News

Thu
17
Jun

School reworks project

by Tom Coombe
In some ways, it’s back to the drawing board for a $20 million renovation project on the Ely school campus.
While demolition of the Industrial Arts Building began last week and nearly $12 million in construction bids have already been awarded, bids for a second phase are roughly $4.5 million over budget and will prompt some “dialing back” of the project, school bard members heard Monday night.
The board took no action this week and will meet with administrators at a Tuesday study session to gather more input, but barring an unanticipated source of new revenue, it appears that many of the renovations planned for the Washington and Memorial buildings will have to be reduced or revamped in order to meet the project budget.
The board has formally rejected bids that came in last month at approximately $8.8 million, well over the engineers’ estimates of $4.3 million.
Now, they’ll wait as architects and contractors come up with a new plan.

Fri
11
Jun

Ely’s ballpark graduation

by Tom Coombe
Ely Memorial High School’s graduating class of 2021 mixed old traditions with new as they bid a fond farewell.
Commencement ceremonies were held outdoors, at Veterans Memorial Field, rather than inside at Washington Auditorium.
The graduates also took part in a parade through town after the event, continuing a tradition started only last year.
Yet the ceremonies themselves, minus the change of venue, resembled those of recent years and even decades ago.
The class was small in number, with 37 earning diplomas and 34 taking part in the commencement amid unseasonably warm temperatures.
Several hundred people watched from the stadium grandstand and the paved pavilion area at the historic ballpark, with the graduates, in full regalia, sitting in chairs on either side of home plate.
They gathered together at the end of an at-times bizarre school years, disrupted and altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fri
11
Jun

Ely a “small town to visit”

by Tom Coombe
In the eyes of a national publication, Ely is a must-see destination for those looking to vacation in a smaller community.
Smithsonian Magazine named Ely one of the “15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2021,” in an article published earlier this week.
As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and travel ramps up even further, the magazine highlighted small communities and said “perhaps more than ever now is a time to appreciate small towns.”
The magazine assembled a list and added “the best small towns to visit in 2021 are prime examples of perseverance and preservation, and reminders of all that we love about small towns in the first place.”
Ely joins a list of iconic and lesser-known communities including Dyersville, Iowa, home of the baseball field from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Fri
04
Jun

Dergantz gives back to his hometown

by Nick Wognum
When an Ely area veteran passes away, his or her spouse receives a folded flag in a handmade wooden box.
Those boxes are made by Elyite Donald Dergantz who now lives in Illinois. For the past 10 years he has supplied flag boxes for Ely.
“I made one for Donna Niskala,” said Dergantz, 87, who was at the Ely Cemetery Monday for Memorial Day Services. “I make regular boxes and custom boxes.”
He also makes boxes for the American Legion Post in Crete, Illinois.
He and his daughter Stephanie Johnson drove 13 hours to be at the ceremony. It’s a trip he knows well.
“I’ve been coming up here for the last 20-some years for Memorial Day,” said Dergantz, who is a 1952 graduate of Ely Memorial High School.
He was drafted in 1954 and served two years in the Military Police. His first assignment was at West Point.

Fri
04
Jun

Class of ’21 goes out on a high note

by Tom Coombe
Their final 15 months as high school students were like no other graduating class in the storied century-plus existence of Ely Memorial High School.
Yet their last act will be strikingly, if not refreshingly, “normal.”
That’s the backstory as the graduating class of 2021 gathers Saturday night for their commencement ceremonies.
They won’t walk across the stage at Washington Auditorium, which is unavailable because of the ongoing school construction and renovation project, but the group will instead gather at the baseball stadium - Veterans Memorial Field - for a ceremony slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Graduation is outdoors for a second consecutive year in Ely, but while the class of 2020 had to take part in a drive-in graduation in the arena parking lot, this year’s event is much more traditional in nature - save for a new venue.

Fri
28
May

Fire burns iconic Burntside boathouse

by Nick Wognum
An iconic boathouse on Burntside Lake along with two cabins burned early Sunday morning. The large four stall boathouse had a deck on top and was located on what is known as Waters Island.
The fire started at a ground level transformer from a power line that runs under the lake. The property owners attempted to douse the flames with fire extinguishers but to no avail.
Two of the island residents were treated and released by Ely Area Ambulance which was at the staging area at Burntside Lodge.
With a strong wind from the east, the fire rapidly progressed to the boathouse and cabins.
Morse-Fall Lake fire chief Ted Krueger said the initial page was for a transformer fire but once they could see the flames additional pages went out to the Ely and Babbitt fire departments.
“We responded with our fire boat and we paged Ely for manpower and Babbitt for their fire boat and manpower,” said Krueger.

Fri
28
May

Prom held at Ely Memorial

Grand March 2021

1. Brynn Vollom (Senior Class President) ------------------------- Brock LaTourell (Senior Class Secretary)

2. Grace Erickson (Senior Class Treasurer) -------------------- Maggie Renner (Senior Class Vice President)

3. Lauren Olson (Junior Class President) ----------------------------------------------------------------Rollie Seppala

4. Madison Rohr --------------------------------------------------------Harry Simons (Junior Class Vice President)

5. Annikka Mattson (Junior Class Treasurer) ----------------------------------------------------- Zachary Robbins

6. Abbie Rehbein (Junior Class Secretary)------------------------------------------------------------Cameron Kienitz

7. Raven Sainio --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jakson Hegman

Fri
21
May

Crews continue to fight Bezhik Fire

Crews continued to battle a wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Thursday which they estimate to be up to 950 acres in size.
So far four structures have been lost, three outbuildings and one cabin.
The lightning caused fire was believed to be 30 percent contained and had been tracking northward toward the Moose Loop off the Echo Trail.
Rain moderated the Bezhik Lake Fire area earlier in the day and were trying to redirect the edge as it neared cabins and lake homes. Residents and nearby campers had left the area.
U.S. Forest Service officials said the fire reached the southwest edge of the Moose Loop Forest Road (Forest Road 464).
The fire did exit the BWCAW near the south end of Forest 464 (Moose Loop) on May 18 and impacted private property in the area.
The Forest Service did not specify how many structures were lost in the fire.

Fri
21
May

An end of an era in Ely

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s oldest business will soon no longer be in business.
The J.D. Mills Company, a clothing store that has outfitted generations of Elyites and has been in the Mills family for three generations, will close its doors July 31 and after a 120-year run.
A changing retail landscape, an opportunity to retire and an offer for the Sheridan Street building the store calls home, made for a perfect storm - and current owner John Mills made the decision to close.
The store will liquidate its inventory and be open for just over two more months.
Standing next to a vintage cash register that has been a mainstay at the store, Mills said Wednesday that the timing was right.

Fri
14
May

Fire torches garage in Ely

by Nick Wognum
The Ely fire department was called in Tuesday after a car caught fire in a garage off of West Chapman Street.
Fire chief Dave Marshall said the fire started when a person attempted to start the MG car and it caught on fire.
“The car had engine trouble and maybe a fuel leak so when he started it there was a fire under the hood. He tried to put it out and then he made the correct decision to call 911,” said Marshall.
The garage at 223 West Chapman had a tornado of flames coming from it when firefighters arrived around 3:30 p.m.
“We hit the fire hard from the alley starting with the Hummer and then switched to Engine One. Later we brought in the city Public Works Department excavator to demolish the garage because it was a safety hazard,” said Marshall.
Also on scene were the Ely Police Department, Babbitt Fire Department, St. Louis County Sheriff’s officers and the U.S. Border Patrol.

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