Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely polling place to remain at Senior Center

Split council narrowly rejects call to move voting center to City Hall

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/26/19

ELY – The city’s one and only polling place will remain at the Ely Senior Center in 2020, but some city council members here are increasingly dissatisfied with the tradition and want …

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Ely polling place to remain at Senior Center

Split council narrowly rejects call to move voting center to City Hall

Posted

ELY – The city’s one and only polling place will remain at the Ely Senior Center in 2020, but some city council members here are increasingly dissatisfied with the tradition and want voting to take place at City Hall.
A split council voted 4-3 last Tuesday to approve a resolution designating the Ely Senior Center to remain as the city’s lone polling place for the upcoming election year.
Council member Heidi Omerza led a charge in an attempt to move voting to City Hall, citing a $2.5-million renovation project five years ago to improve ADA access. “I am going to vote against this (resolution) simply because we have things in place, such as early voting and absentee voting, and access to vote (at City Hall) where we have a ramp and elevator,” she said.
“This is one of the main reasons we spent that money so we could have voting here. I believe the closer voting happens to where we actually do the business of the city, the better off we all are,” Omerza continued. “I understand I am in the minority, but I will continue to stand by my position, because I think this is where we should be voting.”
Omerza noted that many residents are already voting at City Hall, either for absentee or other early voting. “More and more people are choosing not to vote on Election Day,” said Omerza. “I’m not against the Senior Center. We have spent so much money on this building that it would be ridiculous for us not to have voting here.”
Mayor Chuck Novak agreed with Omerza. “Part of the discussion for renovating this building was to make this the polling place for the city of Ely,” he said. “Eventually, someday, that Senior Center will not be able to accommodate voting day. I cannot disagree with the rationale at this point.”
Indeed, the 40-year-old Ely Senior Center is in need of major repairs and renovation, and a major fundraising campaign is underway to help with the cost of installing new windows and completing major electrical and kitchen upgrades.
Council member Paul Kess argued to keep voting at the Senior Center. “Having a comfortable and accessible place to vote encourages more participation and outweighs the fact that we spent a lot of money here,” he said.
Novak and Omerza convinced council member Ryan Callen to vote against the resolution. Just two years ago, Callen voted to keep voting at the Senior Center. He did not comment on why he changed his vote this time.
Kess was joined by Albert Forsman, Jerome Debeltz and Angela Campbell in voting for the resolution to keep voting at the Senior Center.
The Minnesota presidential primary will be held on Tuesday, March 3. Voters will return to the voting booth in August for a local primary, and again in November for the general election.
Other business
In other action, the council:
Authorized the Heritage Preservation Committee to submit a grant request to the IRRR Mine Land Reclamation fund to complete design work for the retaining wall restoration project at the Pioneer Mine site.
Approved a Projects Committee recommendation to purchase a 15-acre parcel of land for $200,000 that includes a portion of the Trezona Trail alignment.
Authorized the sale of city property on Washington Street for a city resident to build a “tiny house”.
Heard from the police chief who said the department’s new pickup truck squad vehicle should be operational by Dec. 1.
Approved a resolution authorizing the application of raffle permits for the Dorothy Molter Memorial Foundation.

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