Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr.
School officials in Tomahawk are scrambling today to find space for the more than 450 students who are now without a classroom after a spectacular fire destroyed the 71-year-old Washington School in that city early Saturday morning. A passerby phoned police just after 1 a.m. to report smoke and flames coming from the roof of the school located on North Fourth Street. When Tomahawk Firefighters arrived minutes later they found the third floor of the school engulfed in flames. An immediate call for help was made by Fire Chief Les Hanke which brought firefighters from Merrill, Nokomis and Rhinelander racing to help battle the blaze. Routine maintenance at the city’s water tower brought anxious moments as the supply of water in the tower was just 14 feet short of empty. Water officials turned on emergency pumps and Merrill Firefighters stretched 1,550 feet of hose to the nearby Wisconsin River to draw water to fight flames. A referendum was already planned for this November to seek funding to replace the aging school; Superintendent of Schools Ralph Johnson stated the efforts to get funding for the proposed new school near the newly completed high school will now be his priority. Janitorial staff was preparing the school for the opening of the year on Aug. 30, but now instead school staff is looking at a possible delayed opening as space is found for those students. Tentative plans call for students to be distributed between the National Guard Armory, Harrison, Bradley and Fulsher schools. Two modular classrooms in the rear of the Washington School were spared by flames and will also be utilized for the school year.
The Merrill Chamber of Commerce will welcome a new executive vice-president as Madison area native Delores “Dee” Olsen is welcomed to the city. Olsen will replace Daniel Burk whose resignation from the position will take effect Sept. 1. Burk has served the local chamber since 1976 after his graduation from Ripon College. He plans on marrying Elizabeth Pecha and heading off for graduate school in Minnesota in the fall. Olsen was one of seven applicants for the job and her appointment was confirmed by Richard Taylor and the board of directors Friday. She is a graduate of Patricia Steven’s Career College and has continued her education at UW Madison Extension.
In news briefs: The referendum on the annexation of 23 acres of land from the Town of Pine River for a shopping complex on the far east side of Merrill will now appear on the September primary ballot; City Attorney Mike Ravn stated the vote is a non-binding advisory vote. Lee Sherman Dreyfus stopped in Merrill this past week as he campaigns for governor in the state. Lincoln Lanes was the setting for the visit yesterday in which Dreyfus cast himself as an underdog and mocked the spending of his opponent Bob Kasten who has spent a reported $300,000 in his quest for the Republican nomination. Dreyfus told potential voters he has only spend $50,000 so far as he seeks the primary win next month. Plans are underway for this year’s Labor Day parade. If you have an entry please call Lyle Marnholtz, Judy Kautz, or Robert Beyer. Sue Johnson has been appointed as the head of the teaching staff at Parkside Pre-School for the fall session. She is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Stout and taught for two years in the Sparta district, she resides with her husband Kent in Merrill. The boys at Caylor’s are the first ones to say the horrible words “Back to School Sale” in the paper this year; they have jeans from $3.99, shoes starting at $5.99, and of course plenty of Fruit of the Loom underwear and tube sox. Chips Hamburgers is looking for part-time help once the school year begins. Starting wage is $2.55 per hour if you are above 18 year of age.
The Drew family has announced they have captured a pig, Piggly Wiggly that is. The two local stores will soon be branded members of the Piggly Wiggly family. The changeover will take place on Oct. 1 according to owner/operators Shirley and Elaine Drew and their sons Phil and Steve and daughter Shirlaine. Besides the new brand the Drews also plan on building a new store on the far east side of town near the Wal-Mart store. The Drews began in the grocery business in 1945 in a building where the Weith Dental Office stands. The current east side location opened in 1959 and the west side market was opened in 1986. (Shirley got his start in the grocery business working for a young entrepreneur on the west side of town, C.L. “Bud” Caylor in the 1940s)
Cal Hinz began his work in the food industry washing dishes at Jake’s Supper Club in Merrill’s Lincoln House and soon moved on to flipping burgers at Chip’s Restaurant before getting into management and then ownership of the fast food Merrill staple. Now 10 years after taking ownership of Chip’s, Cal and his wife Kathy have taken ownership of EV and AV’s Country Fare, now known again as Club 64 on Merrill’s west side. The Hinz’s are slowly making changes as Cal adjusts to the slower pace of a supper club as compared to a burger stop. They plan on being open six days a week with live entertainment every weekend including an in house piano player. While Cal and Kathy focus on their new adventure, Chips manager Tim Mosser will take care of the day to day operations of that restaurant.
Char Seetan of Gleason will take charge of the Tomahawk Chamber of Commerce this coming Monday. The longtime salesperson for a local radio station will take the helm of the local chamber with a vast knowledge of the work performed thanks to her years of work with the Merrill Chamber. Seetan and her husband Robert have lived in Gleason since 1972 along with their children Rob and Jill.
Another week and another round of bad news regarding the dam at the former Ward Paper Mill on Merrill’s north side. The Wisconsin DNR has decided that a petition to remove the dam is consistent with their water quality standards which will move the project forward. Removal of the dam will mean the lake behind it will be drained which leads to concerns to numerous residents and sports enthusiasts. A public hearing on the matter is set for Sept. 2 at City Hall. Property owners downstream from the dam received notice that they are under a building and remodeling ban until further notice. The ban means no one can build on or alter their property in any way until the city is able to adopt new floodplain or shadow zoning in the wake of a dam failure study by the DNR. This new no build rule extends as far south as the T.B Scott Library and affects numerous home owners.
In local government news: the Common Council buried a proposed ordinance regarding building conformity with little fanfare last week. The proposed ordinance would require all buildings on a property to match, such as garages, sheds and even playhouses. Articles in the local Foto News pointed out the implications of such an ordinance. (That will rise from the grave) The Common Council also voted unanimously to do an end around on a new state law which requires new tavern license applicants to pay a few of $10,000. The city will now pay any applicant a $9,500 development grant upon successful opening of an establishment licensed by the city. The council also ordered that for the remainder of the year any spending over $5,000 must be approved by the Personnel and Finance Committee even if it was included in the original 1998 budget.
Tomahawk Firefighters fought a strong battle against a fire in a landmark building in the Town of Bradley Saturday night. The fire at the Pioneer Inn on State Rd. 107 at Herb Mitchell Road was reported at shortly after 10:30 p.m. Nokomis and Town of Russell Firefighters provided water and manpower to aid in the fight.
The list of candidates for the future branch two of Lincoln County Court has expanded by two. Local attorney Glenn H. Hartley and assistant corporation counsel Don Dunphy have both announced their candidacy for the new spot on the bench. The actual election will take place in April of next year, and the new judge will be installed in August. The second branch of the court was created to alleviate the large caseload in the current single branch of the court. Hartley is an attorney at the Schmitt-Hartley-Koppelman law firm since 1974 and is a graduate of the UW Madison Law School. Dunphy graduated from the University of Marquette Law School and spent five years in private practice before entering government service. (At least two more yet to announce, still got my money on the kid from Iowa)