School saluting vets at Monday program

The Ely School District will celebrate Veterans Day once again this year with a special program and tribute.
Following recent tradition, which has included several Veterans Day programs over the course of the last decade, the school will host an event at 10 a.m., Monday, at the high school gymnasium.
All veterans are invited to come and be recognized in a program that will include musical performances by both the school band and choirs.
“We’re inviting all veterans to come and join us,” said high school principal Megan Anderson. “The public is invited to attend.”
Anderson will speak Monday, and the keynote address will be delivered by Jessica Kellogg, an Ely area resident and veteran.
The Ely Area Honor Guard will also take part, presenting and retiring the colors in a solemn tribute that will also include the playing of taps.
A musical medley from Ely’s elementary school students is also part of the patriotic-themed day.


Library celebrates five years at new home

by Librarian Rachel Heinrich
Five years ago, the Ely Public Library was in the middle of big changes.
The new library building was almost complete; books and items were moving out of the old Community Center and up the alley to their new home.
Plans for a grand opening were being finalized, and library patrons had thousands of circulating items checked out to help with the move.
The library plans to have some fun activities plus refreshments on the afternoon of Nov. 12 from 2-4 p.m. to celebrate the five year anniversary of opening the doors to the public at the new building.
So, after five years, what changes has a different location brought to the library?
One big thing is the jump in library use. In 2013 (the year before the move), 63,338 items were checked out from the library; in 2018, that number had increased to 73,932 - an increase of 14% in just 5 years.


WolfTrack sets new path

by Tom Coombe
An Ely winter event will continue this season with new management.
The Ely Chamber of Commerce has taken over sponsorship and coordination of the WolfTrack Classic, a sled dog racing event that has become a staple on the local winter calendar and hearkens back to the days when the community hosted the All-American Sled Dog Races.
Set for its 12th year, the WTC’s future was in jeopardy as volunteer board members looked to pass the baton to new leadership.
“No one wanted to see the race end,” said Eva Sebesta, executive director of the Ely Chamber and a one-time WTC board member. “They were having some challenges finding additional board members want what ultimately ended up happening was that the board decided they would like to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Islands race, which the Bayfield Chamber operates. So there was some precedence.”


An Ely theater revival

by Tom Coombe
Area residents and visitors will soon be able to check out the restoration of Ely’s Historic State Theater.
But the success of a massive fundraising campaign, launched earlier this week, will determine when the venue will be open for movies.
The non-profit group set up to operate the classic Sheridan Street theater will hold an open house on Thansksgiving night, offering tours and showing off the results of a five-year effort to renovate the facility.
At the same time, the group is hoping to raise nearly $200,000 to purchase a projector, screen, audio and lighting systems for the main theater as well as a screen for a second screening room.
“We wanted to list a few of the major things we are looking to acquire,” said David Wigdahl, chairperson of the Ely Historic State Theater non-profit. “We’re just hopeful we’ll find a couple of major donors to step forward.”


Comment period extended on County’s short term vacation home rental rules

The St. Louis County Planning Commission has extended the public comment period on proposed changes to the county’s zoning ordinance to allow for short term vacation home rentals.
Following a public hearing on Oct. 10, some new language was proposed regarding standards that allow short term rentals in areas zoned for residential use.
The new deadline to comment is Dec. 10.
The ordinance amendments with the proposed changes highlighted, is available online at
The proposed revisions to St. Louis County Zoning Ordinance 62 would allow for short term rental of properties through the issuance of permits.
The goal is to ensure minimal disruption to neighbors and the environment by setting requirements for septic, parking and posting of rules; while also requiring appropriate licensing to ensure a safe experience for guests.


Trump’s opening act

by Tom Coombe
When President Trump campaigned in Minneapolis earlier this month, there was a connection to Ely right on stage.
Joe Vene, a veteran, 1956 graduate of Ely High School and an accomplished vocalist, sang the national anthem prior to Trump’s Oct. 10 rally at Target Center.
About 20,000 people filled the arena and heard Vene’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, sung at the start of an event that culminated with Trump speaking for more than two hours on stage.
Long active in politics in the Bemidji area, where he now lives, Vene was invited by Jennifer Carnahan, who heads the state’s Republican Party.
“I’ve sung the national anthem in many quarters and many places,” Vene said in a telephone interview. “And last week I received a call if I would honor the office of President of the United States.”
It was an offer that Vene, a former Beltrami County Commissioner and active Republican, could not refuse.


Garbage and the gavel

by Tom Coombe
A seemingly routine action item became anything but Tuesday night at City Hall, with garbage pickup in Ely igniting some trash talk at the council table.
Following through on a decision made at a special meeting just seven days earlier, the council approved two garbage collection contracts with G Men Environmental Services, for both residential and commercial service.
But the vote came only after protests from council member Angela Campbell, and several sharp exchanges between Campbell and mayor Chuck Novak.
At one point, Novak disgustedly and forcefully slammed his gavel to curtail debate, when Campbell continued to s peak after a non-debatable motion was made to call for a vote.


Fewer kids home-schooled

by Tom Coombe
Once considered a big factor in a decline in student enrollment, home-schooling in Ely now isn’t as prevalent.
The latest numbers compiled by the Ely district show that only 17 children are being home-schooled within the district boundaries.
That’s down from 21 this time last fall and a better than 60 percent drop since 2009, when the home-school census showed a whopping 44 children receiving instruction at home in the district.
School board members have kept an eye on home-school census, which is conducted each fall and was released at Monday’s regular monthly meeting.
Ray Marsnik, the longtime chairman of the Ely board, made note of the decline and pointed back to a decade ago, when home-school numbers were much higher.
Off and on through the years, the district has reached out to home-school families in an effort to attract more children to the district and boost enrollment, which is linked to state funding.


No rush to move recycling center

by Tom Coombe
The relocation of Ely’s recycling center isn’t on hold, but it may not happen as quickly as first envisioned.
Plans to move the recycling area to the east end of town were announced last month, largely to accommodate the city’s trailhead project and other development on Ely’s west entrance.
That project has begun, but at least for now the recycling center has stayed put.
Mayor Chuck Novak said Tuesday that no move is imminent.
“The recycling center is going to stay in place right now until the time they need to tear up the tar,” said Novak.
While city officials initially talked of closing the current recycling center yet this fall, Novak said “it potentially could go to spring.”
“We don’t know what’s going to be on the construction schedule of the contractor at the trailhead site,” said Novak.


Trash contract extended

by Tom Coombe
Ely may yet give business owners a choice when it comes to garbage pickup, but not for at least another year.
That was the offshoot of action at a special council meeting Tuesday night, when members agreed to terms of a negotiated deal with the current garbage contractor - G Men Environmental Services.
Facing a Nov. 1 deadline, the council agreed on a 6-0 vote, with member Heidi Omerza absent, to extend the G Men’s residential contract for four years and commercial contract for one.
The “bifurcated contract,” appears to meet the concerns of several council members, who openly called for the city to seek bids from other vendors who may provide commercial garbage pickup.
“It gives us a year to delve into what we really want and what the consequences are,” said council member Al Forsman. “I think it gives us time to evaluate our stance.”


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