Ely schools shouldn’t play second fiddle

Across the Range right now several school districts are in the midst of major building projects that will prepare them to meet the needs of teaching students into the future. Why shouldn’t the students at Ely schools have the same opportunities?
Major projects at Mt. Iron, Mesabi East and Grand Rapids have been moved forward and are either under construction or about to be. Ely could join that group with a project that would replace our lost gymnasium space and connect the Washington, Memorial and perhaps even the Industrial Arts buildings.
With the Ely Regional Community Complex making the decision to move elsewhere, the door is open for the school district to put together its own plan.
Just what is or isn’t in that plan can be determined along the way. What’s needed now is the direction from the school board and administration to set the wheels in motion as well as being true advocates.


The “circus” has left city hall

by Tom Coombe, Echo editor -


...especially misleading was Ms. Rom’s statement that Twin Metals is proposing a mining operation

Dear Secretary Perdue and Secretary Zinke:
In January 2017 the U. S. Forest Service announced that they would conduct a two year study and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), documenting the information and analysis necessary to support a decision on the imposition of a 20-year moratorium on mineral development in the Superior National Forest (SNF); and further, to support an amendment to the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.
We wrote to you in October 2017 to express our opposition to the withdrawal of 234,000 acres of National Forest lands in the in Northeastern Minnesota. Our October 17, 2017 letter asserts that “The decision by the U.S. Forest Service/BLM and the Obama administration to conduct a study and prepare an EIS is a tactic employed to not only delay, but pre-emptively quash the development of Twin Metals Minnesota’s project and will replicate the EIS completed by the USFS in May 2012”.


Fire could’ve been a disaster had luck not played a role

There had already been a bad house fire on the Range this past week that ended up claiming the lives of two adults and their two grandchildren. It was a heartbreaking story, especially over the holidays.
When the fire whistle went off around 5 p.m. Wednesday, we wondered if it was our community’s turn to face tragedy. Or was it a chimney fire or a false alarm?
The fire trucks headed for Grahek Apartments where black smoke was pouring out of a window on the east side of the building on the third floor.
The Ely fire department has a Hummer truck that carries 250 gallons of water on it. The truck was able to drive up next to the building, right under where the fire was burning. Water was sprayed through the window and within minutes, the fire was out. Those 250 gallons saved lives as well as the building.


Senator Smith should look north as she heads to DC

When Al Franken announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate after being accused of a multitude of sexual harassment incidents, his time in the spotlight faded quickly.
With the appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat, we hope northern Minnesota isn’t lost in the shuffle.
Just when Franken will be a former senator is still unknown. His resignation speech was missing two key points: a sincere apology and a date he would be done. We’re still waiting.
Smith may well have been one of the most active lieutenant governors in the state’s history, but she hasn’t been a frequent visitor to Ely, much less north of Duluth.
When the 2015 Governor’s Fishing Opener was held at Fortune Bay, Smith filled in for a fragile Dayton and created a memorable faux pas. Smith mistakenly addressed dignitaries of the Bois Forte band as being Fond du Lac instead. Minnesota nice kicked in and her slip up was swept under the rug.


No to current ERCC plan to locate on school campus

There are two camps forming over the proposed Ely community recreation complex. Those who want it to be located on school grounds and those who want it anywhere but there.
We would propose a third camp be set up: Looking at options that enhance, not endanger the future of the school district and that strive to never use tax dollars to compete with private enterprise.
The Ely Regional Community Complex board seeks to develop a facility on the school campus that could be as large as 50,000 square feet and cost as much as $12 million. Of the $12 million, $5 million would come from state bonding money.
First, two reasons the school board should vote no.
1. The devil’s in the details.
The school board has been asking for details on how the district would be impacted. They’re still waiting for answers. Question number one: Who will own the facility? Crickets.


Does the school need a rec complex and/or vice versa?

There are two camps forming over the proposed Ely community recreation complex. Those who want it to be located on school grounds and those who want it anywhere but there.
The school board has been asking for details on how the district would be impacted. Details are still coming in but there’s plenty of unanswered questions.
As one critic said, “It’s easy to build it, but who will pay for the operation and maintenance for the next 20 years?”
While that answer is still drifting in the fog, we do have some information to share on the value the complex could bring to the district.
Athletic Director Tom Coombe (also an Ely Echo employee) provided information to the joint school board/ERCC subcommittee.
Here are some of the points he raised:


Loggers’ lawsuit should name governor, legislature as well

One of the legs is about to be kicked out of the three legged stool of taconite, timber and tourism.
Following a late-night move by the Minnesota state legislature and a signature by Gov. Mark Dayton, the state’s wood chipping operations were sold to the lobbyist-driven Xcel Energy.
This was back room politics pure and simple now covered up by altruistic sound bites on how the deal will save money for Xcel’s customers. Hogwash.
The company was in a world of hurt in 1994 when it was trying to find a way to dispose of nuclear waste that no one wanted.
A deal was reached where Xcel could store spent nuclear fuel casks at its Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station in Red Wing in exchange for a plan to use biomass to generate electricity. Bad was exchanged for good, nuclear waste for logging jobs and clean renewable energy.


Nolan walking the fine line in DC

Washington D.C. can’t be a fun place to be these days. With accounts of sexual harassment or worse coming out of the woodwork seemingly every day, even Minnesota’s Al Franken was found to have made some stupid decisions (along with an incriminating photo).
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) hasn’t had to worry about that so far but he has to be worried about an upcoming vote on mining.
Nolan has used his former image when he was in office 40 years ago when he supported the BWCAW act to pacify at times the anti-mining movement.
Nolan uses his current pro-mining stances to keep getting re-elected from an increasingly changing base in northeast Minnesota.
But now those two images are going to be blurred together. Nolan is going to have to draw a line on whether he’s for or against a bill put forth by U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN).
Emmer introduced the MINER (Minnesota’s Economic Rights) Act and it’s going to come up for a vote in the full House.


Hunting connects the generations

This week our Sports section includes a story on five female hunters getting their deer. We’ve always known women hunters were better than men - they’re certainly better at catching fish in our experience.
But what caught our attention was the generation to generation sharing of being out in the great outdoors. Hunting is much more than killing an animal. Look at the time spent hunting and the harvest is a small portion.
To see dads spending time with daughters and sons in the deer stand gives us hope for the future. It’s very likely these dads played the other role when they were young. Now they are doing as their father, mother or perhaps grandparent taught them. Patience, respect and safety in the woods are the key to success.


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