News

Fri
05
Feb

Echo named city’s official publication

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Echo will once again serve as Ely’s official newspaper.
The only locally-owned and operated newspaper and the only one to maintain an office in Ely has been designated, for the second straight year, to be the publication in which the city prints meeting minutes, public notices and other announcements.
Tuesday’s council meeting was brief and the Echo was picked without discussion and with a unanimous vote.
The Echo was the only publication eligible to bid for the legal publishing contract, given a recent move by the Tower-based Timberjay to no longer print a separate Ely edition.
Two years ago, the council picked the Timberjay to serve as legal publication, in a move that generated controversy and several weeks of debate.
The Echo increased its publishing rates this year, in bids that were due in late-January.

Fri
05
Feb

COVID case rate in 55731 zip code down to 0.0

by Tom Coombe
The Ely School District is poised to return to full in-person learning for the first time since the start of the school year.
That change could come as soon as this week, following a Wednesday announcement by superintendent Erik Erie.
Erie said the district is planning for middle and high school students to return to in-person learning the week of Feb. 8, pending discussion after deadline with the district’s Ely Safe Learning Plan Advisory Committee.
District officials also had a consultation this week with state and county public health officials to discuss bringing students back full time.
While elementary students have had in-person learning since Jan. 12, the middle and high school have operated under a hybrid model since then, with students in school two days per week.
The development comes amid a bottoming out of COVID-19 case numbers in Ely, and dramatic declines regionally and across the state.

Fri
29
Jan

Dropping case rates meet criteria for return to full in-person learning

by Tom Coombe
For a second consecutive week, COVID-19 case numbers in the Ely area are below the threshold that would allow for full in-person learning in school.
No new cases were reported in the last week and just two positive tests were recorded in the last two weeks, according to data released Thursday morning.
That brings the local case rate per 10,000 to 3.22, far below the 10 per 10,000 that allows for in-person learning under state health department regulations and a “restart blueprint” authorized by the Ely School Board.
For now, schools in Ely are operating with daily in-person learning in the elementary and a hybrid model in the middle and high schools.
In a Jan. 22 letter to parents, high school principal Megan Anderson noted the drop in case rate, which was at 9.66 on that date, and said “if we can maintain these numbers for a few weeks, we’ll be looking to shift back to in-person learning.”

Fri
29
Jan

Mayoral field keeps growing

by Tom Coombe
And now there are six.
The list of would-be Ely mayors keeps expanding in advance of an April primary, with Micca Leider the latest entrant in an ever-growing race.
Leider, a first-time candidate in Ely, joins former mayor Roger Skraba and four current council members - Angela Campbell, Jerome Debeltz, Paul Kess and Heidi Omerza - in the special election.
Candidate filings close at 5 p.m. Tuesday, but the number of entrants ensure that a primary will be held April, with the top two vote-getters moving on to an August general election.
Asked Wednesday why she’s seeking Ely’s top political post, Leider responded “the bottom line is I can and why not? I moved my family up here and absolutely adore this town.”

Fri
22
Jan

More people qualify for vaccine

by Tom Coombe
Phone lines were swamped across the state Tuesday, as thousands of Minnesotans angled for a place in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mt. Iron is home this weekend to one of nine pilot vaccination sites around Minnesota, after the state opened up vaccinations to anyone age 65 or older.
Just 6,000 slots were available statewide this week for the expanded initiative, after health officials reported that roughly 250,000 Minnesotans - health care workers and nursing home residents - had received at least one dose in what’s been dubbed Phase 1a.
Meanwhile, the state is also offering vaccinations to school teachers and staff, including five doses offered this week for employees of Ely School District 696.
The developments come amid shrinking COVID growth after a precipitous November spike.
Statewide, there were just over 11,000 active cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, down nearly 80 percent from a Nov. 20 peak of 51,118.

