This past winter was so cold that Ely-made Steger Mukluk boots, known for their extreme warmth, ran out of stock. Now, the company is poised to expand its manufacturing facility.

The Ely City Council last week approved the $16,000 sale of a business park lot adjacent to the company's existing facility. The agreement came after years of confusion and some dispute over whether the company already had a purchase agreement for the land. It was about to heat up in court when the proposed resolution came to a vote last week.

Bottom line, said Ely Mayor Ross Peterson, the council understood that the bootmaker was ready to expand and the city welcomes the additional business.

Company owner Patti Steger said the company had been using the lot for parking and storage trailers, but plans now are to put up a new building.

"We're changing some processes that will require a lot more equipment. We will need more people eventually," Steger said. "I'm really hoping that we can cross the t's and dot the i's and get it done so that we can expand."

Steger, once married to Arctic explorer Will Steger, learned how to hand-sew both mukluks and moccasins from native women in the early 1980s while traveling from village to village on an Arctic dog sled expedition.

In 1985, she began making the footwear out of her home. The company produces 14,000 pairs of footwear annually from its Ely factory, according to its website.