Days numbered for former Tomahawk gas station
In the wake of nearly eight years of vacancy and being a continuous reminder of painful memories for many members of the Tomahawk community over the last ten years, the former Zephyr Fuel Station located at 411 N. Fourth St. in Tomahawk, will soon meet its demise.
Over a year’s worth of effort by a sizeable group of community members to see the building torn down came to a head last Tuesday (April 17), as the city was poised to discuss the matter during its monthly Health and Safety Committee meeting.
However, just 10 minutes before the meeting was set to begin, negotiations between community members and the owner of the property on which the former gas station building is located, came through with an agreement to raze.
While good news to most everyone involved, the news of the successful negotiation was especially meaningful to Tomahawk resident Randy Anderson.
“It’s a good feeling to know it will finally go away,” he said in an interview with the Merrrill Courier on Tuesday. “To see that building every day is a reminder for me of what happened to Rochelle. The station closed shortly after her death and hasn’t hardly been used since. I felt it needed to go and I’m happy now that it is.”
Anderson is referring to the brutal 2008 murder of his 25-year-old daughter Rochelle Anderson.
On the night of March 22, 2008, Anderson’s body was found just after 11 p.m. in a restroom of the gas station. She had been beaten and stabbed and the station was found to have been robbed. Rochelle had been employed as a cashier at the station and was working the 2-11 p.m. shift the night of her death.
Kelly Vandermoss was one of many community members who had joined the effort to bring the building down.
“Rochelle’s murder may have happened ten years ago, but the memory of it is still very fresh and that building hanging around sure didn’t help that,” Vandermoss said. “The effort started about a year ago and the more it carried on, the more people came out to support it. Having it come down means Randy and Rochelle’s family will finally get the closure they deserve. As a community, we would like to see something go in there that will benefit the entire community and maybe boost the local economy. It sits on a corner lot, so I would hope it wouldn’t take long for someone to have an interest in developing the vacant lot, once the building is gone.”
Third District Alderman and Health and Safety Committee chairman Steve Bartz was pleased to see the matter resolved amongst citizens, rather than come to city involvement.
“I’m happy to see a resolution worked out amongst citizens and very happy to see the government stay out of it,” he explained. “We as a committee were ready to take this on and see what we could do to help resolve the issue. Fortunately it didn’t have to go that far and an agreement was reached with the property owner. I think it’s a win win for all involved.”
The standing agreement entails the building to be completely razed by June 1. However, if the current plan does not come to fruition for any reason, the city clerk’s office has been authorized to begin proceedings for an Order to Raze or Repair on the property. As part of the process, the property would be inspected and if in need of repairs, such repairs would be the responsibility of the property owner. Or if an order to raze were issued, the property owner would be required to raze the property or the city would raze the property and include the costs of razing in a real estate lien on the property.
Derek K. Domke, 18 of Tomahawk- was taken into custody in connection to the Anderson homicide case. According to court records, Domke ultimately denied killing Anderson. Domke told investigators he had been asked to clean up the crime scene by another party and was also asked to take items from the gas station. As part of a plea agreement in January of 2009, Domke pled guilty to First Degree Intentional Homicide-Party to a Crime and Armed Robbery and was given a life sentence, plus 15 years. Domke is currently incarcerated at the Maximum Security Green Bay Correctional Institution and will be eligible to apply for extended supervision as of March 22, 2053 when he is 63 years of age.