Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Things are starting to look a lot like winter around town with seven inches of snow falling in the past week leaving a white blanket on the ground. Chief Charles Johnson reminds you winter parking restrictions begin tomorrow so make sure your car is off the street by 1 a.m. or you face a $5 ticket. Law enforcement reports that the snow storm kept them busy with a total of 25 accidents being reported including one that left a Gleason woman dead. Mrs. Vera Hoots was killed last Wednesday when the vehicle her husband was operating lost control and crashed on Hwy. 17. In the city of Merrill, West Main Street was blocked for some time this past week by Cottage Street when a bus being driven by Martha Mantik slid out of control blocking both lanes of traffic.
The commute in the Town of Rock Falls just got a little bit longer as Lincoln County Highway Commissioner Duane Gau has announced the closure of the County Rd. E bridge over the Wisconsin River. Lunda Construction of Black River Falls will replace the structure at a cost of $352,666 ($1.4 million today). The bridge should be back open to traffic by next October.
From the sports page: Rhinelander proved too much for the Merrill Blue Jay basketball teams this past week. The girls’ team played host to the Hodags but according to first year coach Wendy Kohrt the team was not able to recover after losing Sheryl Heller to an ankle injury and Julie Raasch was benched with foul trouble both in the first quarter. Team foul trouble and a height advantage also did not play well with the home team who dropped the match 46-31. The boys’ team’s visit to the north did not fare much better. They kept up with the Hodags for the first half but were outscored 37-25 in the last two quarters leading to a 62-45 loss. Erik Finanger and Mike Hoff led the Jays with 15 points each. The boys will stay home and host the Red Robins of Antigo this Friday night in the East Gym. Some left over announcements from the championship football season: Erik Finanger, Val Runge and Dale Yorde were all named All State by the Associated Press writers based on selections from high school coaches.
St. John Lutheran Church in Merrill has welcomed a new pastor. Rev. William Volm will be installed this weekend as the new associate pastor of the church. The sermon for the service will be presented by Rev. Joseph Schultz, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Antigo, and the installer will be The Rev. Gerhard G. Michael, administrative pastor of St. John. Rev. Volm comes to Merrill from Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Clemens, MI; he is a native of Bryant and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Volm. (A search online finds him as pastor emeritus of Peace Lutheran Church in Antigo).
Buckle up or face a fine. The wearing of a seat belt is now required in the State of Wisconsin as of yesterday. On the front page Police Chief Charles Johnson and Sheriff Ron Krueger are shown buckling their seatbelts in the chief’s car. Although the police cannot stop you for not wearing your seat belt, if they pull you over for another violation and find you are not buckled you can face a $10 ticket. Once court costs are assessed onto that ticket the total cost for not wearing your seat belt is $32.90. (The state quickly got rid of those actual fees reducing the cost to the intended $10.) Some people are exempt from the new law, including those operating vehicles built before 1972. Failing to restrain a child in a proper seat is more pricey with fines starting at $56.
Yesterday was the first day papers could be circulated for the spring elections, and it appears a race is emerging for the mayor’s position. Ken Sparr of E. 6th Street has taken out papers to run against incumbent mayor Richard Holt. Mayor Holt was first elected to office in 1980 and has indicated he will seek re-election, welcoming the challenge by Sparr.
Tyler Krombholz is just nine days old but he has a distinctive number already assigned to him, 16,000. Tyler John, the son of Bruce and Karen of Genesee Street in Merrill is the 16,000 recorded birth at Good Samaritan Health Center in Merrill. Sixty one years ago the first baby was born at the hospital, a girl to Mr. and Mrs. Mike Hudzinski.
It appears the Sixth Ward is losing its grocery store. Hapke’s IGA announces in this week’s paper that they are closing their doors. The store is presently liquidating the inventory and will have everything marked at 10% off storewide. Jim and Dee Hapke thank their loyal customers and employees and wish them luck in their future endeavors.
A picture on the front page shows what is left of the snow around the Prairie River. The lack of snow has some local weather observers wondering if global warming is having an effect as they remember snow filled Novembers of the past. However, one observer noted that in 1972 Merrill did not see any accumulating snow until Christmas Eve.
Local news reporter D.W. Pfister has an interesting article on the recent budget adopted by the Lincoln County Board, even questioning if it is an election year budget. Pfister noted that the taxable value of Lincoln County real estate has increased about 11% this past year but supervisors were scrambling this past week to come up with a way to lower property taxes. As it stands the county budget will be at about $7.3 million for 1998, compared to $6.5 million this past year. On the city side the budget numbers are still being finalized, but it appears the elected officials will be getting raises. For the first time the city street commissioner and clerk will be elected to four year terms as opposed to the two year terms of the past. The big issue which may face the city is the removal of sick leave benefits from the elected clerk and street commissioner. City Attorney James Godlewski contends because the positions are elected they can come and go as they please and are not afforded sick leave like normal city employees. Normally when city employees retire they can transfer their unused sick leave into premium payments for future health insurance. Godlewski says this is illegal but Street Commissioner Ralph Sturm points out four elected city officials recently retired and had their sick leave converted to cover the costs of the health insurance. Sturm has hired an attorney to challenge the city’s decision. All elected positions in the city will be up for election this year including the new position of municipal judge.
If Merrill builds a new library where will it go? The majority of the nine members of the site committee think it should go on the current library site. The proposal for the estimated $3 million building will be to demolish the 1969 library addition and add a two story building to the rear of the 1911 building. The current site was considered the most financially efficient as using the 1911 building will save $1 million in construction costs. Other sites under consideration for the facility included Normal Park, the First Presbyterian Church site, land adjacent to Church Mutual, Lincoln School block, the MARC Center, Franklin School, or Streeter’s Square. Now the City Council has to approve the recommendation and more importantly find the funding for the project.