been a cause of concern, and there is a lot of uncertainty if that issue has been addressed for our regional healthcare centers or not. This past weekend the Governor led an effort for people to sew masks at home and make them available so that local police or fire departments could distribute them across the communities to locations where they are most needed. Wearing of masks if advised but not mandated at this time.

This past week the Governor opened up more businesses as protests took place outside the Governor’s mansion on Summitt Street in St Paul. Republican Majority Leader Sen Gazelka has been an outspoken advocate for “opening up Minnesota” and allowing more if not all businesses to return to work. Governor Walz is carefully assessing how and when more people will be able to return to work but is concerned that the peak infection rate of the virus has yet to hit Minnesota and does not want to accelerate the community spread of the infection by opening up more businesses too soon.

Now the COVID has impacted our local economy with two mines announcing significant layoffs. April 19th, Keetac laid off over 100 workers with plans for the mine to shut down after some repair work is completed at the end of May. The layoff is described as “indefinite”. Earlier this month North Shore Mining and Cliffs operation, announced that the North Shore facility would lay off the majority of their workers in Silver Bay and Babbitt with a small crew doing maintenance and loading of pellets stockpiled at the Silver Bay site. This layoff is proposed to last through August based on market demand at that time. It is anticipated that additional announcements may be forthcoming from Arcelor Mittal who is the majority owner of the Hibbing Taconite plant and the Inland Steel site in Virginia. The bad news for the Range is we know that layoffs at Taconite plants take longer to start up than the mills in other locations.

What will tomorrow bring? What is the new normal? At this time, no one knows for sure. Medical experts at the CDC have consistently stated that the development of a vaccine will likely take 12 to 18 months. Without a vaccine that provides protection against the virus, we will likely have to adapt to social distancing, wearing PPE, and conducting business and daily activities in manners we find foreign and challenging. Perhaps we will learn more social acceptance of others, appreciate little gestures of kindness more than ever, and look forward to being in a crowded gymnasium, theatre or stadium and be grateful for the experience.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay home, stay strong.



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