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Clair Nelson Center debt free

The Clair Nelson Center in Finland was completed in 2011, and the Township of Crystal Bay just received $250,000 in taconite production tax funds to pay off the remaining balance owed for its construction. File / News-Chronicle

In May, the Crystal Bay Township spent the majority of its annual meeting discussing the big debt they still owed -- $250,000 -- for the construction of the Clair Nelson Center in Finland. The figure represented just one-third of the original amount it borrowed in 2006, but it was still a staggering amount for the small community.

After careful consideration, the town board decided to reconvene in August and decide how to go about further paying down the debt, likely through a property tax increase. Thanks to the hard work of many representatives and community members, however, a better solution was found. According to programs outreach coordinator for Friends of the Finland Community, Honor Schauland, a grant from the state taconite production tax fund was secured to pay the remaining balance, meaning the center is now free and clear of debt. A celebration dinner took placeat the center on Sept. 6 to mark the occasion.

"It was really fun to be able to announce that to a group of people who have worked really hard to make it happen," said Schauland.

Schauland credits the tenacity of County Commissioner Pete Walsh and Township Clerk Deb Johansen for getting the grant. The taconite fund comes from taxes paid on taconite pellets produced in the state. Companies producing the pellets pay the tax in lieu of property taxes on their facilities.

Schauland said Walsh relentlessly lobbied the state legislature for the money and Johansen and other community members wrote many letters to State Rep. David Dill. She said it's a relief to have the center -- which is a beehive of activity year round -- paid off.