Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Merrill Mayor Ralph Voigt looked to the future and refuted criticism yesterday during the final presentation to the Merrill Optimist Club. The club has been host to all five men who are running for mayor of the city, a group that will be down to two after the primary election next week. The mayor told the assembly that the property tax climate will not worsen next year despite predictions from some of his opponents. Voigt pointed out the multi-million dollar proposed shopping complex planned for the east side of town and the nearly $8 million in construction over the past two years including 69 new homes. Prior to Mayor Voigt’s remarks the last opponent to address the group, David Moravec, spoke of the positive things around town and his plan to keep the city heading in a positive direction. Moravec was not as critical of the city’s finances as his fellow opponents were, instead wishing to pledge his allegiance to the Merrill Go Round bus service and expressing his desire to preserve Merrill’s heritage.
In news briefs: A tragic accident outside of Tomahawk on Monday evening has left an Athens man dead. The man was a passenger in a vehicle that swerved to miss a truck at the intersection of State Rd. 86 and County Rd. O and was struck by a third vehicle. A total of four people were injured in the crash and brought to Sacred Heart Hospital where 67-year-old George Smola died. This past Sunday a Rockford, IL man was seriously injured after his snowmobile struck a tree in the Town of Schley. That man was riding on a private trail when the crash occurred; he suffered a broken pelvis. Park City Credit Union is now offering safety deposit boxes. Three sizes of boxes are available in their burglar and fireproof vault with prices ranging from $5 to $20 per month to rent the boxes. Letty Zastrow has unveiled her montage painting which now hangs inside of Merrill’s new city hall. The painting was commissioned by the 1976 Bicentennial committee. The painting features historic figures, buildings, transportation and industry around Merrill. (It’s still there)
This month’s feature article on a local business showcases Merrill’s very own Bill’s House of Guns. Bill Winkelman started the business from scratch in his home, and it has grown to a business that does $7 million in volume. (That’s $27 million today) Bill’s has thousands of firearms in stock and offers a 90 day warrant on all firearms purchased. Winkelman points to his loyal staff as the backbone of his business noting they are all experts in what they sell. Winkelman also has three gunsmiths on staff and a shooting range at his disposal if it helps the customer with their purchase. Bill’s gunsmiths have a vast array of parts on guns available including obsolete firearms. If a part is not available the gunsmiths commonly just craft the part in their shop. Bill’s was recently recognized by the federally licensed firearms dealers association for their 10 years of outstanding service, and it is known as the largest gun retailer in the state of Wisconsin. (Before Gander and Cabela’s Bill’s House of Gun’s was it, anywhere you went in Wisconsin if you told someone you were from Merrill most would ask you about Bill’s)
Lincoln County and its court house union may be far from settling the latest contract after action by the county board yesterday. The board sent the contract back to the union which likely will result in arbitration between the two sides. At odds is a provision which allowed employees who would have fallen under the court house union to refuse membership upon hire. That option went away years ago and everyone now hired who would fall under the court house union group is automatically enrolled in the union and pay dues. But those who opted out of the union upon hire years ago have been required to still pay dues to a union they don’t belong to. A total of about 23 employees opted out of the union when they were hired in past years but all are still being forced to pay the $178 in yearly dues. The county board feels that group should be allowed to work without the dues being collected while the union wishes to continue collecting the money. The board did approve a contract with the deputies’ union and agreed to raises for those non-represented groups and the elected officials for their next terms of around 3%.
The MAPS Board of Education and the local teachers union have already submitted their final offers to an arbitrator after their contract negotiations broke down. The union’s chief negotiator Mike VanLieshout has proposed wage increases of 7.5% for the first year and 6.44% the second while MAPS rep Gene Bebel has proposed 5.96% and 5.52% over the two years. MAPS would also like to change the salary structure to have a 20 step process to reach the top while the union wants to have a 10 step process. MAPS teachers have been without a contract since August of last year.
In briefs: Phil Ziesemer Photography has moved into new spacious studios at 813 E. 1st St. The Chamber ambassadors are pictured welcoming the local photog and his wife to their facility. Joni Rathjen, teachers aid at Lincoln School, has received an appreciation award from the Merrill Evening Lion’s Club as a friend of education. Rich Van Der Geest, president of the club is pictured presenting the award with club member Ken Bashara. The Hatz airfield was the busiest airport in Gleason this past week as over 30 planes flew in from throughout the area for the second annual ski fly-in. John Hatz sponsors the event which involves members of the EAA. A new restaurant has opened, the 201 Café is ironically located at 201 E. 2nd St, the Wednesday and Friday special is all you can eat fish fry’s for just $4.25. Dr. Dan Rajek is moving his dental practice to 301 E. 2nd St. Rajek purchased the building from Wisconsin Public Service which will vacate that building next year when they open their new building on east Main Street.
Enough signatures have been collected which will force a bonding referendum for the potential expansion of the T.B. Scott Library. City Clerk Judy Stockowitz confirmed that 471 signatures were filed with her office of the 356 that were required.
Could the city be adding annexing more property? The Merrill City Council has approved a plan to stretch sewer lines down to an area known as Irma Northwoods, a proposed residential subdivision in the Town of Scott. The area is all farmland now but plans call for the city to annex 100 acres to facilitate the addition. The council also approved adding sidewalks on most streets surrounding the soon to be opened Kate Goodrich School. The Board of Public works had recommended against the sidewalks but the council approved the measure 7-1. A three year contract with the city firefighters was also approved. That contract allows a 3%, 2%, and 2% pay raise over each of the three years. Firefighters will not have a deductible payment on their health insurance, and the city agreed to maintain seven men on duty at all times.
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr