Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
The race for Mayor in Merrill is down to two candidates after the primary election yesterday. Alderman Patrick Nugent and incumbent Mayor Ralph “Fata” Voigt were the two top voter getters in the five way race when the ballots were counted and will now face off head to head in April. Nugent, currently the alderman of the 5th ward, led the race with 1,027 votes followed by Voigt with 751. Henry Golde finished third with 595 votes and took the 6th ward where he had previously served one year on the county board. Finishing fourth with 528 votes was David Moravec followed by Gerald Bauer with 179 votes. The three candidates defeated Tuesday pulled a total of just over 1,300 voters whose votes will now be sought by Nugent and Voigt along with those of others who did not go to the polls Tuesday. In the only other primary race, Harold Hanson, a Lincoln County Board member for over a quarter of a century in the 10th district, was knocked out of the three way race. Walter Kienbaum, now a school bus driver and former sheriff, and George Knospe, a sales representative for ROW Cash & Carry, will advance to the April ballot after out polling Hanson.
Before the polls closed on Tuesday candidate Nugent was busy in Madison filing a formal complaint with the state’s insurance board alleging illegal practices by two of the three members of the city’s insurance committee. Nugent complained to the insurance board that the two men acted as consultants and agents for the city while it was seeking liability insurance last year. Phil Russell and Gene Block both told the paper they welcome the investigation as they had done nothing improper. Nugent claims that the city contracted through a local insurance provider for coverage without soliciting bids, but a member of the insurance group refuted the claim saying the city had solicited insurance quotes from 40 companies but very few were interested due to past losses incurred by the city and also noting the airport and transit system also makes covering the city less desirable. (I will save the anticipation here; both were quickly cleared and had done nothing wrong) In other city hall news, Dennis Cramer has resigned his position as Recreation Director as he has accepted a similar job in Abilene, Texas. Park Superintendent Dennis Donoghue will administer the recreation job until a replacement is found.
Lincoln Hills School in Irma will get a quarter of a million dollars in security improvements after action by the State Building Commission in Madison. State Representative Sheehan Donoghue and State Senator Clifford Krueger led the call for the investments in the facility in the Town of Birch. The money will be used to install mesh window coverings over all residential cottage windows. Last year nearly half of the juveniles who fled the state coed facility did so by breaking a window to escape from a building. The state will also install a 14 foot high woven wire fence topped by security mesh around the recreation area outside five residential cottages. Lincoln Hills had 59 runaways flee the grounds in 1977.
Recent action by the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors has led to the demand for arbitration by Local 332-A of the court house employees. The board voted last week to remove the “Fair Share” clause from the group’s contract. The clause requires all employees who would be eligible to join the union to pay union dues regardless if they had joined the union upon hire. In years previous the county allowed new hires to decide if they wanted to join the union or not, some opted not but are now required to pay union dues. Phil Salamone is the legal representative for the AFSCME group noted the dues for full time employees is $14.90 per month.
A longtime local businessman and a representative to both the Merrill City Council and Lincoln County Board had died. Walter “Gooze” Proft Sr. passed away Saturday at his home at the age of 60. Proft was an alderman for the 9th ward from 1972 to 1976 and was appointed to the county board two years ago to represent district 7. Proft spent all of his adult life in the grocery business. He owned and operated Gooze’s Superette on East Main Street from 1962 to 1978. The building is now occupied by Kids Corner Pizza. (Later Bugsy’s and the Italian U-Boat before the fire which brought the building down) After closing his own store, Proft was the produce manager at Hal’s Red Owl in Wausau and most recently became the night manager at Drew’s East Supermarket. For more than 10 years, the former Merrill Ranger was an umpire and coach in Merrill’s Little League program.
Four Merrill wrestlers are headed to Madison for the state’s individual tournament. They are Dean Nowinski, Joe Ramsey, Craig Josiger and Chris Gennrich. The four survived sectionals at Stevens Point this past week with Ramsey and Josiger making return trips. The girls’ basketball team completed their regular season with a loss to Wausau West. Lisa Wegner led the scoring in the 61-49 loss. The girls will play Lakeland at the Wausau West fieldhouse Thursday in the first round of regionals; they end their Valley season with a 7-9 record. The boys’ team dropped their last two games against West and Antigo and now head to the final game of the season against Wausau East Friday. The boys’ team is currently 1-14 in the Valley and 4-15 overall.
In a sure sign of spring, according to an ad on page 7, the Dairy Queen is now open!
Lincoln County took one step closer to purchasing the former Lincoln School block from MAPS. The purchase price remains unchanged at $250,000. Any environmental or other problems found with the property will be covered up to $7,500 by the school district, if the costs exceed that amount, the two groups would have to return to the bargaining table. According to County Corporation Counsel Nancy Bergstrom, the lot would likely be used for parking, a county safety building, or a judiciary building. (Or Walgreens)
Merrill Police would like to assure you that there are no gangs in Merrill. Lt. Michael Caylor told the Foto News that rumors are still swirling in town after police broke up a fight between four Asian males aged 18-20 and a “few boys from Merrill.” Fear among citizens also increased when rumors circulated that the out of town group had guns, but those were only BB guns according to Caylor. Some local youths are trying to impress friends by getting tattoos and claiming affiliation, but Caylor stated they are just locals who are well known by police. A state and national data base that lists gang affiliation is also available to local police to check out visitors, according to Lt. Ned Seubert, local DARE and Youth Officer.