Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
MAPS School Superintendent Roger Lowney wants out of his contract as he has accepted employment in the State of Washington. The 41-year-old Lowney came to Merrill in 1970 from Stratford where he served as superintendent of that district. Lowney will take the helm of the Long View School District where he will continue in the superintendent role. Long View has 8,500 students in the district, about twice the number in the MAPS district, Long View is similar in size to the Wausau metro area with 35,000 residents. Lowney told members of the press this past week that he will receive his PhD from the University of Madison in school administration in two weeks; he received his Educational Specialist degree, Master of Education and Bachelor of Science degree from UW-Superior. Since Lowney came to town he has turned a large budget deficit into a $510,000 budget surplus while lowering the mill rate from $18.5 to $12.5 in the last seven years. Lowney feels the biggest challenge as he leaves the district is convincing the taxpayer what a wonderful school system MAPS has to offer, something he knows is hard to swallow when the higher than average taxes are considered. He also noted that the district needs to do something sooner rather than later regarding the long range building plans of the senior and junior high buildings.
For the second time in a week Merrill is mourning the loss of a young man. Michael D. Graap was pronounced dead on arrival at Holy Cross Hospital after an accident Friday evening in the Town of Rock Falls. The vehicle Graap was driving failed to negotiate a curve and crashed off the roadway on South End Rd, striking a tree.
The Merrill Police Department is also mourning one of their own, retired officer Edward Martinsen passed away Monday at Holy Cross. Martinsen was a patrol officer for the City of Merrill. Having been appointed in 1946, he became the traffic officer and was known for riding around on the three wheeled motorcycle prior to his retirement in 1971. Martinsen leaves behind a wife, daughter and three sons. His funeral will be held tomorrow at St. Robert’s.
The DNR and local fire departments are urging caution as dry conditions have caused fires throughout the area, and now the DNR has banned most outside burning. Since March 23, 161 wildland fires have been fought in the north central district with 13 in the Merrill area. On page one DNR technician Jim Barrone is pictured with an infant porcupine who was orphaned by a recent fire; Barrone has adopted the porky until it can fend for itself.
The Merrill Area Board of Education has approved cuts offered by School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Strick, a move that cuts the tax levy increase to 6.5%. Initially the MAPS budget called for a 9.9% levy, a number many felt was too high. Strick cut the $12.8 million budget by $144,133 by making cuts in staff and programs. Affected areas of the budget include the AV fund, computer replacement, pushing back the start of second phase of the vocational education transition, and a small engine shop. Staffing cuts include not replacing a janitor, cutting the summer help staff, cutting the noon bus dispatcher and not hiring a transportation consultant this year. A reduction in health care insurance rates of $20,000 also helped ease the budget.
Pastors John Henning and Dan Olson are busy preparing for the dedication of the new addition to their mid-city church, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Our Saviour’s can trace their roots back to 1885 when the first congregants of the Norwegian Evangelical Church met in the home of the pastor before building a church at the corner of Fourth and Logan streets. Mergers with Zion Lutheran Church and the Barnes Creek Church grew the church even more before members of St. James Church in Pine River and Bethlehem Lutheran Church made the church complete in the 1960s and ‘70s. The new addition makes Our Saviour’s the first church in Merrill to be completely handicapped accessible as offices, educational rooms, an expanded church hall, and even a covered carport have been added. The $350,000 project was approved by the church members in June of 1986 and ground breaking took place in July. This Sunday an all day celebration will take place at the church starting with morning services and concluding with a concert at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile Calvary Lutheran Church in the Town of Pine River is celebrating 100 years of spreading the Good Word. The congregation is led by Rev. Bill Timm, and he advised plans are underway for an entire summer of celebration with themed worship services and guest pastors. Sunday the 28th of June will be “Old Fashioned Sunday” where members will be encouraged to dress for the 1800s. A new organ will also be installed this summer.
Progress is quickly developing on construction and additions to buildings in the Merrill school district. Masons are currently installing the block shell at the new Kate Goodrich School and façade block will soon be delivered to complete the outer walls. The roof at the current Junior High has been removed and masons are already laying block at the current Senior High School for expansions there. A total of $12 million will be invested into construction or improvement of the buildings by the time the project is complete; many of the contracts awarded so far are listed on page two.
In celebration of Law Enforcement Week, the Merrill Police Department will host an open house this weekend. Tours of the police station will be offered along with demonstrations on traffic stops, fingerprinting, and safe bike and rollerblade use. The history of the department will also be displayed. Donut holes will be available for those early visitors.
Well known circus owner and former Merrill resident Wayne Franzen has died. Franzen, 50, of Bushnell, FL, was killed Thursday in Carrolltown, PA after being attacked by a 400-pound tiger. Hundreds of school children were watching the performance at the county fairgrounds when the 6-year-old male tiger attacked Franzen. Family members and local authorities believe that a new glittery costume that Franzen was wearing provoked the animal who is normally a very docile creature according to Tina Franzen, manager of the circus. Franzen was a school teacher before starting his circus in Amherst Junction in 1974 with one elephant. Eventually his circus grew to three elephants, many tigers, horses and several circus acts. Franzen was brought back to Merrill and services were held on Monday before he was buried at Luther Memorial Cemetery in Gleason.
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr