News

Thu
16
Sep

School threatened with suit

by Nick Wognum
An organization with conservative political leanings is threatening legal action against the Ely School District, alleging a civil rights violation and accusing the district of engaging in “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
Earlier this week, an attorney for the Young America’s Foundation served notice in a letter to superintendent Erik Erie.
Steven Mairella, deputy general counsel for the organization wrote that the school district’s cancellation of a 9-11 memorial event linked with his group “violated the civil rights of not only YAF but the students at your school.”
Mairella said the organization would take legal action unless the district “makes a public apology to YAF and the students who intended to participate in the 9-11 Never Forget Project” in both printed and social media, and “create clear guidelines that are consistent with the Constitution to prevent future abuses by school officials.”

Thu
09
Sep

Masks at school, but for how long?

by Nick Wognum
A controversial K-12 mask mandate was the dominat topic at a school safety advisory council session Thursday, with administrators defending its implmentation while also promising to explore how to bring it to an end.
Superintendent Erik Erie told council members that administrators would recommend that the mandate, which started when school began Tuesday, continue at least another week.
He also acknowledged growing public criticism over the requirement, including a petition signed by nearly 300 area residents, and said school leaders would consult with health officials to come up with a plan for easing the restrictions.
“Nobody wants to be wearing a mask,” said Erie. “The big question is what is it going to take to change from mask on to mask off. We don’t have all the answers yet.”
Erie added “we’re hearing from the community, certainly with the petition.”

Thu
09
Sep

New interest in CC building

by Tom Coombe
A potential buyer has emerged for the city’s long-vacant Community Center building.
Council members voted Tuesday night to set up a subcommittee to review “a business plan and related information” submitted by the unidentified party.
According to minutes of the city’s historic preservation commission, which recommended the plan go to the council for review, as many as four potential developers have recently showed interest in the three-story, nearly 30,000 square foot structure.
One developer has made several visits to the building and has progressed to the point of advancing a still confidential business plan.
It will be reviewed by city clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski, attorney Kelly Klun and council members Heidi Omerza and Paul Kess.
City officials and area history buffs have wrestled with the fate and future of the Community Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for nearly a decade.

Sun
05
Sep

School does 180 on masks

by Nick Wognum
The Ely school district did a 180 on mask protocols just days before students returned to class.
Citing new guidance, including a letter signed by physicians and a nurse practitioner at Ely’s Essentia Clinic, superintendent Erik Erie announced Sept. 3 that masks would be required indoors for all students, staff and visitors on the Ely campus.
Three weeks earlier, Erie and school officials had said masks would be recommended rather than required to start the new school year, and Ely is one of only a few schools in the area to require masks.
Several neighboring schools, including the County District 2142 schools in Babbitt and Tower, have gone the “mask optional” route. Unlike the 2020-21 school year, there is no state mandate for masks and local districts have the option to decide on their own.

Fri
03
Sep

New at the Ely School District

NEW AT THE ELY SCHOOL DISTRICT is kindergarten teacher Brittany Baier who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She is originally from the Barnum area but her dad Dan is a 1991 Ely graduate. “My dad’s from here so I have family from here,” said Baier on why she wanted to work at the Ely school district. “I did student teaching and long term subbing in Cloquet last year but this is my first official year.” She’s also following in her mom’s footsteps, she has taught elementary in Barnum going on 28 years. Baier’s classroom has been remodeled with the windows removed as part of the district’s renovation project. Baier said she’s looking forward to the school year starting this week. “I will have 19 kids so I’m working on setting up desks right now.” Baier said she’s not a big outdoor person but “I might have to become one soon.” Baier said she’s also looking forward to her two dogs joining her in Ely. Photo by Nick Wognum.

Fri
03
Sep

Pioneer mine grafitti painted over

AFTER VANDALS spray painted grafitti, city workers including Kurt Mattila gave Ely’s 130 year-old water tank a fresh coat of paint on Wednesday morning at the Pioneer Mine National Register Site. Volunteer Seraphine Rolando spotted the vandalism and alerted the city council Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Wognum.

Fri
20
Aug

Forest Service to reopen BWCA on Sept. 4

The Forest Service s reopening some areas of the Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, given recent rains, cooling temperatures and progress made on active fire. However, certain closures will remain in place where active fires remain on the landscape.
The Forest Service is lifting the full closure of the BWCAW, the Crooked Lake closure near the fires in Canada. The Forest Service is slightly modifying closure maps for the Greenwood Fire, and the John Ek and Whelp Fires. The closure of Forest Service land at the Upper Gunflint Trail remains in place.
“We’re thrilled to reopen some of our public lands to visitors. The drought is not over but we’re starting to see more rain and lower temperatures. These conditions moderate fire activity and lessen the chance of new fires showing up,” said Connie Cummins, supervisor for the Superior National Forest.

Tue
17
Aug

Greenwood Fire containment growing

by Tom Coombe
What a difference a week - and some rain - can make.
Aided both by rain and an army of firefighters, and with assists from loggers, the Greenwood Fire is now 37 percent contained and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is reopening to visitors.
Officials reported significant progress Tuesday at a public meeting in Finland, just eight days after the fire mushroomed to a point where fire crews were forced to retreat and nearly 300 properties were evacuated.
“We do have a lot of good things to report on the progress of the Greenwood Fire,” said incident commander Brian Pisarek.
Pisarek reported “big advancements,” including an end of overnight shifts and that some property owners, who had been evacuated, were able to return to their properties.

Fri
13
Aug

Essentia Health to open pharmacy in Ely

Essentia Health announced it will be bringing pharmacy services to Ely later this year.
“At Essentia Health, we are always looking for ways to better serve our patients,” said Kenzie Hohman, senior director of ambulatory care pharmacy at Essentia. “That includes providing service closer to home. Bringing an Essentia Health pharmacy to Ely aligns with that objective, and we’re excited to open by the end of 2021.”
The Essentia Health-Ely Pharmacy will be located in the new Zup’s Food Market (1500 E. Sheridan St.), which will open in the former Shopko building.
“While we would have liked to have the hospital move their pharmacy in with us they said at this time it just wasn’t in their best interest,” said Jim Zupancich. “The hospital made their decision not to do it and Essentia contacted us about the possibility of bringing their pharmacy to our grocery store. We welcome Essentia to our facility and look forward to working with them.”

Fri
13
Aug

Roger returns to City Hall

by Tom Coombe
After nearly a decade away from city politics, Roger Skraba has returned in improbable fashion.
The two-time Ely mayor earned a third stint in the city’s top political post Tuesday, when he edged council member Heidi Omerza by 13 votes in a special election for mayor.
Skraba collected 376 votes to Omerza’s 363, with current interim mayor Chuck Novak getting 36 write-in votes.
Skraba will fill the mayor’s seat Tuesday, for the first time since the end of 2012, following a strange set of circumstances that started with Novak’s surprise loss to Eric Urbas in last November’s mayoral race.
Urbas, who had withdrawn from consideration months earlier, subsequently turned down the job and Novak was appointed on an interim basis until the city, because of regulations outlined by the city charter, could hold a special election.

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