Year in Review
As we trade in our 2015 calendars for a newer model, we take a look back at the year that just was. Here is a brief review of the happenings reported in the Foto News in 2015.
Thanks to the support of her family, friends and the community, Merrill’s Emily Artus had the opportunity to travel to Florida to see the Wisconsin Badgers with the Outback Bowl. Emily had made a commitment to attend every home game during her friend and fellow MHS alum Sam Arneson’s senior season with the Badgers. The Outback Bowl win was Arneson’s final out as starting tight end for the Badgers, and he said he will not be pursuing a career in professional football.
After 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Marv Hanson hung up his mail bag for the last time at the Merrill Post Office.
The Merrill Ice Drags embarks on its 50th season, as cars and trucks blaze down an eighth-mile drag strip on frozen Lake Alexander. Coinciding with the first Ice Drags weekend, Merrill’s second annual Winterfest will feature a volleyball tournament and cardboard sled races.
The Merrill Common Council has rejected a proposal to purchase the former Guy’s Shop property at 913 E. Main St. from Lincoln Community Bank for $25,000. The plan was to use the vacant lot as a “pocket park.”
Lincoln County and the city of Merrill are moving forward with a plan for the city to be involved in ownership of the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. The Lincoln County Board voted to pursue joint ownership of the facility, which lacks a grandstand structure and is in need of costly improvements, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the county.
The Merrill unit of the Salvation Army announces that donations reached an all-time high in the 20th year of bell ringing, with slightly over $25,000 raised.
The Merrill School Board has approved the creation of a competitive trap shooting team at Merrill High School. The team is set to start this spring.
River Valley Bank has announced its new Merrill Makeover program. The program will provide assistance with needed home upgrades for deserving Merrill residents, who will be chosen by public vote.
The Foster Grandparent program at Copper Lake & Lincoln Hills School, received a national award from Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. The award acknowledges the success of volunteers with teaching a Title 1 reaading program and providing other educational support for at-risk youth.
Merrill Area Public Schools has employed a consultant to consider the future of Jay Stadium. The stadium, built in 1970, was expected to last 25 years. The district is considering a fund raising campaign to help with the cost of upgrading the facility.
Timeline Vinyl Products has announced they will be ceasing operations in Merrill in approximately mid-March. The company cited lagging sales since the housing market downturn in 2007.
Merrill Area Public Schools is forming a committee to study instructional space concerns at the district’s elementary schools. The school board also approved a $1.2 million expenditure for iPad devices and support for students in grades K-8 as part of the 1-to-1 technology initiative.
Lincoln County wrestlers made the podium at the state individual championship tournament, with Merrill’s Mason Reinhardt and Tomahawk’s Dane Borchardt capturing the top place in their weight classes.
City of Merrill officials met with the Lincoln County Public Property Committee to discuss the future of the fairgrounds. The city is offering assistance with future operational costs.
The Merrill boys basketball team is advancing to the sectional level after a close win over Mosinee in a regional final game that came down to the wire. The boys went on to defeat Shawano in the sectional semi-final before being stopped one game short of state by Rice Lake in the sectional final match-up.
The Merrill Common Council approved an annexation petition from Nortrax Incorporated for 31 acres near the intersection of Hwys. 51 and 64. Nortrax plans to construct a 20,000-square-foot facility that will serve as a John Deere Construction and Forestry equipment dealership and service center.
Fundraising is underway for the construction of a new municipal aquatic center at the Merrill Area Recreation Complex. A donor has committed $4 million toward the project, that is expected to cost $4.5 million.
The city of Merrill has secured a state redevelopment grant of $417,250 to assist with demolition and redevelopment of properties on the city’s east side. The project would include demolition of the former Page Milk building and the completion of demolition on the former Anson & Gilkey property.
Church Mutual Insurance Company has announced it will be leasing the former Walmart building in the Merrill Pine Ridge Mall. Church Mutual will be moving approximately 165 employees into the now-vacant retail building, including its entire claims department. CEO Mike Ravn said the move provides a solution to a space crunch at the home office, while maintaining the company’s commitment to Merrill.
After extensive remodeling, the former Backwater Sports on Cty. K just north of Merrill is back in business as Rutt’n Rod Outfitters. Owned by Merrill natives Jon Smith and Eric Heimerl, the business caters to the outdoors enthusiast.
Following a November 2014 fire that destroyed their milking facility, Breitenmoser Farm in the town of Scott is back in business. The Breitenmosers thanked all those who assisted them following the fire.
A century-old building at 900 E. First St. in Merrill has been demolished. The building, which housed a livery, car dealership and appliance store over the years, was taken by the county for back taxes and sold to the city. The lot will be put up for sale by the city in the hopes of attracting a developer.
At 81 years old, Fran Jeske has announced her retirement from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Jeske had been a secretary in the department for 33 years.
The winners of the Merrill Makeover campaign have been announced with Tim and Brandy Brandt being the grand prize winners. Their home will be remodeled for handicap accessibility. The campaign was spearheaded by River Valley Bank, with additional funding support from the community.
Merrill chiropractor Dr. Gary Mueller has retired, turning the keys to his office over to another long-time Merrill chiropractor Dr. Julie Davis.
The Merrill Housing Authority is putting its redevelopment plans on hold after hearing that it did not make the list for WHEDA tax credits in 2015. MHA had applied for the tax credit to provide the financial means to embark on a significant redevelopment project at their Park Place facility.
The Community Warming Center in Merrill wrapped up its first year in operation having provided 90 service nights to a total of 11 guests. The volunteer-run warming shelter was an outgrowth of the Lincoln County Homelessness Task Force.
The first Community Kolor Run for United Way was a resounding success, with nearly 900 participants enjoying perfect weather and the fun of getting covered in color. Sponsors and organizers of the event, Riverside Athletic Club, are already planning for next year’s Kolor Run.
Construction of a brand new animal shelter building for the Lincoln County Humane Society is underway at the corner of Sixth Street and Memorial Drive. The Humane Society has raised over $600,000 of the $700,000 needed for the new building.
Dancers from Dorinda’s Dance Studio in Merrill will be hitting the road in June to perform at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. More than 70 dancers, ages 6-22, will participate.
Miron Construction Company has been awarded the bid to be the general contractor for the new Merrill aquatic center.
Local emergency response agencies put on a mock crash at Merrill High School to illustrate the consequences of reckless driving. Participating were the Merrill Fire Department, Merrill Police Department, Spirit helicopter, Good Samaritan Health Center, Lincoln County Coroner, Waid Funeral Home and Rod’s Towing Service.
A new exhibit has opened at the Merrill History & Culter Center commemorating the 125th anniversary of Merrill transit. Merrill was among the first Wisconsin communities to start an electric trolley service in 1890.
Park City Credit Union announces that a new branch of the credit union will open inside Dave’s County Market in August.
The Lincoln County Board has offered the fairgrounds property to the city. Included in the deal, the county would reimburse the city for $1.25 million of capital improvement costs, the amount the county received in an insurance settlement after the grandstand was destroyed in a storm.
The Merrill High School Class of 2015 declares “this is it” during commencement. Class members received a total of $1.3 million in scholarships.
The Merrill Police Department donated a retired 2011 Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor to Northcentral Technical College for use at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill, which provides training for law enforcement officers and emergency responders.
The Merrill High School softball team recorded 17 wins in a season that ended with an extra-innings playoff loss to D.C. Everest.
Long-time MHS assistant wrestling coach Brian Suchocki has been named as the new head coach, taking over for Scott Arneson who steps down after 17 successful seasons at the helm.
The city of Merrill has accepted Lincoln County’s offer to take over the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. The Common Council voted 5-3 in favor of the purchase. Within a week of the vote, the city held the first Ad-Hoc Fairgrounds Committee meeting to develop a game plan for the fairgrounds.
