News

Fri
27
May

Omerza first into Ely’s mayoral race

by Tom Coombe
For Heidi Omerza, it’s “up or out” when it comes to Ely politics.
The longtime city council member won’t seek re-election this fall and will instead attempt to become mayor.
As of Wednesday, Omerza was the only candidate in the contest for Ely’s highest elected position.
Incumbent Roger Skraba is running for a seat in the state legislature, and Omerza, who lost to Skraba by only 13 votes in a special election last year, is taking another crack at the mayoral seat.
Candidate filings in Ely, both for mayor and for three council positions up for grabs, close at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
To date, incumbent Angela Campbell is the only candidate in the council election.
Omerza, a mainstay on the city council since winning election in 2006, said this week that it’s time she pursue the mayoral position rather than pursue another four-year term on the council.

Fri
20
May

Rallying to save WELY

by Tom Coombe
A last-ditch effort to keep local radio station WELY on the air appears to be gathering some legs.
Both Ely’s mayor and the station’s current general manager voiced hope this week that an arrangement could be made to save WELY, which is now set to close on June 1.
The arrangement might include a summer reprieve for WELY and pursuit of a deal that could put ownership in the hands of the city of Ely with operations handled by a yet-to-be-identified non-profit group.
“They want to give it to us,” mayor Roger Skraba told council members on Tuesday. “We would, in turn, lease it to a (non-profit) that could operate the radio station. That’s going to take some time.”
On Thursday, Skraba elaborated further, voicing hope that the Bois Forte Band, which has owned WELY since 2005, would agree to keep WELY on the air through the summer while details of a new arrangement are formulated and finalized.

Fri
20
May

Fourth graders Walk for Water

Recently, Ely fourth graders participated in a Walk for Water project at Washington Elementary.
The fourth graders spent approximately a half hour carrying a portion of the water they may use in a day around our school playground to simulate what it might be like for the many people who lack reliable access to clean water.
This project helped raise awareness and critical funding for life saving clean water infrastructure at a community primary school in Kenya. Students were motivated to help and through coin drives in fourth grade classrooms and online donations, contributed nearly $1,100 to help fund this important work.
“We would like to extend our gratitude to the students, families and community members who joined this effort,” said teacher John Meyer.

Fri
13
May

Graduation night at VCC

by Tom Coombe
The 100th commencement at Vermilion Community College packed them in Tuesday night at the school’s gymnasium.
Dozens of graduates were joined by school faculty and staff, family members and friends, fellow VCC students and others in both a historic and “return to normal” commencement.
Provost Chris Koivisto noted the many changes that have taken place since Vermilion’s founding in 1922 as the former Ely Junior College, including name changes, consolidations and relocations.
Another change is in store this fall, when Vermilion becomes part of the newly-formed Minnesota North College, yet the campus will maintain both its identity and its niche outdoor-related programming that has attracted students from the upper Midwest and beyond.
Both two years ago and again in 2021, the commencement ceremonies were held virtually, and the campus was closed for several months two years ago.

Fri
13
May

3A Republicans to gather in Ely

by Tom Coombe
Republicans in House District 3A will gather again - this time in Ely - to endorse a new candidate in their bid to seek DFL incumbent Rob Ecklund.
Bob Wolfe, who won the endorsement last month at Cook, has since pulled out of the race and district Republicans will gather at 7 p.m. Friday, at Ely’s Senior Center, for a second endorsing conventions.
Ely Mayor Roger Skraba ran second to Wolfe at the earlier convention and actually tied the Loman resident in total votes, with Wolfe gaining the nod on a weighted point system.
But Friday’s event in Ely may not be a formality for Skraba.
Another candidate, Blain Johnson of Bigfork, is seeking the endorsement. He did not participate in the earlier convention at Cook.
Candidates must notify party officials they are seeking the endorsement by Wednesday, and no nominations will be taken from the floor.

Fri
06
May

Car rolls over on Sheridan Street

On Tuesday afternoon a three vehicle accident that included a car rolling on its side ended with minor injuries.
The Ely Police Department received a radio call from dispatch at 4:09 p.m. advising of a motor vehicle accident with unknown injuries had occurred at the intersection of Sheridan Street and Eighth Avenue East.
The report stated there were three vehicles involved and one was laying on its side. Ely ambulance and first responders were dispatched as a precaution.
Upon arrival, all three drivers were out of the vehicles and only reporting soreness from the crash. All three were the sole occupants in the vehicles.

Fri
06
May

WELY going off the air

Ely’s radio station may soon be silent.
Unless a buyer emerges, WELY will close and go off the air on June 1.
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa has owned the community’s iconic and eclectic station since 2005 but has lost over $1.7 million doing so, according to a news release announcing the closure.
Those losses, and thus far unsuccessful attempt to find a new owner, prompted the decision to close.
It was a decision the band did not take lightly, according to the release.
“We have been working behind the scenes to find a buyer that could continue operating the station, but our latest plans recently fell through,” said Bois Forte Tribal Chair Cathy Chavers. “While we would have preferred to keep the station open in the hopes another buyer would emerge, we needed to move ahead with this decision.”
The decision to close affects one full-time employee and another eight part-time staffers, who were notified of the decision late last week.

Fri
29
Apr

Annual Progress Edition spread over two editions

This week is part one of the Ely Echo’s 2022 Progress Edition. Part two will be printed in next week’s paper.
“We were impressed with the number of stories for this year’s Progress Edition” said Echo editor Tom Coombe. “We spread the stories over two weeks last year and people really liked it so we’re doing the same thing this year.”
In the past year businesses changed hands, made improvements and changed locations.
“The Progress Editions are a chance to meet new owners and find out about new businesses or improvements at existing businesses,” said Echo publisher Nick Wognum.
Ely’s business district hasn’t seen the huge increase in sales prices that has occurred in the residential market.
“Business sales have been right on the mark in town. We’ll see what happens with out of town business sales like resorts,” said Wognum. “The residential housing market has really skyrocketed and people are seeing that now in their market valuations.”

Fri
29
Apr

Back at the board table

by Tom Coombe
For the first time in more than four months, the Ely School Board operated at full strength and without an empty chair.
Amid smiles and a round of applause, longtime chairman Ray Marsnik was welcomed back and resumed his duties after a long recovery from injuries sustained in a late-December vehicle crash.
The accident took the life of Marsnik’s wife Pat, and Marsnik has spent all of 2022 recuperating and regaining his strength after being hospitalized for multiple injuries.
He acknowledged his fellow board members and well-wishers during brief remarks at the start of Monday’s meeting.
“I want to thank all of you,” he said. “It was a tough ordeal. I was off my leg for 104 days in a wheel chair, and I finally got that thing put away.”
Marsnik added “I’m a person who likes to keep moving... Lock me up in a house for that long and you’ve got problems.”

Fri
22
Apr

Ely’s “second Congressman” passes

by Tom Coombe
Brad Ashford represented Omaha, Neb., in the U.S. House of Representatives, but that didn’t stop him from being dubbed “Ely’s Second Congressman.”
Ashford, a longtime property owner on Burntside Lake and part-time Ely area summer resident, passed away Monday age 72.
His death, announced by family members Monday in Omaha, came only a few months after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
And while Nebraska was his home, Ashford maintained a presence in Ely, where his family has owned property on Burntside for nearly a century.
During his two years in the U.S. House, he bonded with former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D), who represented Ely and Minnesota’s Eighth District at the time.
Nolan spent time with Ashford on Burntside, including an overnight stay.
Wednesday, Nolan remembered Ashford fondly.
“We developed a good friendship and he was just a wonderfully nice man,” said Nolan.

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