News

Fri
28
Feb

City eyes $9.3 million sewer plant project

by Tom Coombe
Ely city officials are moving ahead with a better than $9 million project at the wastewater treatment plant.
A public hearing held Wednesday offered more details about a project that has been in the works for years.
And despite the hefty price tag, current estimates show the project would not significantly impact utility rates.
Harold Langowski, the city’s operations director and clerk/treasurer, said that a combination of grant funds and retiring debt will minimize the hit to Ely residents and business owners.
Langowski told city council members that the project could result in a rate increase of as little as $1 a month over 20 years.
That’s because the city is in line to receive as much as $7 million in state grant funding for the project, with about $2.2 million in low-interest loans also part of the equation.
But Langowski said current debt payments of over $165,000 per year will be retired next year.

Fri
21
Feb

Mayor in a “Tweetstorm”

by Tom Coombe
Ely Mayor Chuck Novak faced the wrath of several area residents Tuesday, in the wake of public comments in which he supported a boycott of Fortune Bay Resort Casino.
Several prominent opponents of copper-nickel mining projects used the public forum opportunity at the end of the regular city council meeting to blast Novak - both for a social media post and comments in an article that appeared in the Hibbing Daily Tribune.
Novak praised State Sen. Tom Bakk’s decision to move an annual political fundraiser from Fortune Bay and urged organizers of the Fun Run snowmobile event to do the same, after the Bois Forte Band joined tribal partners in supporting legislation that could doom the Twin Metals Minnesota project near Ely.
But Novak’s comments struck a nerve with several who spoke at City Hall.

Fri
21
Feb

Caucuses on for Tuesday

by Tom Coombe
Democrats and Republicans in the Ely area will gather Tuesday at Vermilion Community College for grassroots gatherings that kick off a busy election year.
Precinct caucuses begin at 7 p.m. and give area residents a voice in shaping the platforms of their respective party.
The caucuses come in advance of a Mar. 3 presidential primary, but party leaders are emphasizing that caucuses will still go on as scheduled.
Those who turn out this week will address issues, consider resolutions and elect delegates to their respective party conventions.
While Ely had record-setting turnout in 2016, when caucuses featured straw polls for the presidential race, participation diminished in 2018.
Those with only an interest in the presidential race might wait until next week’s primary, but the caucuses offer a chance for residents to get in on the ground floor with their respective party - and get their voice heard.

Fri
14
Feb

School seeks IRRRB funds

by Tom Coombe
A resolution approved by Ely School Board members Monday clears the way for the district to seek about $7.2 million in outside assistance for a proposed school improvement project.
That assistance would come from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, if state lawmakers who govern the agency give their approval, perhaps as soon as next month.
After discussing it two weeks earlier, school board members gave their unanimous approval to a resolution that seeks just over $7 million from the IRRRB, which has assisted several other area schools with similar projects.
Ely officials are eyeing nearly $20 million in improvements and are moving toward a potential $10 million bond referendum later in the year, but they’ve made it clear they will also seek help from the IRRRB.
IRRRB funding, if allocated, would be accessed only if voters approve the referendum.

Fri
14
Feb

Scenes for polar history film will be re-enacted here in Ely

Ely, renowned as the base of many polar expeditions, is about to host another - or least re-enactments.
On Tuesday Feb. 18, Voyage Digital Media will be recreating scenes at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge on White Iron Lake circa 1909 of Robert Peary’s dogsled expedition to the North Pole.
Actors, including Wintergreen guides, will be dressed in period costumes includes fur parkas as team members.
Wintergreen’s Canadian Inuit sled dogs - the same breed used on Peary’s expedition - will pull an exact replica of his 12-foot komatik dogsled laden with furs & supplies.
The documentary film is being co-produced with the non-profit National Maritime History Society (NMHS) of Peekskill, New York, and made possible by grant funding from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest and the H. F. Lenfest Fund from The Philadelphia Foundation.
The film tells the story of the Ernestina Morrissey, an historic Arctic sailing ship associated with numerous early expeditions.

