Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Fire swept through a downtown apartment building yesterday leaving nearly a dozen people homeless. At 6:10 a.m. the alarm was turned into the Merrill Fire Department of a fire in the basement of the building at 811 E. Main St., adjacent to the Cosmo Theatre. Fire Chief Ray Priebe reports 24 of his fireman fought the blaze for hours in below zero temperatures but no injuries were reported. Priebe speculated the fire broke out in the basement of the building and spread up through the middle. Firefighters were hampered by false ceilings and heating ducts. The local chapter of the Red Cross has set up operations in the basement of M&I Bank in order to assist those displaced by the fire. Even though firemen used seven water lines to battle the flames the fire did not damage the Cosmo or the Quality Print/Foto News buildings. (This was re-built and destroyed for good in a fire in 1985, now where Cosmo 3 stands)
Start conserving gas or you may be penalized. That is the word from Wisconsin Public Service after Governor Patrick Lucey’s request to conserve energy. WPS wants customers to turn their thermostats down to 63 degrees, and commercial gas customers who exceed their allocations will receive a $1 per therm penalty. Energy consumption in schools is being monitored to see if closing schools may assist in conserving gas. State officials advised they would close schools before asking industrial customers to shut down. Although other parts of the United States have been asked to conserve electricity that is not an issue in Wisconsin thanks to the abundant production facilities.
Einar and Mardelle Ingman are back in their Irma home after attending the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter in Washington D.C. For the Ingmans it was the sixth inauguration they have attended which comes with round trip transportation and lodging. The Ingmans receive the invitation every four years because Einar is a recipient of the Medal of Honor bestowed on him due to his actions during the Korean War. Upon their return the couple noted this year’s event was lacking in the pomp and expense of the usual festivities which Mardelle said reminded her of the coronation of a king or queen. For his inauguration President Carter did not even wear the traditional white tie and tails, preferring instead to take the oath wearing a plain suit. The Ingmans stated the crowds were also small but polite. The military equipment and heavy troop presence which had become a staple in the 1960’s has all but vanished. Einar was front and center when Carter and his Vice President Walter Mondale were sworn in, located with other Congressional Medal of Honor winners. Besides their trips to see inaugurations, the Ingmans recently returned from a trip to South Korea where Einar and fellow Korean War Medal of Honor recipients were guests of South Korean President Park Chung Hee. (It was an honor to know the Ingmans; Mardelle’s sister is Joy Heideman and their nephew Bill is our City Clerk)
In a full page ad on the back page of the paper numerous contractors welcome Pine Ridge Restaurant which is opening its doors next Tuesday on Merrill’s far-east side.
The Merrill Area Board of Education will save close to $50,000 this fiscal year thanks to refinancing of current obligations. Ray Osness, financial consultant to the board, recommended refinancing the long term debt to take advantage of lower interest rates. The board also approved a two year contract with the custodians that calls for a 9.5% increase in wages over two years. The current debt of the district is $3.8 million dollars.
Two more letters to the editor this week by writers not happy with the recent county board action that refused to provide funding for the vaccine that is supposed to prevent the Hepatitis B disease. Last week Deputies Tom Koth and Jeff Jaeger wrote letters and this week it is Mary Schroeder and a name withheld author offering their opinion. Dr. Geoffrey Kloster campaigned on behalf of the group to get the vaccine noting the transient population of jails can be a breeding ground for the disease. The board voted in January to deny the vaccine, citing costs. All Merrill Police Officers have received the shot which was paid for by the city.
Merrill sports teams fared well this past week. The Blue Jay boys’ team whipped the Tigers of Marshfield 59-50 on Tuesday. The Jays jumped out to an early lead but mistakes kept the score close for most of the contest. John Pruss led the team with 20 points. Last week the boys were crushed by Wausau East 54-35. On the girls’ side, Merrill pummeled Marshfield 51-35 last night with Gena Rusch scoring 15, Jolene Hanig tossed in 14, and Steph Hoge added 8. Last week the Lady Jays defeated East 70-44. The boys’ wrestling team also handed a lopsided win to Wausau East, defeating the Valley foe 69-0 this past Thursday. Todd Gruetzmacher, Joe Ramsey, Steve Van Der Geest, Dean Nowinsky, Scott Reindl, Mike Knab, Craig Josiger, Andy Lehman, Steve Weix and John Lamonica each scored a pin in the match. Merrill heads into the conference meet this weekend.
The Merrill Area Board of Education is one step closer to its new elementary school on Merrill’s west side. Director of Administrative Services Greg Kautza explained that the process of constructing the school is down to lining up sub-contractors. In the next few weeks the former St. Francis Church and School along with the houses on the property will be demolished to make room for the school along with the old water works building attached to the current high school to make room for additional growth onto that building. A district wide contest to name the new elementary school has also been decided with Krysta Peterson, a student at Washington School, winning the honor of naming the school, Kate Goodrich Elementary. The school is named for the first teacher in the Town of Jenny who had to paddle her way up the river to get to the school.
Should the local deputies’ association profit off the inmates in the Lincoln County Jail? That is the question County Board Supervisor Dave Jackson is asking. A recent review of funds shows the Lincoln County Professional Deputies Associations sale of soda and snacks to inmates generates around $5,000 a year in revenue for the association. Deputy Terry Sukow points out that money is recycled back into the community via donations such as scholarships in both Merrill and Tomahawk. Jackson wants to turn the canteen over to Swanson’s out of Wausau who will then turn extra funds over to the county. Both sides noted the profits from the canteen have decreased greatly since former Sheriff Ron Krueger banned smoking in the jail last year.