A group of Prairie River Middle School students have completed a big project. Under the guidance of tech ed teacher Mark Pugh, the students built a real wooden boat.
Merrill’s Jake Anderson and Morgan Marnholtz competed at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships. Anderson ranked third in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump, while Marnholtz ranked 16th in the triple jump.
Long-time MHS baseball coach Brian Artac is stepping down after 39 years with the program, including 16 years as head varsity coach.
Merrill is now home to a Little Free Library. The “Take and Book, Return a Book” box container is located at Normal Park.
The Community Kolor Run, organized by Riverside Athletic Club, raised $8,000 for Merrill United Way. The donation is nearly triple what was raised by the Run United event the Kolor Run replaced.
The Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce is holding a contest to re-name the Lincoln County Fairgrounds to reflect new ownership by the city of Merrill.
The Merrill Common Council has again declined to purchase the vacant lot on East Main Street where the Guy’s Shop building once stood, despite a recommendation from the city’s Redevelopment Authority.
Park City Credit Union has announced plans for an additional branch on Merrill’s east side. A new building will be constructed between South Pine Ridge Avenue and Lee’s Piggly Wiggly. It is tentatively set to be open by the fall of 2015.
The wheels are in motion for the conversion of a former Merrill DNR ranger station into a brew pub. Stan Janowiak purchased the building from the city of Merrill and is working on plans for Sawmill Brewing Company.
During a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Merrill aquatic center, the Bierman Family Foundation has been revealed as the donor who pledge $4 million toward the new facility.
Merrill native Renee Krueger has been named as the new director of Lincoln County Social Services.
A “ribbon hatcheting” was held at the Merrill History & Culture Center to debut a new Native American exhibit in the Ebert & Sykes Gallery. Historical Society board member and Native American history expert Dave Johnson has spent more than a year researching and designing this permanent exhibit.
Merrill High School tech ed students have completed some unique projects this year as they helped build a retreat center on the Church Mutual campus and also constructed a dog house for Merrill Police Department’s K9 officer, Eros.
Wisconsin Fraternal Order of Eagles honored Merrill police officers, Lt. Greg Hartwig and Officer Matt Waid with the Officer of the Year award for their lifsaving efforts during a call the previous summer.
Rural Lincoln County residents may have access to affordable high speed internet service as early as next year. An initiative is underway to pursue expansion of broadband internet service into the rural areas of the county.
Merrill’s Scott Doerr has been installed as Eagles State President of Wisconsin. Scott has been an active member of the Eagles since 1982.
After a short hiatus, the Merrill Baseball Hall of Fame returns for 2015. Inductees include Al Hehling, Steve Imhoff, Craig Josiger, Jordan Stine, Brian Artac and the 1991 state champion Merrill Rangers team.
In its inaugural season, the Merrill High School varsity trap shooting team tied for first in the conference.
After 18 years as director of the Merrill School Forest, Mary Wendorf is retiring this summer. The school forest torch is being passed to Russ Noland, most recently the lead teacher at Maple Grove Charter School.
The Lincoln County Health Department has been awarded a $50,000 grant to help residents build gardening skills and increase access to fresh and locally grown food. Part of the grant will go toward creating a community garden in Merrill.
The Merrill Fire Department is planning its first ever Citizen Fire Academy, which will offer citizens an inside view of the fire department and some hands-on experiences.
A Lincoln County Highway worker has been killed while conducting flagging operations on Hwy. 17. Marcus Wydeven, 50, was struck and killed by a vehicle.
Immanuel Lutheran Church in the town of Corning is celebrating 100 years.
The Merrill Senior Center is in search of a new home. After 45 years of service, the center is seeking opportunities to move out of the basement of Merrill City Hall.
Nearly 150 visitors including Estonian-Americans from around the U.S. and Canada converged on the Gleason area for a concert July 18. The concert was a fund raising effort to restore the area’s 106-year-old Estonion church.
The Merrill Historical Society presented Century Farm certificates during the Lincoln County Fair to Monty & Joanne Sczygelski and Gene & Charlene Woller. The Sczygelski farm in the town of Scott and the Woller farm in the town of Corning, have been owned by those families for at least 100 years.
