News

Fri
05
Aug

Tuesday is primary day

by Tom Coombe
A somewhat quiet primary election season comes to a head this week.
Voters in the Ely area and across the state will go to the polls on Tuesday, but few races seem to have captured much attention.
Within the Ely city limits, a three-candidate field for mayor will be trimmed to two.
Across the area, the contest that may be the most competitive is a Republican primary for State Senate, with Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich, who has the party endorsement, facing off with former mining industry lobbyist Kelsey Johnson.
St. Louis County also has one high-profile contest, with three candidates vying to move on to the general election for county sheriff..
Primary elections typically don’t generate the turnout of general elections in the fall when sometimes 80 percent or more of the electorate cast ballots.

Fri
05
Aug

Banner Blueberry week

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s Blueberry/Art Festival always draws a crowd but the opening day of this year’s event was impressive - even by the event’s lofty standards.
“I would call it a crush,” festival organizer Ellen Cashman said of the crowds she observed in the opening hours of the festival on Friday, July 29. “I think it was pretty awesome. I don’t know if we have ever seen the crowds that we saw on Friday. I was in the Chamber booth and we were surrounded by people the whole time.”
Many thousands of people passed through Whiteside Park before the three-day event ended on Sunday afternoon.
By all accounts, a good chunk of them spent money not only at the festival’s food and beverage locations, but with one or more or the better than 200 arts and craft vendors who set up shop in the city park for the 41st annual festival.

Fri
29
Jul

City Hall scrap investigated

by Tom Coombe
A city employee is on paid leave and law enforcement are investigating after a physical altercation earlier this month at Ely’s City Hall.
David Huberty, the city’s zoning administrator, has been placed on leave in connection with the July 20 incident.
An Ely property owner claims that Huberty assaulted one of his contractors, sending him to the hospital with injuries to his back and neck.
The incident was recorded on a cell phone and the recording has been turned over to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, according to local property owner Brett Shirley.
Shirley claims that Huberty assaulted “a guy working for me,” identified as Tanner Smuda, after Smuda went to City Hall to inquire about permitting information.
Ely city officials declined comment other than to release the following statement:

Fri
29
Jul

Last mile for school project

by Tom Coombe
It’s a race against the clock and the calendar on Ely’s school campus.
Contractors are working feverishly, sometimes into the night, to complete a $20 million-plus renovation project in time for the start of school in early-September.
Currently, plans call for the school year to start on time on Sept. 6, but both the exterior and part of the interior remain a work in progress.
The discovery of ledgerock has required blasting in the process of installing new water and sewer lines, and security fencing has been installed around school parking lots while work has continued.
A second “circle” in front of the school buildings for student drop-off and pickup remains to be done, and contractors are still finishing a new addition that includes a gymnasium, cafeteria and commons space, offices, media center, music and industrial education classrooms and a new secure entry.

Fri
22
Jul

Blueberry week is back

by Tom Coombe
First it was Covid-19.
Then came the storm of all storms, one that left Whiteside Park a disheveled mess and destroyed dozens of tents.
Perhaps this year Ely’s Blueberry/Art Festival will return to normal?
That’s the hope, and the expectation, as Ely’s signature event returns this week.
More than 200 art, craft and food vendors will descend on Whiteside Park, and they’ll likely be joined by thousands of visitors over the course of the three-day event, which starts on Friday, July 29 at 10 a.m., and runs through the weekend.
Always held on the last weekend of July, the Blueberry/Art Festival has grown from humble roots and in its four-decade history has become a major happening.
At least since the 1990s, the festival has served as the backdrop for the busiest weekend of the summer, filling the park as well as lodging establishments and bringing both vendors and visitors here from around the country.

Fri
22
Jul

Morse-Fall Lake to participate in National Night Out event on August 2

The Morse-Fall Lake First Responders and Fire Department will participate in the National Night Out event on August 2.
Fire chief Ted Krueger proposed an open house event at the fire hall on Grant McMahan Boulevard.
“We would serve food and have fire safety information,” said Krueger. “It would get the public involved and they could see who we are and what equipment we actually have.”
At Wednesday’s Morse-Fall Lake meeting, the board endorsed the plan and noted the two new vehicles were purchased this year with monies from the Greenstone fire.
“It’s good to show people what we have,” said board member Bob Berrini. “We’ll have the new pick-up and Mike Harri (of the First Responders) will have his new one.”
Krueger said he would also like to invite the Lake County and St. Louis County sheriff’s departments.
“We have a lot of new equipment and members, it would be nice to do this,” said Krueger.

Fri
15
Jul

City lands $1.5 million from feds

by Tom Coombe
A $1.5 million federal grant will help the city of Ely take the next step in its trailhead and west end development project.
The city was awarded the money earlier this week and it will be used to build the Ely Regional Trailhead Facility and complete another part of the project’s second phase.
“This will get the building done and the parking lot completed,” said Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer and operations director.
Ely was successful in its pursuit for federal money through a highly-competitive process to tap into $240 million set aside for travel and tourism projects, in an effort overseen by the federal Economic Development Administration.
The program is funded by federal stimulus money.

Fri
15
Jul

Oelke mentoring for superintendent

by Tom Coombe
Ely school officials set the stage for a potential transition of the district’s administrative lineup and configuration.
Monday, board members unanimously approved a plan to enter into an a superintendent mentorship agreement with elementary principal Anne Oelke through the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Under the agreement, Oelke will take on some of the duties of a superintendent while being mentored by current part-time superintendent John Klarich. She will be paid an additional $1,000 per month.
Klarich told the board the arrangement gives Oelke, who has a superintendent’s license, a chance to get her feet wet of sorts before the district has its next superintendent vacancy.

Fri
08
Jul

New life for Bowling Alley

by Tom Coombe
Dust off the shoes and pull out the bowling balls - bowling is returning to Ely.
Closed for several years, the Ely Bowling Alley is poised to get new life in a remodeled facility and as a repackaged business.
Local business owners Chad Davis and Cindy Smyka have teamed up to purchase the facility, which last was open in 2018, and they’re in the initial phases of an ambitious remodeling project with plans for the business to reopen sometime in 2024.
The real estate transaction closed roughly three weeks ago, and Ely’s Fourth of July parade included a float announcing the reopening of the business. Word has quickly spread via social media as well.
While league bowling figures to be part of the new venture, the new owners are also planning several changes - including the addition of a restaurant as well as duck pin bowling - to make the “BA” a more family-friendly, community-friendly venue.

Fri
08
Jul

Parade winners announced OVER 120 PHOTOS IN THIS WEEK'S ELY ECHO

The Ely Events Committee announced the winning entries for the July 4 parade.
For the Commercial Division, first place went to the Bowling Alley float, followed by Pebble Spa and the Bouthouse.
In the Non-Commercial Division, the pets and people on the Contented Critters float took the top prize. Second Place went to Veterans on the Lake and third went to Community Free Dental.
In the Patriotic Division it was Brad Chase’s semi-truck and trailer taking first followed by the patriotic Janezek family and then the Sasquatch Truck.
Honorable Mentions were given out to the Ely Blue Line, Quiltmakers, Ely Track Club and the Boundary Waters Care Facility.
For the kids, awards were given to Emma Leider-Bilda, age 9, Claire Schoonover, age 7, Kiersten Schoonover, age 8, Olivia Korb, age 9, Sally Dunn, age 10, and Emily Dunn, age 7.
The Events Committee would like to thank all of the entrants in the 2022 Ely 4th of July parade.

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