Researched by Michael J. Caylor, Jr.
Two ordinances will soon be in front of the Merrill City Council regarding health insurance for city employees. The question is who will be eligible to receive health insurance as the current plan allows all city aldermen, the mayor, and city attorney to receive city health insurance with the city covering part of the premium. An alternative ordinance introduced by Alderwoman Anita Gebert calls for only full time employees to receive the city’s insurance, but it allows part time officials to receive it if they pay the full premium costs. Fourth Ward Alderman Alfred Kohler’s ordinance allows the mayor and city attorney to receive their health insurance with a percentage of the premium paid for by the city. (Imagine if being an alderman or county board supervisor included health insurance? The ballot would be three pages long.) Both these ordinances will get second readings next month and eventually the council will have to decide which plan moves forward. Also, bowing to public pressure, the council reinstated the funds to staff life guards at Ott’s Park this summer on a 6-3 vote.
In area briefs: Fredric Mumma has been elected president of the Merrill Area Education Association last evening at their dinner at Lincoln Lanes. He succeeds Robert St. Clair for the top spot. Vice president is Jack Ader, Bill Lussenhop secretary, and Robert Casper treasurer. County Emergency Government Director Norm Heideman advised delinquent utility customers that time is running out to apply for aid for past due utility bills. WPS can start cutting off customers on April 1. The Merrill Chamber of Commerce will be randomly calling residents on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. If you answer your phone by saying “Green Tag Days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday” you could win a Merrill area gift certificate. This is all part of the big retail promotion this weekend with ads for the event throughout the paper. A new business is on the west side of town as Radio Shack opens its doors at 108 N. Genesee St. Dave Detjens, Ellis Wendt, and Gary Dietrich are all owners of the new business managed by Linda Harkner.
More than 300 people gathered Saturday night to witness the distribution of awards at the annual Merrill on the Move banquet put on by the chamber. The awards are held annually to recognize organizations, businesses and individuals who contribute to Merrill’s growth and stability. Those honored this year included State Senator Clifford “Tiny” Krueger who was given the Chambers Ambassador Award. Donald F. Taylor of Merrill Manufacturing received the second ever Hall of Fame award; his contributions to the local, state and national Chambers of Commerce and Boy Scouting were noted with his award. Robert Klug, Becky Brose and Richard Holt all received Merrill on the Move awards. Klug was awarded for his work as chair of the fund drive for the March of Dimes, St. John’s Church, Holy Cross, The Merrill Giants, Foxes and Blue Jays. Brose, a high school senior, was cited for her school involvement including in the American Legion Oratorical Competition where she placed fourth, the Bicentennial Committee, and MHS Student Council. Dick Holt was awarded for his past involvement in the MOM committee and other civic groups including St. John’s Church. He presently serves as president of the Merrill Medical Recruitment Association and of the Merrill Noon Optimist Club. The evening was capped off with entertainment from “Bit of Broadway.”
Two Merrill men have been taken into custody in connection with the deaths of a Town of Hamburg couple in their homes this past weekend. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office reported the arrests of the men who are both 22 years of age. The primary suspect who lives on Main Street in Merrill was charged with two counts of murder and armed robbery while the second man of County Rd. FF was charged with being a party to armed robbery. According to court records the second man drove the first man to the home of Edward and Ruth Langbecker but did not enter the home. The suspect in the murders is being held on a $250,000 cash bond which was set by Marathon County Judge Leo Crooks; the second suspect was released on a $5,000 cash bond and $35,000 property bond. DA Rand Krueger will prosecute the case.
Residents will soon see building begin on two major projects approved by the common council on Merrill’s east side. At last night’s council meeting aldermen approved the construction of multi-family apartment units east of Memorial Drive in the Fairview Acres development area. That project is expected to exceed $800,000 and will be funded by federal housing loans making the apartments fixed income and available to rent with assistance from government subsidies. The council also approved the construction of a state of the art printing factory on State Rd. 17 which will be operated by the Reindl family in Merrill. This will be east of the Candy Company building and will house the growing business which is currently located on Genesee Street.
Strong defense and a little homework are being credited for propelling the Merrill Blue Jay girls’ basketball team past Hudson this past Saturday and onto Madison where they open play tomorrow in the WIAA State Basketball Tournament. The stand out on the Hudson squad, Martha Richards, averages 25 points per game, but in the opening half of the regional playoff game in Medford Richards was held to just four points. This allowed the girls to build up a lead and eventually defeat their opponents 35-28. Merrill’s Jolene Hanig led the Jays with 12 points and six rebounds, Gena Rusch threw in eight with 10 rebounds, and the stand out from Hudson, Richards was held to just 14 points in the game. Merrill now takes on Kimberly to open the playoffs Thursday afternoon in the UW fieldhouse. The boys’ team ended their season last Thursday falling to Wausau West in regional action 59-43. John Pruss scored 15 for the home team who finished the season with a 5-16 record.
A construction project which changed the landscape of the South Center Avenue area has been completed, but a meeting with DOT officials regarding the pace and the affect it had on area businesses and residents found mixed reviews. Linda Blake, owner of Club Modern Supper Club, said she enjoyed watching the project take shape but estimates her family run business lost 60% of its revenue during the course of the months long project. The Blakes also saw some damage to the business when their basement flooded and saw service interruptions when their gas was shut off for road work. Blake added they used the slow time to remodel their business. Tom Miller who owns the Merrill View Motel stated he estimates a loss of $15,600 in revenue thanks to the road closure. A nurse who works at Good Samaritan Health Center told DOT officials her car suffered $400 in damage when she had to traverse detours to get to work in the middle of the night. Local resident John Henning stated his lawn was damaged and drainage issues developed after road crews came through, but after he spoke to the contractors the damage was quickly repaired to his satisfaction.
It’s out with the old and in with the new this week in the mid-city area. Demolition began on the old water works building which is on the northwest side of the current high school. The building, which recently housed programs such as FFA and the driver’s ed department, is being knocked down for an expansion of the facility. The building was built in 1887 to house the independent company knows as The Waterworks. By 1914 the company went bankrupt and it is assumed the city took control of the water company. Merrill uses about one million gallons of water a day on average, which is actually lower than previous years since Ward Paper shuttered its building. Ward was responsible for one third of the water use in Merrill when they were running. A little further down the road, ground was broken for the expansion of Dave’s County Market who will soon find River Valley State Bank occupying a branch office at the new and expanding store operated by the Bonnell family. Due to the subzero temps the actual first shovels of dirt produced only frost.