CHISHOLM — A St. Louis County Commissioner reached out to city leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to keep a proposed clinic and daycare project moving forward.
“I think we’re at a tipping point right now, and I want to talk to the city about what the city can do to move this process along,” Commissioner Mike Jugovich said of the project that has been in the works for about three years now. “I think we’ll move forward or back off this.”
Jugovich said he’s committed to getting the project off the ground and to get dollars from the county to help the project along, whether it be in the form of a subsidy or buying down some of the cost. He said there is continued interest from the county, Iron Range Resources, Essentia and a developer, and said the city needed to have some “skin in the game.”
In a March 2021 Mesabi Tribune article Chisholm City Administrator Stephanie Skraba, who was then the Chisholm Economic Director, said the plan involved developing a parcel of land currently owned by Delta Air Lines as the site of a new building to house a new clinic and social services office. At that time, the hope was for groundbreaking of the new clinic to happen in the fall of 2021.Skraba confirmed on Thursday that Delta still owns the proposed building site.
Chisholm has been without a clinic since Essentia closed its services at 400 Northwest First St. in recent years that had served the area for decades. There is also a need for childcare as the town’s only commercial childcare center closed a couple of years ago.
The Mesabi Tribune reached out to Essentia Health about the proposed project on Thursday and was provided with the following statement.
“At Essentia we continue to be eager to partner with the County to be able to offer both Health and Human Services out of a common location as originally agreed to by the County Commissioners many months ago,” it states.
Jugovich said the board committed to no less than 1,500 square feet of the proposed building for office space while he was board chair. Since that time, Jugovich said, the need for mental health and chemical dependency services has come to the forefront.
“I think we’re underserved north of Duluth,” Jugovich said, adding that just about everybody can relate to the issue with people not being able to get the care they desperately need due to a lack of space and lack of providers in the area. “We’ll do what we can to keep numbers down. The board has been supportive and understands the challenges faced by rural communities.”
Jugovich also mentioned the need for childcare in the region, and Sen. Tina Smith’s efforts to secure funding for childcare.
Smith’s office provided the following statement on Thursday in response to an inquiry about her efforts.
“Senator Smith has been working to secure $1.2 million for the Iron Range Childcare project, run by the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota,” it stated. “As a result of her efforts, the funding has been included in a draft funding bill released in July – a key step toward getting that funding into law. However, the bill has not been taken up on the Senate floor yet, so the Senator will continue fighting for the childcare provision as the Senate works on a final government funding package for 2023.”
Should the project move forward, Jugovich said it would be a benefit not only to Chisholm but neighboring communities.
Jugovich invited the council to attend a county board meeting at 11 a.m. on Oct 11 in Ely to join in a discussion on the proposed project.
Later in the meeting the council added the project to items to be discussed at a special council meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sept. 20.
The council also addressed the following other matters.
•Directed City Attorney Bryan Lindsay to issue a final letter to individuals not in compliance with the city’s blight ordinance and to prepare a summons and complaint of blighted properties to be brought before the council for final approval.
Lindsay presented the council with a stack of individual files where the police department had attempted to work with the individuals to get their property in compliance but to no avail. In each file, he said there are between three to five communications between the police department and the individual trying to work with the individual to clean up their property.
•Approved holiday pay for the ambulance service.
• Approved an agreement between the City of Chisholm and the Hibbing Fire Department for Advanced Life Support (ALS) intercept.
•Approved a mutual aid agreement between the City of Chisholm and the Hibbing Fire Department.
•Adopted a resolution for the IRRRB Residential Redevelopment program.
• Adopted a resolution setting an assessment hearing for the Third Street Northwest Infrastructure Improvement Project for 5 p.m. on Oct. 12.
•Adopted the assessment for the 2021-2022 Street Rehabilitation Project.
•Adopted a cooperative agreement between the City of Chisholm and St. Louis County for street maintenance programs.
•Adopted a petition for street improvement in the 100 block of Southwest Fourth Ave.
•Adopted a resolution to sell surplus garbage carts to the City of Hibbing. Chisholm Public Works Director Larry Folstad said the city has spare carts and is selling them to help Hibbing address supply chain issues.
• Adopted a resolution to sell surplus vehicles and items.
• Approved reallocation of $11,532 of matching funds for the Lake Park to be used for the skate park overlay project.
•Accepted a donation to the library from Diane Yonkovich.
•Delegated Councilor Marty Halverson and Councilor Travis Vake to attend training for the Local Board of Appeal and Equalization.
•Directed the city administrator to send out a reminder to board and commission members reminders about expectations in response to an accusation by a citizen that a board member had used profanity in an online post. Efforts by the council to confirm who made the post were unsuccessful.