News

Fri
20
Nov

Bakk bolts from DFL caucus

by Tom Coombe
When 2020 began, State Sen. Tom Bakk led the DFL caucus.
As the year comes to a close, Bakk is no longer part of it and has joined another Iron Range lawmaker in a two-person independent alliance that could help tilt the balance of power in St. Paul.
Bakk, who has represented the Ely area in St Paul for more than 25 years, joined longtime Chisholm legislator and State Sen. David Tomassoni in forming a new Minnesota Senate Independent Caucus.
In a statement released Wednesday, they said the move presents an opportunity to chair committees and makes sense to better serve their districts within the legislative framework.

Fri
20
Nov

Urbas turns down mayoral job

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s surprise mayor won’t be taking the job.
Eric Urbas, who unseated incumbent Chuck Novak in the Nov. 3 election despite withdrawing from the race three months before, notified city officials on Wednesday that he is declining the position.
The decision seems likely to trigger a special election, in early-2021, to fill the city’s top political post.
Urbas, 31, conceded he had second thoughts after his 924-800 victory and heard from many supporters who encouraged him to take office as scheduled in January.
But after some soul searching that Urbas said involved “sitting in a deer stand for a good five days up in Roseau and another few afternoons in evenings in the sauna,” he arrived at a decision.

Fri
20
Nov

Annual legislative meeting called off

The annual “legislative meeting” in Ely won’t happen this year.
An event that brings local elected officials together with state legislators, county officials and aides to federal lawmakers has been called off, because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting, hosted by the Community Economic Development Joint Powers Board, had been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7 at the Grand Ely Lodge.
Rising case numbers across the state prompted Gov. Tim Walz to reinstate several restrictions, including bans on in-person dining and limits on public gatherings.
Both made it impossible for the annual event, which usually attracts as many as 40-to-50 people for a lunch gathering, to move forward as planned.
Joint Powers Board members considered cancelling the meeting in October but ultimately decided then to move forward with an in-person gathering with accommodations for people to take part remotely.

Fri
13
Nov

Morse board gets update on Treehouse Broadband project

The Town of Morse board of supervisors received an update from Treehouse Broadband at a Nov. 5 meeting.
Isaac Olson and Ward Nelson addressed the board. Morse has pledged $100,000 toward expanding internet services in the township. The IRRRB also awarded a $150,000 grant for the fixed wireless project.
Olson said repeater units are being installed on Burntside Lake including one on Oliver Island.
Nelson said Burntside Lodge now has internet at the resort including 22 cabins through Treehouse.
Nelson said customers along the North Arm Road are also being hooked up via a tower installed at the YMCA. He cited a township resident at the end of the road that didn’t have cell service and slow internet.
“Now they have fast internet,” said Nelson.
Olson said Treehouse is approaching 100 customers and that Nelson was brought on board to assist the growing company.

Fri
13
Nov

Minnesota has a National Tree Champion

A tree in northeast Minnesota has been recognized as the largest in the United States.
A jackpine was located by Casey Cloeter with a trunk circumference of 95 inches and a height of 63.25 feet. It is the largest known tree of its species in the country as reported to American Forests.
Cloeter is a USFS-MN DNR ecology research contractor who works on various research contracts such as the Forest Inventory Analysis program (FIA) throughout the midwest.
Cloeter said he mostly mostly works in the most remote, backcountry sections in northern St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties including the BWCAW and Voyageurs National Park.
“On September 5th, 2019 myself and a co-worker found the new National Champion (American Forests) Jack Pine deep in the heart of the BWCAW about 13-15 portages deep in the region East of Malberg Lake,” said Cloeter.

Fri
06
Nov

Homecoming held at EHS during pandemic

AN UNCONVENTIONAL HOMECOMING - Fall Homecoming Royalty candidates at Ely High School were Gabrielle Motes, Emmett Faltesek, Queen McKenna Coughlin, King Will Davies, Madeline Roderick, Jonah Schwamm, Sydney Richards and Brock LaTourell.

Wed
04
Nov

ELECTION RESULTS: Despite dropping out, Urbas unseats Novak

by Tom Coombe
Eric Urbas pulled out of Ely’s mayoral race three months ago, but local voters apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer.
In a stunning upset that sent shockwaves across the state, Urbas unseated incumbent Chuck Novak, collecting 924 votes to Novak’s 800.
The victory gave Urbas a two-year term as Ely’s mayor, but it’s not yet clear if he will take the city’s top political post.
He cited health reasons when withdrawing from consideration in August, but conceded Wednesday that the unanticipated win and encouragement from supporters and city leaders both from Ely and elsewhere have given him second thoughts.
“I don’t just want to say right now that I’m totally done,” said Urbas. “There’s still a chance it might happen. I don’t want to let people down.”
The 2007 Ely High School graduate is set to become mayor in January, but said he wouldn’t take that long to make a decision.

Fri
30
Oct

COVID cases climb in Ely

by Tom Coombe
COVID-19 case numbers in Greater St. Louis County, the metric used to help determine school learning models, rose again this week.
Data released Thursday morning showed a sharp increase, with biweekly cases per 10,000 people rising to 37.6, up from 25.5 and 18.2, respectively, the previous two weeks.
Ely school officials acknowledged the trend at a board study session earlier in the week and planned to consult with public health officials as they ponder potential changes in learning models.
Three cases of COVID-19 in the Ely school community were also disclosed Oct. 23, putting groups of middle and elementary school students temporarily into distance learning. Ely also had its first significant jump in cumulative cases in several weeks, with seven residents of the 55731 zip code testing positive in the last seven days.

Fri
30
Oct

Election reaches its end

by Tom Coombe
The commercials and campaigning will soon be over; as will the rhetoric and social media reachouts.
Lawn signs and billboards should be absent soon.
This week, the voice of the voters will be what counts the most.
An election season conducted in the midst of a pandemic comes to a close Tuesday, with voters set to weigh in on everything from bitterly-contested presidential and congressional races to legislative and local contests.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the state and locally as well, although, perhaps because of the pandemic, many area residents have already voted.
As of Wednesday morning, the city of Ely had already accepted 696 absentee ballots, over 300 more than cast in the last presidential year.
Neighboring Morse Township had accepted 324 absentee ballots.
The pandemic and a push by political parties to encourage voters to cast their ballots early.

Fri
23
Oct

New Ely cop comes from a small town

by Nick Wognum
Ely’s newest police officer shouldn’t have to adjust much to living in a small town.
Maxwell Brewer came to Ely from Morristown, MN which is about 15 minutes from Faribault.
“I’m used to small towns…my graduating class at Waterville was 60 students,” said Brewer. “I grew up in farm lands hunting, fishing and enjoying parks as I was growing up. I got into sports and played basketball throughout high school. Otherwise people find me hiking or in parks or swimming if the water’s not freezing.”
Brewer said he would like to get back into duck hunting after missing out on several seasons during college.
He attended Riverland Community College in Austin, MN, graduating with a degree in law enforcement and corrections. He then went to Rochester Community College for the skills portion of his training.
Brewer’s first job is with the Ely police department.

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