School bus safety a two-way street

by Sgt. Neil Dickenson
of the Minnesota State Patrol
With school starting this will be entirely focused on the safety of the most precious cargo in the world – our children. Traffic safety is a two-way street and everyone has an investment.
School Bus Safety Tips for Motorists:
• Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.
• Red flashing lights on buses indicates students are either entering or exiting the bus.
• Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) — but they should remain alert for children.
• Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists won’t find themselves behind a bus and as a result, potentially putting children at risk.


Land exchange, not purchase

The U.S. Forest Service is pushing ahead with a proposed land exchange to remove state lands from inside the BWCA. As long as an exchange is all that is being considered, we believe this is a step in the right direction.
This is only the first step in this attempt to right a wrong. There is a total of 83,000 acres of school trust land that were taken into the BWCA where they won’t generate a dime for the state’s school trust fund.
The land exchange is for 30,000 acres, leaving 53,000 acres the Forest Service is proposing to purchase instead of exchanging land.
However, word is out that there continues to be opposition to an all-out exchange which we believe is the only option available under federal law. The opposition comes from the Friends of the Boundary Waters with fears of the state logging and mining on the newly acquired land.


Dill: Loyal friend, persistent advocate

David Dill didn’t come across as a typical politician.
Perhaps that’s why he was so good at politics.
There’s little doubt that the Ely area, as well as northeastern Minnesota as a whole, lost a loyal friend and a persistent, relentless advocate when Dill passed away last weekend at the far too early age of 60.
As tributes, accolades, stories and memories came forward in the days since Dill’s passing, common themes have emerged.
Dill was both a tenacious and studious legislator, one who wasn’t afraid to buck his own party if it was for the betterment of his spacious district.
He was both congenial and compassionate, generous and kind, frank and straightforward, and not afraid to share a laugh or have a good time.
We agree on all counts and would add a tale or two.


Relay for Life: How do you know that you are making a difference

by Mary Ann Lekatz
Many people participate in the Ely American Cancer Society Relay for Life either as a survivor or walker.
This year the Relay is scheduled for Friday, August 21, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Most northern Minnesota Relays have switched to this time frame.
Come and join in the festivities – there will be a booth selling fresh popcorn, flasher rings, rings that light up, and many other items for you to purchase and help the fight against cancer.
Survivor and team participants work for an event T-shirt which have become a badge of honor worm only by those who have dedicated their time, talent, resources, and therapies (whether it was radiation or chemotherapy) to personally helping the American Cancer Society Fund the fight to end cancer.
We believe your participation demonstrates that you have gone the extra mile to save lives and fight back against cancer.


Two sides far apart in mining debate

The chances of finding common ground in the debate of copper nickel mining in the Ely area are slim and none, whether you’re talking about surface and underground common ground.
Sure, we all can agree on the importance of clean water but from there the histrionic behavior gets a bit ridiculous at times, especially for those in opposition.
For some people, there is no chance for a mining operation to exist without decimating the water. If that’s what you believe, fine, there’s no common ground for you to stand on.
Conversely, to say that it’s impossible for a mine built today to pollute also leaves you with very little common ground.
We believe the time is now to draw the line on rhetoric and continue the quest of finding what is the truth and what is simply hogwash.
Starting this week we will no longer include the term “sulfide mining.” This is used by the opposition groups to incite and bias the reader. It is not based in truth or fact.


LETTER: ... Will other environmental groups come to the table and be a partner in such an agreement?

Dear Editor,
My husband and I attended the Save the Boundary Waters presentation on sulfide mining at Vermilion Community College. It was a nice slide presentation of the layout of the area, depicting the Boundary Waters, what makes it special, the watershed, the mineral deposits, the aquatic and forest ecology, etc. Many of us who support the proposed copper/nickel mining projects have heard similar presentation several times before by Becky Rom and her friends.
What was different this time, before a group of about 100 people, was that the question period was literally shut down by Rom at 7:30 after two questions. Was she intimidated by the dozen or so supporters of mining projects and what questions they would ask? I talked to Dave Marshall who schedules events at Vermilion and he said the theater was booked until 9:30.


Welcome to the Blueberry/Art Festival

Two of the busiest days of the year in Ely occur in July. The Fourth is a great American celebration of our country’s freedom. This weekend we celebrate people coming to town for the Blueberry/Art Festival.
Even in this newspaper you’ll find the name of the event misused as the Blueberry Arts Festival. That’s understandable even if it’s incorrect. There are plenty of blueberry related products to be found here this weekend.
Each of us may have our own favorite, from blueberry pancakes to blueberry pie to blueberry bratwurst (seriously, Zup’s makes blueberry bratwurst).
All of those blueberry products for sale this weekend fit in nicely with the artists who may or may not include a blueberry theme to their work.
Take a stroll through the park and you’ll be amazed by the variety of items being handcrafted and/or available for sale in the booths that seem to magically pop up the Thursday before the event.


Thoughts from the Echo newsroom

Working at a newspaper in Ely, Minnesota is always interesting. For one, Ely is never short of news. There’s always something going on, although not every issue becomes a story.
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had some interesting issues. Here’s our thoughts on how those issues have played out.
1. Superintendent at the Ely School District has been a revolving door since the unfortunate day when Terry Merfeld passed away. Many have held the position, few as well as Merfeld did.
Now the district appears ready to sweep the remnants of the Alexis Leitgeb era under the rug. Weeks after voting to suspend her, the district finally released the letter that led to that suspension.
There are accusations of Leitgeb defrauding the district, specifically in her travel budget. But we have heard nothing from the district on whether there has been or will be an investigation.


LETTER: ...cell towers, logging and yes, even mining

Dear Editor:
I read with interest your editorial about the accident on the Basswood River last week and also the article about the rescue of the 15 year old boy who was trapped under the canoe.
From what I read the estimated cost for the rescue was about $40,000.
My understanding of the accident is that the group involved obviously used extremely bad judgment in trying to run the rapids rather than make the portage. I think it is time for the U.S. Forest Service to stop footing the bill when people get into trouble and present the party leaders and/or their organization with a bill for the rescue.
Why should taxpayers have to pay for someone’s stupidity? Also, if you are in your home and call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the hospital, you can be sure that you will receive a bill for the ride. Why should an emergency ride in a U.S. Forest Service plane be any different?


Better communication needed

Emergency responders have a tough enough job when called upon to rescue somebody in the BWCA. We believe every effort should be made to fix the lack of communication available for rescues within the wilderness boundaries.
The rescue on Tuesday is a perfect example of how volunteers were hamstrung by a system that doesn’t work up north. There was one radio hanging from a tree and another duct taped to a canoe paddle, both efforts to try to get a radio signal.
We believe part of the problem lies in the fear of those in control of the statewide radio system to stand up to the environmental bullies who believe a red light on a tower will ruin their wilderness experience.
Taller towers mean a farther reach and a better communication system. There is also a need for more towers surrounding the BWCA, even if the cost is higher than other parts of the state due to the remoteness of the area.


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