Fri
22
Jan

After silence, schools abuzz with activity

by Tom Coombe
“It’s a lonely place without kids in the building.”
High school principal Megan Anderson’s sentiments on Thursday came nearly two weeks into the Ely district’s return to in-person learning, which has included a hybrid model in the high school and full in-person attendance in the elementary school.
“It has been wonderful to have students back,” Anderson said. “Just the sound of their voices in the hallways, basketballs dribbling on the gym floor. It’s an immensely welcome sound.”
The mood was similar across the campus at Washington Elementary, where students returned Jan. 12 after a several-week hiatus with distance learning.
“The return to school has been great,” said elementary principal Anne Oelke. “It is amazing to have our students back, that is what our school is made for to teach kids in person.”

Fri
22
Jan

The 3 o’clock hour, Monday, January 11, 2021

Alex Bleth was stretched out in a snow bank talking on cell phone while his dad was making a call on his phone seated on snowmobile trailer... Time out for phone calls....Alex: “We’re from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a father son weekend. We drove up here from the cities the other night and decided to hit the trails. Drove from Shagawa all the way to down to Vermillion and back. Beautiful trails. Absolutely beautiful up here. We went from pretty warm weather, the 40s-50s to this but we absolutely love it up here. It’s God’s country. I’ve been to Ely over the summer for fishing but mostly we’re in Cohasset, Minnesota. I gotta say the nature is just stunning up here. We stopped multiple times on the trails just to take pictures. It was beautiful. And again, this is a great lodge to stay at. (The Grand Ely Lodge) It’s a great place to stay, great food. We absolutely love it up here. We already talked about it. We’re coming back next year. We’ve been here for two days.

Fri
15
Jan

Ely says goodbye to Nisky

by Nick Wognum
An impromptu parade was held for the man who has led Ely’s famous Fourth of July parades for decades.
The community was stunned Wednesday morning to find out Bob “Nisky” Niskala had suddenly passed away.
Niskala was the leader of the Ely Honor Guard. He was the group’s heart and soul. Nisky took all the phone calls and made many more, setting up appearances at funerals, parades and Memorial Day ceremonies.
Wednesday night several hundred of Niskala’s family and friends lined Sheridan Street from Central Avenue to Second Avenue West for Niskala’s 10:30 p.m. parade to the funeral home.
There were tears, American flags and a police escort. Honor Guard members carried the flag draped casket into the funeral home as the crowd inched closer.
Honor Guard member Mike Pope said a few words and thanked everyone for coming.

Fri
15
Jan

Vaccination rollout stalls

by Tom Coombe
Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital has administered 170 COVID-19 vaccinations, but further rollout has been temporarily stalled.
A news release issued by the hospital this week indicated that local vaccinations are based on the rollout plan created by the Minnesota Department of Health, in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and federal Food and Drug Administration.
Hospital employees and area emergency personnel were among the first to be vaccinated in what’s been dubbed Phase 1a of the vaccination distribution across Minnesota.
But progressing further in Ely hinges on outside influences.
“The biggest obstacle we face is the inability to move onto the next phase without the state’s go-ahead,” said Patti Banks, chief executive officer of EBCH. “Even though we are done with Phase 1a after next week, currently, we are being asked to wait until everyone is done with Phase 1a.”

Fri
08
Jan

Fun Run event shifts into park

by Tom Coombe
One of the area’s biggest winter events won’t happen this year.
Organizers of the Fun Run pulled the plug this week, after holding out hope that gathering limits would be eased in order to hold an event that in recent years has attracted more than 1,000 participants and several hundred people to an evening wrap-up party at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Usually held in late-January, plans for the 2021 event shifted to late-February and even into March, but organizers said Thursday that they ran out of time.
“We need two months of planning to pull all of this off and we just don’t know if the governor’s restrictions will be lifted in time even if we did try to have it in mid-March,” said Fun Run co-chair Jim Zupancich.
Proceeds from the Fun Run support area snowmobile trails, but the event has evolved in its two decades and now serves as one of the top family-fun events of the winter for the Ely, Babbitt and Tower communities.

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