Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Renovation work continues on the South Center Avenue viaduct and according to the engineers from Lunda Construction the span should be open by the Halloween deadline. The concrete approaches on both sides of the bridge were removed along with selected areas of steel after they were damaged by road salt. The bridge has been closed since the beginning of September.
Despite objections from Merrill City Attorney William Wulf, the Merrill City Council voted on Tuesday night to enter into a lease agreement with the Weinbrenner Shoe Company to lease space for the future Merrill Youth Center. The city had submitted their version of the lease agreement to Weinbrenner but the company rejected it and returned their own which Attorney Wulf felt was too restrictive. Discussion on the contract proposal ended quickly when city engineer Charles Pierotti pointed out that he was set to start pouring concrete at 8 a.m. this morning on the youth center.
Merrill Fire Chief Ray Priebe is touting the advances made in smoke detector size and design and wishes to emphasize to residents that the small investment will save lives. Early models of the battery version often sold for $100 or more, but Chief Priebe states that thanks to advancements new models now sell for around $30-$50. Priebe praised companies such as the Ward Paper Mill who recently purchased a smoke detector for each family in their company. Firefighter Joe Schneider is pictured with one of the new sleek detectors.
The Merrill Bluejay football team is looking to rebound after its third loss of the season versus Marshfield this past Saturday. Merrill traveled to Marshfield for the Tigers homecoming and ended up 10-0 losers. The Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders will travel to Merrill this Saturday for the local team’s homecoming game. Rapids comes in with a 4-2 record after a 36-7 rout of Stevens Point last week. The game will be special for some Silver-M Club Members as their ranks grow. Jack Crosby of Acton, Mass., George Sladek of Merrill, Lee LaGessie of Boling Brook, Ill., George Zimmerman of Neenah, and Robert Williams of Edina, Minn. all earned their letters in 1951 and will join the group this year. Golden M’ers who received their M’s in 1926 include Alvin Ruprecht, Lawrence Rajek, Ellsworth Plautz, Celestine Clemente, all of Merrill, Arland Lambrecht of West Allis, and Carl Eggert of Elgin, Ill.
So much for a late winter, snow has returned to Wisconsin and Merrill saw its first dusting this past Tuesday as snow fell overnight. Thicker fir trees actually donned white caps that lasted most of the day.
The Merrill City Council lent a sympathetic ear to the strikers from Northern Wire this past Tuesday. The council actually rejected a request to amend the agenda and grant the group floor privileges to discuss the strike during the council meeting but many stuck around after the meeting to listen to speakers describe why they walked away from the bargaining table in the week-old strike. Workers from Northern Wire have been joined on the picket lines by sympathizing union members from Fox Point, Merrill Manufacturing, Semling Menke, Weinbrenner, and Wausau Papers, Brokaw. Acting Chief of Police Dennis Hintze reports four arrests have been made by his officers, all having to do with criminal damage to property. In formal matters before the council, the group endorsed going to a four-day garbage route with Friday being reserved for picking up recycling.
In local business news, Thelma’s is celebrating their expanded store in downtown Merrill. Three full pages of ads greet readers with good wishes from contractors and sale announcements throughout the store. Also home movie watchers will now have another choice for VHS rental with Gold-N-Way Video opening at the former Wally’s Video location. The store will be open from 10 to 10 seven days a week. You can find the whole works at 207 S. Park St.
The Merrill Bluejay football team ripped Rhinelander this past Friday night, impressing the parents on Parent Night with a final score of 36-12. The Jays got on the board quickly with touchdowns in the first quarter including a four-yard run by Rod Akey and a two-yard run by Darrell Osypowski on a score that was set up by a Tom Weix interception. This Saturday Merrill takes on D.C. Everest who has the leading rusher of the league on their team. The latest trophy to fill the case at the high school comes thanks to the Merrill Marching Jays. This past Saturday the local band was at UW Whitewater where they participated in the Warhawk Tournament. Merrill walked away with the grand champion trophy along with a first place rating in the AAA class and awards for best marching maneuvering, best music, best color guard, and best drum major.
The man who will perhaps be known as the longest serving servant of Merrill has died. Ellsworth “Zonie” Plautz, formerly of E. 6th Street in Merrill, passed away last Thursday at Pine Crest. Plautz was first elected to the Merrill City Council in 1943 and continued to serve the residents of the second ward for the next 50 years. From 1950 until 1990 he was president of the council, and served a six-month term as acting Mayor of Merrill. If you think the commitment to the city was impressive then you do not know about his tenure at the Merrill Candy Company. Plautz began his employment there in 1936 as a candy maker and retired 58 years later as warehouse manager. Plautz’s obituary also has a laundry list of service in the community including St. John’s Lutheran Church, AAL, Silver and Golden M, Jaycee’s, Optimists, Wisconsin National Guard, and played on the Fromm Foxes. After a funeral at St. John’s, Plautz was laid to rest at Merrill Memorial Park. (I doubt in 20 years too many people traveling in the industrial park will see the street sign and know what a Zonie is, but it is a fine tribute to his dedication.)
The T.B. Scott Library is looking to expand. Based on a space need study by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the library is 9,000 square feet of the recommended space for present needs. Director B.D. Lebal and Library Board member Dr. Walter Lewinnek are pictured on the front page discussing plans for major changes to the structure, all of which include the original Carnegie portion of the building. The project will most likely cost nearly $3 million and is hoped to be funded by at least $700,000 in local donations. Lebal cites the need for expanding technology as a major need of the aging building.