News

Fri
30
Apr

County board comes to Ely

by Tom Coombe
Before getting down to their regular business, St. Louis County commissioners heard from the public and acknowledged their hosts on Tuesday morning.
The Morse Town Hall was the venue as the county board held its first in-person meeting in over a year.
All but one of the seven commissioners attended as only Duluth’s Frank Jewell was absent.
Commissioner Paul McDonald of Ely made note of the township’s rich history and its contribution to the county’s bottom line.
“Morse Township is a very significant contributor to our tax base here in St. Louis County,” said McDonald.
Board members also heard from two local residents.
Jim Woods of Ely asked that the county seek bids from area funeral homes for the transport of dead bodies to Midwest Medical Center, when people pass away at home.
According to Woods, residents are more comfortable with local funeral homes providing this service.

Fri
30
Apr

Elementary exit is two days early

by Tom Coombe
Summer vacation is set to start a couple of days early for students at Ely’s Washington Elementary School.
Tight timelines related to a nearly $20 million facilities project prompted the move, which must be officially approved by the school board on May 11.
But in part to give parents more time to prepare, board members unofficially endorsed the plan Monday, during their monthly study session.
“You guys know what needs to be done,” board member Tom Omerza told school administrators.
It means that for elementary students, the last day of school will be Wednesday, June 2 rather than Friday, June 4, in order for the district to fully vacate the building by June 8.

Fri
30
Apr

Diesslins gift $100,000 of stock to VCC Foundation

Local educators and long-time community service members, Blaine “Butch” Diesslin and Lucille “Lucy” Barnes Diesslin recently made a $100,000 gift of stock to endow a scholarship with the Vermilion Community College Foundation.
When asked why they made the decision to give a large gift to establish an endowment Diesslin said, “A major reason for my endowing a scholarship at VCC is my receiving scholarships when I was in college. I am the second oldest child in a family with eight children.
“I received a ‘Tuition and Fees’ scholarship when I was earning my Bachelor’s Degree at Mankato State College (now Minnesota State-Mankato).
“Over the years, I was able to save and invest a portion of earnings while I was employed. Now that I am comfortably retired, I’ve reached a point where I want to ‘give back’ to others that want a college education by endowing two scholarships; one at VCC and one at UW-Superior.

Thu
22
Apr

Odd tasting water explained

by Tom Coombe
In some parts of Ely, the city’s drinking water has a slight cucumber taste or smell.
But city officials say there’s no cause for alarm.
“There are no health concerns,” said Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer and operations director, during a report at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “It is safe to drink. It’s just an aesthetic issue.”
Langowski said the Minnesota Department of Health is also aware of the issue and has been consulted about a problem that has affected drinking water for several weeks.
The issues, according to Langowski, stem from an extended cold snap in February, when there were 12 consecutive days of below-zero temperates, and subsequent water main breaks.
“It resulted in at least quarter million gallons of water flushed through our system,” Langowski said of a major early-March break. “Following that we started to get some concerns and complaints about discolored water.”

Thu
22
Apr

Desserts are back for the Young Life Auction

This year the Young Life Auction can live up to its Sweet Spring Auction name again.
Last year the event made a detour with the emergence of COVID and swiftly switched from in-person to online.
Surprisingly, the organization found that challenge resulted in attracting numerous new bidders, even folks from Ely who had not attended before.
It was the organization’s most successful auction yet in raising funds that go directly to programming and camp scholarships for area youth. But there was one criticism. No desserts.
For the 16th annual fundraiser, that problem has been rectified. With 18 bakers creating 21 gourmet desserts, this is a sweet auction indeed.
Erin Moravitz will be donating three different desserts, and favorites like Sharon Svatos and her Guinness Chocolate Cake will be back, but it will work a bit differently than in the past.

Fri
16
Apr

Forest Service, volunteers make it happen in cooperative signage project along Prospector Loop ATV trail system

The Prospector Loop ATV trail system is over 250 miles long and that means lots of work for volunteers on the sign committee.
“We’ve already put in over 300 sign posts,” said volunteer Steve Groteboer. “And there’s a lot more to go.”
The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with the Prospector and Ely Igloo clubs to improve signage, starting with the area around Mattila Shelter and expanding from there.
“This is an example of how coordination is a real cost effective way to build a real high quality trail system,” said Kawishiwi District Ranger Aaron Kania. “You see this vision, you see this effort and you can see how Northeast Minnesota is going to be one of the top 10 destinations for ATV riders.”
Joining Groteboer, Corey Keen and Tom Maggio out on the trails putting up signs was Mike Banovetz.

Fri
09
Apr

Omerza, Skraba advance

by Tom Coombe
Heidi Omerza and Roger Skraba served together for several years in city government, but they’re now opponents for Ely’s top political post.
Omerza, a current city council member, and Skraba, a two-time former mayor, were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s mayoral primary and will advance to an Aug. 11 general election.
Only 571 voters turned out for a primary in a special election triggered by an unusual series of events, and Omerza led the six-candidate field with 203 votes.
Skraba was second with 146, 19 more than third-place finisher - current council member Paul Kess.
Two other council members trailed further behind, with Angela Campbell collecting 69 votes and Jerome Debeltz finishing with 23.
A first-time candidate, Micca Leider, failed to gain any votes in her initial try for public office.

Fri
09
Apr

In-person school to resume

by Tom Coombe
The Ely schools will welcome students back to the campus for in-person learning, starting Monday.
School officials confirmed that a “reset,” prompted by a surge in COVID-19 cases among students, will come to an end and children in all grades may return to the Washington and Memorial buildings.
After reporting 28 cases within the school community from March 15-March 31, the district had no active cases as of Wednesday, according to superintendent Erik Erie.
“We’re at zero positive cases as of today,” said Erie.
That was one of several factors that prompted school administrators, after a consultation with county public health officials, to bring students back to the campus as planned. School activities, which have been halted during the reset and resulted in the forfeiture of a playoff basketball game, will also resume.

Fri
02
Apr

Did the cold snap affect taste, smell of city water?

by Nick Wognum
Some Ely water customers have noticed a change in the taste and smell of the water coming out of their taps.
“It’s not the Burntside water I’m used to,” said Patricia Nettifee, who lives on the east end of town. “My dad lives over on Camp Street and it’s not as bad there. At my house it just tastes and smell funky.”
The cause may be from a cold snap. Ely operations director Harold Langowski said there aren’t any health concerns and nothing has changed with the city’s water supply or how it is treated.
“We’ve gotten a few calls in isolated areas. It’s asthetic in nature, it’s not a water quality or health concern,” said Langowski.
The city pumps water out of Burntside Lake through an above and below ground pipe system to the water treatment plant on Shagawa Lake.

Fri
02
Apr

School extends COVID “reset”

by Tom Coombe
Distance learning for all students in the Ely school system will continue for at least another week.
Although a COVID-19 outbreak within the school slowed considerably this week, Ely district officials announced Wednesday that a COVID-related “reset” in the Memorial Building will be extended until April 12.
That’s the date that Washington Elementary students would also return to school under current plans.
Students in grades 6-12, who have been out of school since March 19, were originally scheduled to return to school April 6 but school administrators decided to instead “extend our reset for one more week,” principal Megan Anderson said in a message sent to parents.
“Current data indicates that we still have high numbers in our community,” said Anderson. “It is with every intention that we plan to return to in-person learning on April 12th.”

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