Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
A horrific crash yesterday morning at Brokaw has led to the stillborn death of an infant and injuries to 12 others. The crash happened on US Hwy. 51 at Brokaw during heavy fog Tuesday morning. At least one other person remains in the ICU unit at Wausau North Hospital. A Tripoli man was among the injured.
The Merrill City Council voted last evening to delay the East Main Street renovation project. City Engineer Charles Pierotti was instructed to extend the project all the way to Park Street and to seek federal funds to assist with the project. The council also voted to approve the sale of the former Jefferson School property and to delay action on closing the beach at Ott’s Park. It has been recommended to close that beach due to excessive costs of maintaining it. Efforts by the city to purchase land between the Sixth Ward bridges has been delayed after the DNR notified the city that area was a flood plain.
At a special meeting of the City Council last Wednesday night the council failed to take up a vote on a recent request by the snowmobile clubs to open the streets of Merrill for snowmobile use. The clubs wanted to open up the streets so city residents could enjoy easy access to the rural trail system surrounding the city. Dennis Mootz acted as the spokesperson for the riders noting several snowmobile clubs and the Lincoln County Snowmobile Council supported the idea. But Police Chief Charles Johnson noted the request included 71 streets and crossed 15 intersections which he rated as dangerous. The audience assembled to hear the debate seemed equally divided on the matter, but Fourth Ward Alderman Alfred Kohler presented a petition of 980 signatures of city residents opposed to the idea. In the end the matter was tabled with no formal vote taken.
The Merrill Blue Jay boys’ basketball team is coming off two upset wins over the Stevens Point Panthers and the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders in recent Valley action. Merrill stunned Point last Friday night while on the road, knocking off the Panthers in overtime. Last night in the East gym Merrill was behind 57-51 at halftime but came back with a strong fourth quarter to down the Red Raiders 71-65. Coach Dave Linehan credits the play of Brian Koehler in both victories. The 6-9 Jays now travel to D.C. Everest to take on the 3-11 Evergreens Friday night. The undefeated wrestling team begins tournament action this weekend in the East gym. They finished their Valley schedule last week with a 56-2 win over Wausau West. The Jays are the top rated team headed to Madison for the team tournament which will be held at the end of February.
St. John Lutheran Church in Merrill was the setting for the most recent Eagle Scout award winner. James Hostvedt was presented the award on Sunday, the first such ceremony held in a Merrill church. Hostvedt, the son of Don and Sally Hostvedt, earned 21 merit badges in order to qualify for the Eagle Scout award; he is only one of four people to ever receive this award in Merrill. One of the speakers at the ceremony was Eugene “Skipper” Schulz, leader of Troop 304 and 1986 winner of the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor that can be awarded to a Scout leader. Russell Peck of Merrill also participated in the event; he is recognized as the highest ranking Scout in Merrill and in the Samoset Council which encompasses a five district unit in the area. Peck is the son of Roger and Janice Peck of East Main Street.
The Merrill Common Council has rejected the requested re-zoning of the 300 block of North Center Avenue for a proposed Kwik Trip store. Home owners Henry Golde and Charles Geiss approached the city and requested the change in zoning as Kwik Trip has expressed interest in building a new convenience store which would employ 12-15 people and have a payroll of $125,000 to $150,000 in its first year. Kwik Trip also promised to use local contractors to construct the new station. Local attorney Craig Nienow represented those opposed to the plans including numerous neighbors; he cited the historic nature of that area and the increased traffic and congestion which a gas station would bring to it. In the end the council voted 2-6 to deny the zoning change. The council did vote to purchase the O’Day property at 800 E. Main St. and the Detjen property at 1007 E. 2nd St. Both properties contain houses which will be knocked down to add parking to downtown and City Hall.
Lincoln County has officially requested the abandonment of the Prairie Dells dam. The dam was constructed starting in 1904. During a 1979 inspection the National Dam Safety Program through the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers deemed the dam as hydraulically unsafe. During the fall of 1980 the dam was breached by a private contractor hired by Lincoln County to lower the level of the water behind the dam approximately 12 feet. The county was then given a deadline by the DNR to abandon or repair the structure with the county opting to repair the dam. Work began in July of 1984. In October, water was discovered leaking under the dam. Attempts to stop the flow were unsuccessful. In February of 1985 the County Board voted to abandon the dam. The estimated cost to remove the dam is $310,000. Those opposed to the removal now have 20 days to write to the DNR at its Rhinelander office.
The Merrill Blue Jay girls’ basketball team are now 13-0 on the season after crushing the Stevens Point Panthers this past Friday in the field house. Gena Rusch set a conference record, making 9 of 10 from the field. She threw in 19 points total with 11 rebounds in the contest. Jolene Hanig added 14 making 8 of 8 from the free throw line with 10 assists. The ladies now host Rhinelander on Sunday. Four conference wrestling champions are what Merrill now boasts after Saturday’s showing at the Valley Tournament. Joe Ramsey, Andy Lehman, Tom Weix and Laverne Voigt each took first place in the event. Wisconsin Rapids actually came out on top in points, 199 to Merrill’s 182 ½.
A Merrill area school bus driver is recovering after his bus was slammed into by a Central Wisconsin Limited train yesterday in mid-city Merrill. Edward Gennrich of Gleason was driving for Bushar Bus Service and on his way to the High School to pick up students for a field trip when the accident happened at 8:02. According to Officer Rick Hermsen’s report, Gennrich properly stopped at the crossing and opened his door to listen, but when he went to go forward as other cars did he was in the path of the northbound freight train. Gennrich’s wife Dorothy, also a bus driver for Bushar, stated no amount of training could have prevented the accident which in her mind was caused by the buildings which block both sides of the track on E. 2nd Street. She called for stop arms to be installed to prevent future accidents such as this.