Ely man found to be safe after extensive search

An Ely man was located and found to be safe several days after he went missing.
The Ely Police Department confirmed Tuesday that Michael Jacobson, 37, was “located safe by law enforcement” that day.
Further details, including where he was located, were not immediately available.
The announcement capped days of speculation, including a search by law enforcement and searches of area lakes and landings by numerous Ely area volunteers
The search for Jacobson was fueled in part by social media reports and announcements, particularly late Saturday and into Sunday.
On Sunday morning, many hours after volunteers had been searching for Jacobson, police announced that he was missing and sought public assistance.
Jacobson had last been seen at his place of employment, a local bait and tackle story, the morning of Dec. 3.


Just in time for the holidays, online shoppers can go to the Boundary Waters Marketplace

by Nick Wognum
A new way to shop for different products from the Ely area is now available online at
“We were going to use Elyzon but it wasn’t available so we went with the Boundary Waters Marketplace,” said Eric Sherman who is coordinating the project with Melissa Hart.
Sherman said the goal is to give people looking for locally made products a one stop option and to give sellers a way to market their products more effectively.
“The goal is to keep local businesses in the spotlight and steer potential shoppers that way,” said Sherman. He posted the idea on Facebook where Hart saw the favorable comments.
For Hart, this was a natural next step.
“I actually had the platform that was doing what he was describing, “I had a website set up where I do fundraising selling shirts for clubs,” said Hart.


BREAKING NEWS: Zup’s Food Markets purchases Ely Shopko building

The vacant Ely Shopko building will have a new owner following the purchase Monday by Zup’s Food Markets.
Shopko closed its Ely store in June of 2019 as part of a company-wide bankruptcy. The building has been empty since that time.
Jim Zupancich Jr. confirmed the purchase Wednesday.
“We have purchased the building and we’re looking at a future expansion to that location. We plan to work with the City of Ely and the IRRRB to bring our world-class sausage facility to the building,” said Zupancich. “We’d like to thank Senator Tom Bakk, Representative Rob Ecklund, St. Louis County Commissioner Paul McDonald and IRR Commissioner Mark Phillips for working with us on this.”
The goal is for Zup’s to move into the Shopko building by September of 2021.


School moves to distance

by Tom Coombe
Starting Monday, classrooms in the Ely schools will be noticeably empty.
Students will learn from home, for at least four weeks, as part of a change finalized by district officials and formally rolled out late Monday.
After a sizeable increase in COVID-19 case numbers in the northern half of St. Louis County and in Ely, the district will switch to a distance learning model this week, with an anticipated date of return slated for Jan. 11.
Tuesday was the final day of in-person learning at Washington Elementary while middle and high school students will transition out of a hybrid model that had been in place since mid-September.
After time for teacher preparation, distance learning starts Wednesday for grades 6-12 and Thursday in the elementary school.


Drawings for Ely school addition revised

by Tom Coombe
Revised plans offer a more detailed glimpse of the key component of a nearly $20 million school facilities project: a new structure that will link the Washington and Memorial buildings.
While renovations to those facilities are part of the project, the centerpiece of a plan approved by voters earlier this year is a brand-new building that will provide a main, secure entry to the campus and house a new gymnasium, cafeteria, media center, common spaces, offices and classrooms.
Architects have been on campus several times to tour the facilities and gather input from school staff, and they’ve made several modifications from initial plans as a result.
School board members looked at the latest renditions at Monday’s study session and administrators endorsed the latest concepts.
“I’m pretty content where we’re at with this plan,”said high school principal Megan Anderson. “I think this has been the best of what we’ve seen so far.”


Bakk bolts from DFL caucus

by Tom Coombe
When 2020 began, State Sen. Tom Bakk led the DFL caucus.
As the year comes to a close, Bakk is no longer part of it and has joined another Iron Range lawmaker in a two-person independent alliance that could help tilt the balance of power in St. Paul.
Bakk, who has represented the Ely area in St Paul for more than 25 years, joined longtime Chisholm legislator and State Sen. David Tomassoni in forming a new Minnesota Senate Independent Caucus.
In a statement released Wednesday, they said the move presents an opportunity to chair committees and makes sense to better serve their districts within the legislative framework.


Urbas turns down mayoral job

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s surprise mayor won’t be taking the job.
Eric Urbas, who unseated incumbent Chuck Novak in the Nov. 3 election despite withdrawing from the race three months before, notified city officials on Wednesday that he is declining the position.
The decision seems likely to trigger a special election, in early-2021, to fill the city’s top political post.
Urbas, 31, conceded he had second thoughts after his 924-800 victory and heard from many supporters who encouraged him to take office as scheduled in January.
But after some soul searching that Urbas said involved “sitting in a deer stand for a good five days up in Roseau and another few afternoons in evenings in the sauna,” he arrived at a decision.


Annual legislative meeting called off

The annual “legislative meeting” in Ely won’t happen this year.
An event that brings local elected officials together with state legislators, county officials and aides to federal lawmakers has been called off, because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting, hosted by the Community Economic Development Joint Powers Board, had been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7 at the Grand Ely Lodge.
Rising case numbers across the state prompted Gov. Tim Walz to reinstate several restrictions, including bans on in-person dining and limits on public gatherings.
Both made it impossible for the annual event, which usually attracts as many as 40-to-50 people for a lunch gathering, to move forward as planned.
Joint Powers Board members considered cancelling the meeting in October but ultimately decided then to move forward with an in-person gathering with accommodations for people to take part remotely.


Morse board gets update on Treehouse Broadband project

The Town of Morse board of supervisors received an update from Treehouse Broadband at a Nov. 5 meeting.
Isaac Olson and Ward Nelson addressed the board. Morse has pledged $100,000 toward expanding internet services in the township. The IRRRB also awarded a $150,000 grant for the fixed wireless project.
Olson said repeater units are being installed on Burntside Lake including one on Oliver Island.
Nelson said Burntside Lodge now has internet at the resort including 22 cabins through Treehouse.
Nelson said customers along the North Arm Road are also being hooked up via a tower installed at the YMCA. He cited a township resident at the end of the road that didn’t have cell service and slow internet.
“Now they have fast internet,” said Nelson.
Olson said Treehouse is approaching 100 customers and that Nelson was brought on board to assist the growing company.


Minnesota has a National Tree Champion

A tree in northeast Minnesota has been recognized as the largest in the United States.
A jackpine was located by Casey Cloeter with a trunk circumference of 95 inches and a height of 63.25 feet. It is the largest known tree of its species in the country as reported to American Forests.
Cloeter is a USFS-MN DNR ecology research contractor who works on various research contracts such as the Forest Inventory Analysis program (FIA) throughout the midwest.
Cloeter said he mostly mostly works in the most remote, backcountry sections in northern St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties including the BWCAW and Voyageurs National Park.
“On September 5th, 2019 myself and a co-worker found the new National Champion (American Forests) Jack Pine deep in the heart of the BWCAW about 13-15 portages deep in the region East of Malberg Lake,” said Cloeter.


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