Fri
07
Feb

Echo named official paper

by Tom Coombe
After a one-year hiatus, the Ely Echo will once again serve as Ely’s official newspaper.
Earlier this week, council members decided the Ely-based publication will be where the city prints meeting minutes, public notices and other official announcements.
Tuesday’s 6-0 council vote, with Al Forsman absent, came after city officials determined the Echo was the “lowest responsible bidder” for the city publishing contract as required in the city charter.
A comparison of sample public notices and meeting minutes showed that the Echo was less expensive than the other bidder - the Tower-based Timberjay.
It was just over a year ago that the Ely council ignited controversy and weeks of debate by naming the Tower publication as Ely’s official newspaper.

Fri
07
Feb

Ely area to host state ATV convention

The Ely area will host a major ATV event in September. The local club is going all out to make sure the new Prospector Loop trail system in completed in time.
“We are very excited to host the ATV Association of Minnesota Ride and Rally event which serves as the state organization’s annual convention,” said Nick Wognum, president of the Prospector Alliance and the secretary of the state ATV board.
The Ride and Rally kicks off on Friday, Sept. 18 with a VIP ride leaving from Embarrass after a pancake breakfast at the Timber Hall.
“We would like to show some of our elected officials and others what kind of trail system the Prospector is for northeast Minnesota,” said ATVAM President Ron Potter. “The section from Embarrass to Tower has some very scenic locations and we’re looking to have lunch on the shores of Lake Vermilion.”

Fri
07
Feb

Elyite offers alternative to current political system

Scott Magie believes there’s a better option to the current two-party system in the country.
An Elyite and graduate of Ely Memorial High School, Magie has worked to re-establish after 195 years the Democratic-Republican Party “for the purpose of saving the Republic of the United States of America from the imminent danger by those currently at the helm, before it is too late.”
In a news release sent out across the country, the stated platform for the Dem-Rep Party is to create the opportunity for a strong third party with seats in the U.S. Congress to ensure that either of the two parties ruling American never gets a 50.1% majority in either the Senate or House of Representatives again.
“America needs a party to help quench partisan activities and get the focus of the US Congress directed towards what is best for all Americans,” the release states.

Sat
01
Feb

School project takes shape

by Tom Coombe
The framework of a nearly $20 million school improvement project - and how it might be funded - came more into focus this week.
School board members in Ely reviewed but took no action Monday on proposals forwarded by an architect as well as the district’s lobbyists, but the project seems on a path toward a potential $10 million bond referendum yet this year.
Architect Scott Sosalla of Hibbing-based Architectural Resources Incorporated provided the latest draft of a proposal that calls for both renovations and new construction, with revisions that include a larger gymnasium than was shown in an earlier draft.
Lobbyists Gary Cerkvenik and Jeff Anderson, meanwhile, laid out a scenario in which the district would ask local taxpayers to come up with $10 million via a referendum while dipping into reserves, a state grant and long-term facilities funding to come up with another $2 million-plus.

Tue
28
Jan

Winter Festival fun fires off Feb. 6

by Tom Coombe
The countdown is on to Ely’s grand winter celebration.
In less than a week, the Ely Winter Festival begins and it once again promises a jam-packed schedule full of a broad assortment of events. The festival, which dates back to the mid-1990s, runs from Feb. 6-16.
Two of the signature events of the festival - the International Snow Sculpting Symposium and the Ely ArtWalk - are both back for another year.
Giant snow blocks are up at Ely’s Whiteside Park and elsewhere in town as 13 teams - from Minnesota, elsewhere in the upper Midwest as well as Canada will turn the snow into various works of art.
The snow sculptures serve as a major attraction and the park generally becomes a hub of activity, particularly on the opening weekend when the sculptors are present and interact with visitors - talking about their designs.

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