News

Fri
15
Jan

Ely says goodbye to Nisky

by Nick Wognum
An impromptu parade was held for the man who has led Ely’s famous Fourth of July parades for decades.
The community was stunned Wednesday morning to find out Bob “Nisky” Niskala had suddenly passed away.
Niskala was the leader of the Ely Honor Guard. He was the group’s heart and soul. Nisky took all the phone calls and made many more, setting up appearances at funerals, parades and Memorial Day ceremonies.
Wednesday night several hundred of Niskala’s family and friends lined Sheridan Street from Central Avenue to Second Avenue West for Niskala’s 10:30 p.m. parade to the funeral home.
There were tears, American flags and a police escort. Honor Guard members carried the flag draped casket into the funeral home as the crowd inched closer.
Honor Guard member Mike Pope said a few words and thanked everyone for coming.

Fri
15
Jan

Vaccination rollout stalls

by Tom Coombe
Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital has administered 170 COVID-19 vaccinations, but further rollout has been temporarily stalled.
A news release issued by the hospital this week indicated that local vaccinations are based on the rollout plan created by the Minnesota Department of Health, in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and federal Food and Drug Administration.
Hospital employees and area emergency personnel were among the first to be vaccinated in what’s been dubbed Phase 1a of the vaccination distribution across Minnesota.
But progressing further in Ely hinges on outside influences.
“The biggest obstacle we face is the inability to move onto the next phase without the state’s go-ahead,” said Patti Banks, chief executive officer of EBCH. “Even though we are done with Phase 1a after next week, currently, we are being asked to wait until everyone is done with Phase 1a.”

Fri
08
Jan

Fun Run event shifts into park

by Tom Coombe
One of the area’s biggest winter events won’t happen this year.
Organizers of the Fun Run pulled the plug this week, after holding out hope that gathering limits would be eased in order to hold an event that in recent years has attracted more than 1,000 participants and several hundred people to an evening wrap-up party at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Usually held in late-January, plans for the 2021 event shifted to late-February and even into March, but organizers said Thursday that they ran out of time.
“We need two months of planning to pull all of this off and we just don’t know if the governor’s restrictions will be lifted in time even if we did try to have it in mid-March,” said Fun Run co-chair Jim Zupancich.
Proceeds from the Fun Run support area snowmobile trails, but the event has evolved in its two decades and now serves as one of the top family-fun events of the winter for the Ely, Babbitt and Tower communities.

Fri
08
Jan

McDonald elected vice-chair

by Tom Coombe
A divided St. Louis County Board put two Iron Range commissioners - including one from Ely - in leadership positions.
Breaking from tradition, the board opted against rotating the chair position and re-elected Chisholm commissioner Mike Jugovich on Tuesday.
Commissioner Paul McDonald of Ely, meanwhile, was selected vice-chair.
The votes came with some acrimony, and with outspoken Virginia area commissioner Keith Nelson creating controversy when he called Duluth - the county’s largest city - a “cesspool.”
For years, the board’s chair position went back and forth between the Range and the Duluth area.
But Hermantown commissioner Keith Musolf, who was in line to take the gavel, cited personal reasons for declining and suggested Jugovich get another year at the helm, pointing to disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fri
01
Jan

Who’s next as mayor?

by Tom Coombe
Ely could have a new mayor, or at least a temporary one, as soon as Tuesday.
The council’s first gathering in 2021 brings both some drama and uncertainty - all stemming from the surprising November mayoral election victory by Eric Urbas and his subsequent decision to turn the job down.
Council members are expected to either appoint an interim mayor this week or set a process by which to choose one, and take steps that will lead to a special mayoral election - and perhaps a primary - later in 2021.
Some maneuvering toward the mayoral election has already begun, with former mayor Roger Skraba indicating that he will be a candidate for his former job.
The decision by Urbas, who made headlines by unseating incumbent Chuck Novak despite dropping out of the race months earlier, has set in motion a series of events.

Fri
01
Jan

COVID spike eases, numbers in a nosedive

by Tom Coombe
After a November spike, reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline locally, regionally and statewide.
With only five residents of the 55731 zip code testing positive for the virus in a two-week period that ended Dec. 24, the case rate in Ely is low enough to allow for in-person learning for all grade levels, according to state recommendations and a restart blueprint adopted by the Ely School Board.
In St. Louis County, cases have fallen by two-thirds since peaking in late-November while active cases in Minnesota have plummeted by 76 percent since a high-water mark of Nov. 20.
The developments come in the wake of restrictions authorized by Gov. Tim Walz, including a “pause” that has closed restaurants, bars and indoor entertainment venues for several weeks.

Thu
24
Dec

COVID vaccinations begin

by Tom Coombe
The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Ely.
As part of a nationwide effort to combat the virus, about 30 doses were distributed Monday to employees of Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital and the Ely Area Ambulance Service.
Another 25 workers were to get shots Wednesday, with health care employees at the front of the line to receive a vaccine that only earlier this month was approved for emergency distribution.
The Ely hospital is coordinating the vaccinations of its staff and ambulance employees from Ely, Babbitt and Tower, while local clinic provider Essentia is coordinating vaccinations for its staff.
Ely’s nursing home and congregate care facilities are also set for vaccinations in the early stages of an operations that could result in the distribution of millions of doses by mid-2021.
Rebecca Holmstrom, chief nursing officer at EBCH, said those who received shots this week will get a second dose in another three weeks.

Thu
24
Dec

Stauber knocks state restrictions

Opponents of Gov. Tim Walz’s restrictions on businesses have found a powerful ally in U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber.
Tuesday, Stauber spoke with numerous business owners and industry leaders and called on Walz to lift restrictions on bars, restaurants and other venues.
“To point to the obvious Minnesota needs to get back to an open and working economy,” said Stauber, who met via conference call in a session that also involved media representatives. “I’m going to continue to fight for a full reopening in the days to come. It’s time for our governor to level the playing field.”
Last week, Walz extended what started as a four-week “pause” that limited restaurants to takeout or delivery service and closed bars, gymnasiums, entertainment venues and other gathering places.
Walz tweaked some of the provisions effective Dec. 19, including opening gymnasiums to 25 percent capacity and allowing restaurants and bars to open outdoors.

Fri
18
Dec

COVID cases plummet in Ely

by Tom Coombe
Reported cases of Covid -19 have declined dramatically in the Ely area, to a point that in-person learning would be allowed per current guidelines.
According to data released Thursday, only three new positive tests were reported among residents of the 55731 zip code in the last three days, and 10 overall in the last two weeks.
That’s in comparison to 40 in a two-week period that ended Dec. 3 and 57 from Nov. 14-27, and has brought Covid case rates to levels consistent to when the Ely schools provided in-person learning earlier this school year.
Ely’s zip code case rate per 10,000 in the last 14 days has plummeted to 16.11, compared to 37.04 last week and 91.80 Nov. 27.
Guidelines released by the state of Minnesota earlier this year suggest full in-person learning for rates of 10 and under, with rates between 10 and 19.99 recommended for in-person learning for elementary schools and hybrid at the secondary level.

Fri
18
Dec

Burglary charges stem from break-in

A Dec. 10 incident at the Zenith Apartments has resulted in felony charges against two Ely men.
Court documents say that two counts of first-degree burglary have been filed against Ashton Swanson, 23, and Justin McNulty, 24.
Both were also charged with fifth-degree misdemeanor assault in connection with an early-morning incident inside an apartment at the Camp Street complex.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the Ely Police Department, officers were dispatched to a Zenith apartment shortly after midnight.
Upon arrival, police found broken glass suggesting a window was broken from the outside, and a male occupant on his hands and knees.
The male was found with multiple scratches on his back, multiple bruises on his face and a bloody mouth, and told police he was attacked by both Swanson and McNulty.

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