Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
It seems the voters will have a voice in whether the city should annex in 23 acres of land from the Town of Pine River for a proposed shopping center on Merrill’s far-east side. The matter of annexing the land came before the council last night and a vote was held without any debate on the topic after alderman Stanley Frisch pointed out the council had just sat through a three hour presentation on the matter during the previous month and felt it was discussed enough. First Ward Alderman Jean Rogers abstained from voting due to a conflict and alderman Ron Schroeder of the Fourth Ward, Roger English from the Seventh Ward, and Anita Gebert from the Eighth Ward all voted against the proposal leading to its defeat. Even though the final vote was 5-3 the measure failed due to the need for a two-thirds majority. But the matter still has a glimmer of hope as Second Ward Alderman and Council President Ellsworth Plautz requested the matter be sent to the voters for a non-binding advisory referendum during the primary election this September. City Attorney Michael Ravn requested a short recess so he could research the unusual request before declaring it legal. The council then voted unanimously to forward the matter to the September ballot. Developers had said they wanted to go ahead with the project no matter the city’s position on annexing the land, but the connection to city sewer and water seems to be a key stumbling block. Mayor Patrick Nugent opined in his communications that any annexation should require by ordinance that the developers pay for the installation of utilities from the city.
The building now known as old City Hall now has protection from the wrecking ball. Robert Opsahl, chair of the City Hall Disposition Committee, has advised Mayor Nugent that the structure has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior. The property is now entitled to benefits and protections of the Historic Preservation Act and is eligible for matching funds for restoration, acquisition and stabilization. (Scott Mansion, anyone?) The other two buildings in the city with that same status are the Lincoln County Courthouse and the T.B. Scott Library.
In briefs: A feature story tells of the dedication of 86-year-old George Gruetzmacher who still runs a key shop on the south side of Merrill. Gruetzmacher has been a key maker for the past 46 years and began his career by tearing apart jukeboxes. Before he got up in age, Gruetzmacher was the go to guy for bank safes and traveled as far as Canada to service safes. Dan Burk of the Chamber will lead a discussion Thursday at South of the Border restaurant on the increase in rail abandonment by the Milwaukee Road; Representative Sheehan Donoghue will be among the guests. The road to the statehouse goes through Merrill according to gubernatorial hopeful Lee Sherman Drefus when he met with voters this past week at a picnic at Normal Park. The fair is in the books, and now the numbers are in from the animal auction. A total of $30,000 was raised in the cattle barn with the grand champion beef going for $1.50 per pound. That 1,331 pound animal was owned by Jay VanDerGeest and purchased by Marceilles Market.
A former Merrill Police Officer has been killed in a traffic crash. Kirby L. Stoelting was traveling north on State Rd. 107 in the Town of Rock Falls Tuesday night when his motorcycle went off the roadway and landed in the water. Stoelting was removed by witnesses but was dead on arrival at Good Samaritan Health Center. Stoelting worked for over 10 years on the local force before he left for Lincoln Hills School where he served as a youth counselor. Funeral services will be held Friday at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, and he will be buried at Merrill Memorial Park.
In news briefs: The City of Merrill will remain a one stoplight town for now. The city council tabled a measure to install stop and go lights at E. 3rd Street and Center Avenue. The city will attempt to negotiate the sale of land at that intersection to install turning lanes and hopes to have the signals in after the thaw in spring. The city may grow even larger after the latest request to annex land. Stuart and Arlene Smith, owners of Woodchip Corp have requested annexation of their 170 acres in the Town of Scott. The property also houses the company Interstate Trucking Corp; the city rejected a similar request in the 1970s. Lloyd Brewer from Wausau is sore but alive after crash landing his ultralight plane in the Town of Scott Saturday night. Brewer left the Merrill airport about 7:25 p.m. but lost power as he neared Lake Alexander. Brewer said several options went through his mind before he landed his plane in the tree tops near Rae Drive. Neighbors Betty Tesch and John Esser came to his aid with Esser bringing a ladder and rope, but when Brewer tried to extricate himself he fell about 20 feet out of the tree. He was treated and released from Good Samaritan. A long running court battle between the Bartol family and the City of Merrill over the former landfill site in the Town of Merrill has been settled. The Bartols will vacate the property and will receive compensation from the city for it.
After over 12 years shepherding the flock at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Pastor Dan Olson is moving on. Pastor Olson will deliver his last sermon to his local congregation this Sunday with bittersweet feelings. Olson has been called to serve as the senior pastor at Bayview Lutheran Church in Sturgeon Bay. During his tenure in Merrill, Our Saviour’s saw an extensive remodeling process and the celebration of the church’s centennial. Olson credits the success in conveying his message to the Merrill congregation to the relationship with his fellow pastor Rev. John Henning. For his last sermon Pastor Olson’s message will be “Venture forth and trust in faith.” (The venture seemed to have worked, he is retired and still living in Sturgeon Bay from what I could find.)
The City of Merrill Personnel and Finance Committee cautiously waded into the potential borrowing of funds to expand the T.B. Scott Library in Merrill. Back in April voters defeated a referendum to borrow almost $3 million for the project. In the agreement the group hammered out this past week, the city would borrow the $3 million and then use the interest on it to pay for debt payments putting off actual construction until the year 2000. The library itself would have to come up with $500,000 in private donations to assist with debt payments. Borrowing the money now is thought to be best because interest rates are so low and the city could also possibly refinance the debt on the MARC Center.
The Wisconsin DNR has announced it has officially received notice from International Papers of their intent to abandon the Ward Paper Mill dam. The dam, of course, holds back water which creates the lake for the Prairie River which borders the north side of Merrill. The DNR also recently released the results of an environmental assessment report on the dam which was built in 1904 and creates the 188-acre lake whose maximum depth is 13 feet. The new bridge which crosses the manmade lake is about to be completed, according to the DOT. Traffic on Center Avenue will continue to face construction until the end of September where the next phase of that project will now encompass closing Ninth Street to the west.
Dr. Thomas Strick has died. Strick came to Merrill in 1978 and served as superintendent of MAPS until 1990 when he went to Phelps. Strick retired from the school system in Phelps in 1997. He was a veteran of service in the United States Marine Corps and lived in Phelps with his wife Joyce who survives. A service was held Monday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church; he is further survived by his mother, daughter Jeannine, and sons Thomas, Michael, and Jeffrey along with four grandchildren.