Homecoming held at EHS during pandemic

AN UNCONVENTIONAL HOMECOMING - Fall Homecoming Royalty candidates at Ely High School were Gabrielle Motes, Emmett Faltesek, Queen McKenna Coughlin, King Will Davies, Madeline Roderick, Jonah Schwamm, Sydney Richards and Brock LaTourell.


ELECTION RESULTS: Despite dropping out, Urbas unseats Novak

by Tom Coombe
Eric Urbas pulled out of Ely’s mayoral race three months ago, but local voters apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer.
In a stunning upset that sent shockwaves across the state, Urbas unseated incumbent Chuck Novak, collecting 924 votes to Novak’s 800.
The victory gave Urbas a two-year term as Ely’s mayor, but it’s not yet clear if he will take the city’s top political post.
He cited health reasons when withdrawing from consideration in August, but conceded Wednesday that the unanticipated win and encouragement from supporters and city leaders both from Ely and elsewhere have given him second thoughts.
“I don’t just want to say right now that I’m totally done,” said Urbas. “There’s still a chance it might happen. I don’t want to let people down.”
The 2007 Ely High School graduate is set to become mayor in January, but said he wouldn’t take that long to make a decision.


COVID cases climb in Ely

by Tom Coombe
COVID-19 case numbers in Greater St. Louis County, the metric used to help determine school learning models, rose again this week.
Data released Thursday morning showed a sharp increase, with biweekly cases per 10,000 people rising to 37.6, up from 25.5 and 18.2, respectively, the previous two weeks.
Ely school officials acknowledged the trend at a board study session earlier in the week and planned to consult with public health officials as they ponder potential changes in learning models.
Three cases of COVID-19 in the Ely school community were also disclosed Oct. 23, putting groups of middle and elementary school students temporarily into distance learning. Ely also had its first significant jump in cumulative cases in several weeks, with seven residents of the 55731 zip code testing positive in the last seven days.


Election reaches its end

by Tom Coombe
The commercials and campaigning will soon be over; as will the rhetoric and social media reachouts.
Lawn signs and billboards should be absent soon.
This week, the voice of the voters will be what counts the most.
An election season conducted in the midst of a pandemic comes to a close Tuesday, with voters set to weigh in on everything from bitterly-contested presidential and congressional races to legislative and local contests.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the state and locally as well, although, perhaps because of the pandemic, many area residents have already voted.
As of Wednesday morning, the city of Ely had already accepted 696 absentee ballots, over 300 more than cast in the last presidential year.
Neighboring Morse Township had accepted 324 absentee ballots.
The pandemic and a push by political parties to encourage voters to cast their ballots early.


New Ely cop comes from a small town

by Nick Wognum
Ely’s newest police officer shouldn’t have to adjust much to living in a small town.
Maxwell Brewer came to Ely from Morristown, MN which is about 15 minutes from Faribault.
“I’m used to small towns…my graduating class at Waterville was 60 students,” said Brewer. “I grew up in farm lands hunting, fishing and enjoying parks as I was growing up. I got into sports and played basketball throughout high school. Otherwise people find me hiking or in parks or swimming if the water’s not freezing.”
Brewer said he would like to get back into duck hunting after missing out on several seasons during college.
He attended Riverland Community College in Austin, MN, graduating with a degree in law enforcement and corrections. He then went to Rochester Community College for the skills portion of his training.
Brewer’s first job is with the Ely police department.


Little COVID growth in Ely

by Tom Coombe
The most recent update confirms a continuing trend of minimal growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Ely area.
Among residents of the 55731 zip code, two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and six new cases have been added overall since Sept. 24.
St. Louis County updated its COVID dashboard Thursday, providing the new information.
The additional cases brought Ely’s cumulative total up to 40, up from 38 last week, and 36 the previous two weeks.
The number was at 34 on Sept. 24, after a period of more rapid growth that included 25 new cases in roughly a month, many associated with an Ely assisted living facility.
The plateau comes despite an Oct 6 testing event in Ely, put on by St. Louis County, in which 495 people were tested. One person tested positive.
It was not immediately clear if the positive test was attributed to an Ely area resident or someone from a neighboring community.


COVID muddies school budget

by Tom Coombe
A report on COVID-related expenses prompted broader questions about the Ely School District’s financial fortunes this week.
With enrollment down and expenses rising because of pandemic-related requirements, outgoing school board member James Pointer pressed for a more complete picture.
“It seems to me the school is spend, spend, spend, where’s the fiscal responsibility here,” said Pointer.
The discussion was prompted by a breakdown of COVID-related expenses incurred by the district.
A breakdown included about $425,000 in additional expenses, more than half for technology upgrades and purchases, and an ample balance of more than $613,000 in revenue.
But Pointer argued the picture was incomplete, given enrollment declines in the district and an assumption that the district will receive a St. Louis County grant of $76,700 that was included in the available revenue.


Visits resume at senior homes

by Tom Coombe
Indoor visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Minnesota are now allowed, after action this week by the Minnesota Department of Health.
New guidelines issued Monday will permit visits at most senior homes, as long as those facilities have gone two weeks without a new COVID-19 case and if the infection rate within the county is no more than 10 percent.
The move clears the way for visits at Ely’s facilities, and both Carefree Living Ely and the Boundary Waters Care Center are moving forward.
Michelle Kosnitch, who directs the three-building Carefree complex in Ely, said visits could begin as soon as Oct. 19.
“There will be certain days, with certain hours for visits and you have to make an appointment,” said Kosnitch.
At the nursing home, visits were set to resume late this week.


Zito promises broadband to Fall Lake area

by Nancy McReady
Fall Lake Township residents, broadband is coming. That is what T.C. Leveille with Zito Media told the supervisors and the 10 citizens attending the township meeting Tuesday night.
“The main roads will be worked on first,” said Leveille, “and then branch out from there. Year-round residents would be first, then seasonal places.”
Hopefully more residents will have broadband connection by spring. Leveille said Zito is looking for a building to store equipment. He said there may be a possibility for free services in exchange for a storage area.
He said Fall Lake has areas that are more inaccessible because of ledge rock and a pole attachment agreement would have to be reached with Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power.


Stabbing leads to attempted murder charge

by Tom Coombe
An attempted murder charge has been filed against a 16-year-old Ely boy who allegedly stabbed his brother more than a dozen times.
Ely police identified the suspect at Michael William Haapala, and St. Louis County prosecutor wants to try him as an adult in connection with the Oct. 8 incident near Miners Lake.
The victim, a 13-year-old male, was taken by helicopter to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth after suffering multiple stab wounds. He remains in stable condition.
Haapala is being held at Arrowhead Juvenile Center in Duluth.
Court records and a news release issued by the Ely Police Department offered further details about the incident.
According to the reports, a 911 caller reported finding “an individual who appeared to have fallen down a ravine near Miners Lake. The caller reported the patient had a leg injury.’
Police found the victim “curled up in a fetal position in a gully” and cold to the touch.


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