The Legion Post 46 baseball team’s state run ends at regionals. The locals won two and lost two in the American Legion Baseball Regional Tournament in Rhinelander.
Local law enforcement officers are connecting with kids through a new program. Police officers are participating in a number of activities this summer, teaching youngsters skills such as archery, bowling and fishing.
The Fairgrounds Ad-Hoc Committee has approved putting out bids for a new grandstand structure.
The inaugural Merrill Lobsterfest was held as a fundraiser for the Tomahawk-Merrill Tavern League Safe Ride Home program. All 300 available tickets were sold for the lobsters imported directly from Maine. The event raised $3,500 for the Safe Ride Home program.
The Merrill Greys baseball team captured the Babe Ruth Northwoods Championship by cranking out a seven-game win streak through the title game.
The Merrill Aqua Jays sent two swimmers, Amber Winter and Ally Woller, to summer state this year. Both girls competed in the 9-10 age division.
The annual MASH blood drive at Kitchenette Park drew more than 200 blood donors. The local VFW posts have gotten onboard to bring a more authentic feel to the event.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed two cougar sightings in Langlade County. Both photos were captured on trail cameras July 9.
The Merrill Police and Fire departments teamed up to host the third annual Community Night Out event at Normal Park. The event invites residents for free food, activities, demonstrations and displays.
A new dance studio is open on Merrill’s west side. Dawn Troyer Dance Studio has moved into a 1,500 square foot space at 1500 West Main St.
Long-time Merrill High School varsity baseball assistant coach Shawn Schultz has been named the new head coach, taking over for the retiring Brian Artac. Schultz has been working with the varsity team for the past 16 years.
A ribbon cutting is scheduled for the River Bend Trail. The event will include the unveiling of a temporary donor sign thanking those who have contributed to the trail’s construction.
Hearing Services at 2801 E. Main St. was welcomed to the Merrill business community with a ribbon-cutting by the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce. The Merrill office is one of six Hearing Services locations in Wisconsin.
Merrill Area Public Schools will be putting iPads in the hands of every student in kindergarten through grade 8 during the 2015-2016 school year. As part of the district’s 1-to-1 initiative, the district is leasing over 1,600 iPads from Apple.
Merrill’s Brooke Bushor has coordinated the construction of a new pavilion at the MARC as her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
After hearing that his bicycle had been stolen, the crew at Auto Jockeys in Merrill chipped in to buy a new bike for Merrill’s Austin Graap.
Northcentral Technical College held a dedication for a rail car that is now being used to train emergency personnel at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill. The former Canadian National rail car was installed at the Merrill campus last witer, thanks in part to the efforts of U.S. Representative Sean Duffy.
Park City Credit Union now has a branch in Dave’s County Market. This is the sixth branch location for Park City Credit Union.
Christ United Methodist Church welcomes a new pastor, Ho Lee, who started his ministry in his native Korea.
Merrill Historical Society and Merrill Transit System are teaming up to celebrate the 125th anniversary of public transportation in Merrill by offering rides along a route taken by Merrill’s trolley from 1890-1921.
The city of Merrill has officially taken ownership of the former Lincoln County Fairgrounds. Following a contest to pick a new name, the property has been re-christened as the Merrill Festival Grounds. A groundbreaking was held for a new 3,000-seat grandstand.
Downtown Merrill has been converted to angled parking on the north side of East Main Street. The angled parking creates additional parking spaces downtown.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has ordered flags in Wisconsin be flown at half-staff in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Einar Ingman, Jr. Ingman, of Tomahawk, passed away Sept. 9 at the age of 85. On the day of his funeral, four Blackhawk helicopters took off from the Merrill airport to do a flyover of the cemetery in Irma where Ingman was buried.
A Lincoln County deputy is credited with saving a boy’s life after a report of a possible drowning at Otter Lake Campground. Deputy Randy Ruleau swam out to save the 11-year-old boy.
Following the passing of Jim “Grampa” Severt in November 2014, the Severt family will continue with the event that Jim started. Jim first opened his family’s farm to the public in 2010 for the “Grampa’s Farm” event.
Trantow Do-It Center has joined the Wisconsin Building Supply family. Wisconsin Building Supply announces the acquisition from Kent Johnson, who will continue leading day-to-day operations.
The Pine River Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating the payoff of the fire station mortgage at the 11th annual pig roast fund raiser event.
Stephanie Springborn of Merrill continues her efforts to revitalize the former vocational school and armory building at 419 W. Main St.
The Friends of the School Forest will host an open house at the Cordwood Education Center at the Merrill school forest as part of the Wisconsin Solar Tour, which showcases solar installations throughout the state.
Church Mutual Insurance Company’s support of the United Way once again reached an all-time high as the combination of employee contributions and the corporate match brought in a total of over $137,000.
Again and Again Resale Shop, owned by Jody and Joe Malsack, was welcomed with a ribbon cutting by the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce. The business has been open since May at 804 E. First St.
A group of Merrill Girl Scouts has installed a second Little Free Libray box in Merrill as part of their Bronze Award project.
Merrill’s Lisa Handlin was inducted into the Wisconsin Baseketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Handlin was a First Team All-Valley player for Merrill High School, and went on to be a leading scorer at UW-Madison.
The Friendship House Restaurant held a fund raiser at the restaurant and donated $5,263 for the Merrill Police Department K9 unit.
The water tower on the former Anson & Gilkey property has come down. The property, now owned by the city of Merrill, is being cleared for redevelopment. The cellular antennas which were attached to the old water tower will be relocated to a new tower on the northeast corner of the property.
Merrill High School will present its fall play, Ax of Murder, Oct. 29-31 in the MHS auditorium.
A fire destroyed the Brown family home at the corner of E. First and Hope streets Oct. 22. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The annual Make a Difference Day raking projects in Merrill have been rained out for the year. Volunteers are still needed for projects.
The Foto News features Merrill pastor Jim Weiland and his lifelong love for table tennis. Weiland recently placed well at the annual Badger Open in Milwaukee.
Lincoln County Board vice chairman and retired Merrill police officer Dan “Hank” Caylor died unexpectedly Oct. 18 at the age of 65.
The oldest living veteran of the Merrill Police Department, “Oopie” English, 90, was invited to join the current department staff for a recent photo in front of the old City Hall.
A movie made in Merrill, “Attack of the Psychedelic Zombies, Man!” was premiered at DAT Bar. The movie was written by Merrill native John Luedtke and involved a multitude of Merrill residents, past and present, on its cast and crew.
The Merrill varsity volleyball squad continued their run in the WIAA post-season, staking claim as regional champs.
The Merrill High School football team’s playoff hopes were dashed in the first round with a 29-27 losss to Medford.
An arrest has been made in the investigation of a suspicious fire that destroyed a home at 1900 E. First St. on Oct. 22.
The city of Merrill has opened the ATV/UTV routes running through the city. The signs along the route have now been installed.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation held a meeting in Merrill to discuss options for upgrading Hwy. 64 from the Hwy. 51 interchange to Cty. W. Roundabouts may or may not be part of the final plans for the project, which won’t get underway until at least 2019.
The Merrill volleyball team ran into the Altoona Railroaders, who knocked them out of the state tournament in the sectional finals match.
Dr. Greg Gill has announced this will be his last season as team doctor for the Merrill High School football program. Gill has served as the team’s volunteer physician for nearly 30 years.
The youth group at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church has collected $2,275 to benefit the Brown family, who lost their home to a fire on Oct. 22.
If all goes as planned, Merrill could be home to a new community garden as early as the spring of 2017. The county has received a grant that will help fund the community garden project.
A plan for a new John Deere Construction and Forestry dealership and service center in Merrill is on track for a spring groundbreaking, reports Nortrax, Inc.
Eight local residents completed the first ever Citizen Fire Academy put on by the Merrill Fire Department. Over the past 10 weeks, participants got an inside look at the fire department’s work and training.
The Merrill Area Community Foundation announces 14 grants totaling over $10,000 have been approved for the Beyond Crayons and Computers program. The program recognizes Merrill educators by funding their innovative ideas.
Merrill’s Mason Reinhardt has been named the Wrestler of the Year by the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association. Reinhardt pulled off a huge upset in the state wrestling tournament last winter to capture the 170-pound state championship.
Shear Essentials, owned by Jen Taylor, has found a new home on Merrill’s west side at 404 W. Main St. Taylor opened the salon at its former East Main Street location in 2006.
Weinbrenner Shoe Company surprises the Merrill Fire Department with the gift of two sets of turnout gear.
Park City Credit Union announces that the new east side branch location will open Dec. 14. The new building has been constru
cted between Pine Ridge Avenue and Lee’s Piggly Wiggly.
The Mitten Tree has reappeared for a 34th year at Miller’s Home Furnishings on Merrill’s west side. The Mitten Tree collects hats, mittens, socks and scarfs that are distributed to children in need in the Merrill area.
The Rotary Club presented a donation of $10,000 to spearhead a lighting project on the River Bend Trail. The project will bring wiring and pole bases to the trail.
Pine Ridge Restaurant held a fund raiser with proceeds of $2,590 going toward improvements at the Merrill Festival Grounds.
Red Roof Mini Storage, owned by Mark and Nina Skic, is open for business on Cty. G. The Skics built the storage facility on land that also houses their business, Taylor Insulation.
The Merrill Christmas Parade ended at the Lincoln County Courthouse, where Santa lit a 20-foot tall wreath built and donated by Mitchell Metal Products. There are no trees lit on the courthouse lawn this year and the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce is raising funds to acquire more decorations.
Bell Tower Residence Assisted Living received a $125,000 grant from the Bierman Family Foundation. The grant was used for technology updates to Assisi Hall.
Local caregiver Diane Goetsch, owner of Kindhearted Home Care, was invited to speak to the Legislative Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
A wooden train that was once a holiday decoration at Merrill’s east side fire station, has reappeared on the Lincoln County Courthouse lawn. The Caylor family refurbished the train and placed it at the courthouse in memory of Dan “Hank” Caylor, who passed away in October.
The Merrill Commmon Council has voted unanimously in favor of a charter ordinance to eliminate the elected position of Street Commissioner. The elected post would be replaced with an appointed director.
The Brown family is on the mend after their home was destroyed by fire in October. Joe Brown recounts the harrowing experience the night of the fire and the long road to recovery.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating allegations of abuse against staff at Lincoln Hills School & Copper Lake School at Irma. In the wake of the investigation, leadership has been changed at the facility.
Amy Steffen of Merrill has started a mobile art studio, Gallery on the Go with Amy, which brings the fun of painting to parties and other functions.
The Christmas exhibit at the Merrill History & Culture Center is open through January. An open house kicked off the exhibit which features the Santa suit worn by Leonard Donoghue, who was Merrill’s secret Santa for 25 years.
Church Mutual Insurance company employees moved into the new CM2 Merrill Satellite office, housed in the former Merrill Walmart building. The former retail space has been heavily modified for Church Mutual’s use.
A DNR research project designed to shed some light on the population and habitat preferences of Wisconsin’s bobcats includes several cats caught and collared in Lincoln County.
Ministry Medical Group’s Merrill clinic, currently located on the fourth floor of Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center, is moving to a new, expanded location in January 2016. The new location at 3430 E. Main St. is in the strip mall between Lee’s Piggly Wiggly and the former Walmart building that now houses Church Mutual offices.
Rich Poirier is named to become the new CEO of Church Mutual Insurance Company, taking over for the retiring Mike Ravn.
Monthly fundraisers at Humphrey’s Pub have helped raise more than $10,000 for a number of local causes.