By Beth Bily
Like many local government entities, Itasca County is hoping to take advantage of a one-to-one funding match from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency to update its comprehensive plan.
The IRRRB is requiring that local cities, counties and townships update their respective plans if they are to be eligible for public works grant funding beginning in fiscal year 2015. Last fall, a representative from the IRRRB told the local officials that the economic development agency hoped the grant funding would enable local governments to update any plan that was older than five years – the threshold at which the agency suggests comp plans are out of date.
Itasca County Engineer Karin Grandia spoke to the Western Mesabi Mine Planning Board at its meeting last week and revealed two areas the county would emphasize in an updated plan, if and when funding is secured.
Highway 61 has an alignment that currently runs along a mining corridor and the county will likely need to move it to make way for future mining activity, Grandia told the board. “We want to start looking early at options for realigning that road,” she said.
Also on the radar is exploration into the possibility of a second commercial rail carrier for some areas of the county including Grand Rapids and the West Range.
The county is in the process of applying for a $50,000 grant from the IRRRB to update its own comp plan. Grandia has contacted local architecture and engineering firm SEH about completing the comp plan work on behalf of the county.
Grandia asked the WMMPB for a letter of support and noted it already received similar support from the city of Grand Rapids for the endeavor. A letter requesting the matching grant funding was submitted to the IRRRB on March 25.
Due to a lack of quorum, the WMMPB was unable to vote on a letter of support, but will take the matter up again at its meeting next month.
Prior to adjournment, board members also were apprised of an upcoming meeting regarding the 1.5 mile Highway 169 improvement. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation will conduct a public information meeting on April 30 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Taconite Community Center to discuss the transition from two lane to four lane along the 1.5 mile segment.