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IRRRB approves annual budget, Giants Ridge project

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board approved the agency’s fiscal 2015 budget Monday at their meeting in Eveleth.

The board, comprised of Minnesota lawmakers form Northeastern Minnesota, approved a $41 million budget for the coming year, down slightly from fiscal 2014.

The budget includes more money for potentially consolidated school districts and more money for higher education efforts to train Iron Range students for jobs available at home.

Tony Sertich, IRRRB commissioner, said business development projects and programs and education are “first priority, accounting for two-thirds of agency investments.” The IRRB allocates a portion of the state’s tax on taconite iron ore production paid by mining companies instead of property taxes.

The board also approved $6.2 million for the long-planned Giants Ridge events center. The $10 million project already received $3.9 million in the state Legislature’s 2014 bonding construction legislations. The center will replace an outdated main chalet at the IRRRB-owned ski and outdoor activities hill.

The board also approved several economic development projects, including a $130,000 grant to the city of Cook to pay for infrastructure, utilities and site work for the redevelopment of the Vermilion Motel. The motel was destroyed by fire last year. The board also approved a $350,000 grant to the city of Virginia to accommodate the $8.9 million consolidation and expansion of Ulland Brothers for a heavy equipment maintenance garage and warehouse facility and a new administrative office building.