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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


Fire destroys garage

Dry and windy conditions contributed to a fire that spread to a garage and burned two vehicles.
“The shed started on fire and the wind pushed it into the garage,” said Morse-Fall Lake Fire Department chief Ted Krueger. “It was a really windy day.”
The fire occurred around 1 p.m. Sunday at a home on the 1800 block of Grant McMahan Boulevard off Shagawa Lake on Hwy. 88.
Damages include the total loss of a shed, garage and two vehicles.
“The fire was headed toward the house, it was in jeopardy but the initial attack from our crew knocked the fire down,” said Krueger.
Also responding were the Ely Fire Department, Ely Area Ambulance Service and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department.
“Ely Fire established a water supply on Shagawa Lake and delivered it to the site to Morse’s pumper tanker,” said Krueger.
The cause of fire is under investigation.


COVID closes school doors

by Tom Coombe
Middle and high school students in Ely transitioned to distance learning this week, and now elementary students are following suit.
A two-week “reset” was implemented in the Memorial Building, where nearly nine of 10 students were in quarantine at one point during the week because of COVID-19 outbreak that included 20 cases within the building.
In a surprising move, the Ely School District announced Wednesday that Washington Elementary would also close to in-person learning until Apr. 12, although only three cases were reported in the building and none since Monday.
The moves come amid a sudden outbreak that began the week of Mar. 15 and snowballed within days, prompting the school district to switch learning models for students in grades 6-12, effective Mar. 19.
By Monday, 87 percent of the high school students were asked to quarantine because of exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual, according to superintendent Erik Erie.


St. Louis County Public Health offers reminders about testing and quarantine following outbreak in Ely

A significant increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ely has St. Louis County Public Health offering reminders to people about the importance of testing and quarantining to prevent further community transmission.
In the last week, there have been 33 confirmed cases in Ely, which is 15% of the total cases for the entire county. Some of the cases appear to be travel related, while others are linked to social gatherings.
Anyone identified as a close contact of a confirmed case - meaning they've been within six feet for 15 minutes or longer - should quarantine for 14 days whether symptomatic or not. The exception is anyone who is fully vaccinated (meaning they are two weeks past receiving their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) does not need to quarantine unless they show signs or symptoms of COVID-19.


Library may soon reopen

by Tom Coombe
After being shuttered for more than a year, Ely’s public library could soon reopen to the public.
Council members indicated Tuesday that they would lift an emergency order that closed the building, amid suggestions that the facility could welcome patrons within several weeks.
But details, including a date for reopening and procedures and protocols, figure to be worked out by the city’s library board.
“We’re getting ready to get ready to get ready,” said council member Heidi Omerza, also a longtime library board member. “We’re going to do it slowly and smartly.”
Since mid-March of 2020, the library was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The library has offered curbside service for much of the time period and has maintained a strong social media presence, but visitors have not been allowed inside to peruse books, read newspapers, attend programming or use the facility’s computers.


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