Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson gave the State of City address at last week’s City Council meeting.

Robertson spoke about the top concerns city residents and elected officials have are the city’s finances.

“Is the city solvent? Are my tax dollars being used responsibly? The City of Ely’s annual budget is not the largest out of the 19 cities in the state. In fact, I suspect we’re in the bottom five as far as budget size. This being the case it is that much more critical that the City of Ely guard every penny and scrutinize every expenditure to ensure that our citizens are provided with the services that every resident has the right to expect while planning and looking towards the future,” Robertson said.

He spoke about how when he took office nearly three years ago and the first annual audit turned up state compliance problems as well as other issues; that same year the city had appointed a new City Clerk and a new City Treasurer, both with many years of experience in working on behalf of the City of Ely and her people.

“In the past three years the staff, together with close work from the City Council, have dramatically turned the audit results around, resolving all state compliance issues and correcting process errors and material weaknesses,” Robertson said. “City departments routinely end the fiscal year within or under budget. Department heads take an active role in the budgeting process, lending their on-the-ground experience and departmental expertise to make sure the city’s annual budgeting process is realistic and effective. Their participation has been essential to the success of tightening up the city’s finances.”

He went on to the note that with the help of staff and leadership, the city has been able to maintain a healthy ending fund balance in the general fund even through the uncertainty of COVID.

“This fiscal year the city is projecting an ending fund balance of nearly $1,000,000. This, in short, means your city is spending responsibly and making sure it saves for a rainy day and future needs while still taking care of city services,” Robertson said.

“I would not be here talking about these successes without the hard work of our department officials and city employees. Like most organizations over the past couple years, we’ve had a fair amount of turnover for various reasons: Changes in the labor market, pandemic stresses, etc… I am proud and appreciative of each of our employees whether they’ve been with the city for years or only a short time.

“Your city employees are routinely working late into the night repairing critical infrastructure, plowing snow on a holiday while their family celebrates at home, rushing out of bed to attend an accident or to fight a fire, attending to your complaints and concerns in our offices and numberless other tasks that keep the city running. During the onset of COVID when little was known about what the future might hold.”

City employees took a substantial pay cut in order to make sure the city was financially prepared for the feared but unknown. The pay cut was temporary and Robertson said that they have been able to make that up to the employees and more with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“When many workers were sent home to work in safety, the city employees stayed on the job, often putting themselves in harm’s way to care for the sick and injured of our community and to make sure that critical infrastructure and processes of government kept functioning,” he said.

In addition to being responsible with the finances, city leadership has been proactive in assisting where possible during these pandemic years.

The city council’s proactive measures were applauded by Robertson. “In the past three years the city of Ely has issued 13 low interest business loans from the city’s Redevelopment Fund and Revolving Loan Fund. Thirty-five grants have been issued to businesses that the state had ordered closed as non-essential. In all, nearly $450,000 was distributed to the Ely business community from various sources.”

Additionally, funds that were distributed by the federal government have been employed assisting local nonprofits such as the local Ministerial Association food bank that also helps to put on the community holiday dinners, the CACHE program to feed local children, the Boys & Girls Club, Magic Carpet Preschool and others.

The city has been able to update many of the tools the Fire Department and EMS staff use as well as to make sure they are stocked with needed supplies. Additional funds have been made available to the Volunteer Fire Department to be used as they see fit for equipment, training, and member support.

“The City Fire Department could not function without the selfless service to our community by the members of the Ely Volunteer Fire Department.” Robertson said.

Robertson went on to detail that federal funds were utilized to update the city’s website and online services as well as the use of Zoom for city council and other meetings. In the near future, these funds will also be used to update the city’s communications and online connectivity infrastructure, bringing the city’s tools and processes on par with current technologies.

In the coming months and years, federal dollars will also be spent on tourism endeavors as well as water/ sewer improvements, bringing better broadband to the area and other worthy community initiatives.

A continued working relationship was also discussed during the mayor’s address. The City of Ely has been able to provide Fire and Emergency Medical Services to areas of the County in support of the County’s own volunteer Fire/ EMS organizations. The City of Ely has had a successful arrangement for many years for police protection with the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office. The City of Ely has been able to provide the County with building inspection services and Animal Control services.

For a number of years the city and county road departments have been able to pool resources, together with help from the Regional Transportation Commission, to jointly complete larger projects in the City of Ely and in White Pine County. The city and county have been able to successfully work together these past three years on tax agreements, a joint election agreement, the joint Regional Planning Commission, utility agreements, grant submissions and many other items large and small; their willingness to sit down with the city and adjust and tweak these arrangements as needed has made these shared services successful and have benefited taxpayers across the city and county as a whole with better services as well as cost savings.

Robertson said, “Government can be slow, and change can be slow. When you put the two together sometimes the pace can be glacial. However, I am confident that the City of Ely is moving forward and in the right direction.”

“I believe I speak for the Council, as well as myself, that these last three years have been challenging and while we have come a long way in a short time, there is still much to be done. I am excited for what is on the horizon for our City. I am proud and honored to be serving with these Council members, City Officials and City Staff and am proud of their accomplishments over the past three years. I look forward to continuing our work and encourage the input and participation of my fellow City residents in these projects and the processes of government.” Robertson closed by saying, “Strong Cities make strong States, and strong States make a strong America. Thank you for this opportunity to report on the State of the City of Ely and God bless.”