Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
A couple of building expansions around town to talk about this week. On the front page the official ground breaking for the new club house at the Merrill Golf Course is pictured with Jim Corroo, Ray Hinch, Gerald Voigt, Jim O’Day and Bob Holster of the Holster Construction Company of Wausau who will construct the 7,128 square-foot facility. The new club house should be open by mid-February. Merrill Federal Savings and Loan will remove the current office building of Attorney F.A. Doeple, 909 E. Main St., in order to expand the business by 1,750 feet. Gerald Voigt, president of Merrill Federal, advised that the expansion was approved by the board of directors yesterday in a special meeting.
The City of Merrill Common Council has approved the site plan for the potential high rise apartment complex which is being planned for the Scott Street lot. A representative from Hutter Construction went over the plans with the council on Monday night in a special meeting. The building will be constructed for the Merrill Housing Authority and it will likely be a seven story apartment building on the current parking lot. The council did put some provisions in their approval when they requested additional parking stalls be installed and the MHA clear up some zoning and encroachment issues.
Fresh off an overtime victory over the visiting Shawano Indians, the Merrill Blue Jay football team is already looking ahead to their Valley Conference meeting next Friday at Thom Field. The Blue Jays went into halftime behind the visiting Indians 6-0 after failing to score from the five yard line in the final minutes of the second quarter. The Jays started off with a strong drive in the third quarter but came up short due to the strong defense of Shawano. With the start of the fourth quarter the Jays’ offense found new life as they took the ball to the end zone on 12 plays ending with a Dale Yorde touchdown on a one yard plunge. But Phil Borchardt missed the extra point and the game went into overtime knotted at 6-6. After four quarters of stingy defense it was shocking when Merrill quickly scored two plays into the overtime period, but after a second missed extra point try it was up to the defense to hold the Indians out of the end zone. Merrill heads to Wausau East with bitter memories of last year’s 13-0 loss, their first loss of the 1976 season.
A 23-year-old Merrill man faces life in prison after being found guilty by a Brown County jury of robbing and murdering two residents of the Town of Hamburg this past February. David L. Kohnhorst of East Main Street confessed to murdering Edward Langbecker, age 74, and his wife, Ruth, 66, who were beaten and stabbed in their house on State Rd. 107 near the Lincoln County line on Saturday. Feb. 28. Kohnhorst was arrested on March 4 and later confessed to the murders which netted him $45. Detectives with the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office also reported finding a fingerprint which matched Kohnhorst on the Langbeckers’ phone along with a shoe print of his on the kitchen floor. Marathon County District Attorney Rand Krueger presented the case this past week to a jury which was chosen from out of the area due to pre-trial publicity; he called it the strongest murder case he ever tried. Defense attorney John Reid told the jury that Kohnhorst never intended to kill the couple but instead acted in self-defense after Edward Langbecker struck him with a chair. The jury received the case about 6 p.m. Friday and presented its verdict to Judge Ronald Keberle at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday finding Kohnhorst guilty of two counts of murder and armed robbery. He was remanded to the Marathon County Jail with no bond after the verdict was reached. He will be sentenced on Oct. 15 and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. A co-defendant, a second 23-year-old Merrill man who drove Kohnhorst to and from the scene, will go on trial in November, he was charged with being party to the crime of armed robbery. (Kohnhorst remains in prison for life; not that any murder makes any sense, but this has to have been one of the most heinous and senseless crimes I can ever remember in the area.)
Ron Nicklaus, President of River Valley State Bank, has announced the expansion of the company to the Merrill area with a new state of the art bank being built on East Main Street. The new bank will be built just east of the proposed Wisconsin Public Service center in the Pine Ridge area. The bank’s 4,400 square-foot building will have multiple drive up lanes and a community room in the basement. The landscaping and design of the building has met the approval of the newly formed Highway 64 Beautification Task Force. Ground breaking will take place this fall and it is anticipated the bank will open in spring of 1988. The new River Valley State Bank will coordinate its full service branch operations with River Valley State Bank in Rothschild.
A Merrill man whose family is forever linked to the development of Merrill’s west side had died. August H. (Gus) Stange Jr. died Saturday at the age of 85. Stange graduated from St. Francis grade school then from Merrill High School in 1920. He went on to Notre Dame University where he graduated with a law degree in 1927. Stange returned to Merrill to work with his father in the Stange Lumber Company. When the lumber industry slowed down he purchased a local Ford dealership and ran it until selling it to the Rosemurgy Company of Wausau. He became vice-president of Lincoln County Bank which had been founded by his grandfather A. H. Stange, a pioneer lumberman in the Merrill area. His Ford garage was located where Drew’s West is today. While Stange was at Notre Dame he played football for legendary coach Knute Rockne and was one of the “Seven Mules,” the offensive line which blocked for the famous backfield known as the “Four Horseman of Notre Dame.” Stange Park in Merrill was donated by the Stange Family. Funeral services were held today at St. Francis and he was laid to rest at St. Francis Cemetery.
The City of Merrill Common Council is trying to follow the advice of its Finance Director and hold the line on salaries in 1998, but things are not off to a good start. Bruce Redlin told the aldermen at a recent all day Committee of the Whole meeting on the 1998 budget that they should hold all non-union and elected wages as the city deals with cash flow issues. But according to Redlin many non-union employees in city hall are working to try and unionize to force the city to give them step increases like their union counterparts. Alderman Floyd Korpi stated he thinks the employees are already doing well with many making $6,000 or more a year more in wages compared to their counterparts in county jobs. Alderman Robert Monti added that the city has secretaries whose wages and fringe benefits are nearing $50,000 in costs per year. Health insurance premiums for city employees are expected to increase 12% next year and Alderman Mike Wahoske proposed that the increased be passed onto the employees, that motion failed after a 4-4 vote was broken by Mayor Patsy Woller voting no, which means the city must absorb those extra costs as well. As a side note, after the Redlin recommendation to freeze wages the Housing Authority voted to increase the wages of director Wayne Zimmerman by 5% in 1998.