Fotos from the past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Political news fills the paper this week from City Hall to Madison to Washington. Locally property taxes in Merrill are going up and Mayor Patrick Nugent and City Clerk Robert Klug are pointing the finger at Madison. The city had been planning on a bump in the shared revenue program of about $2 per $1000 in assessed value as compared to last year’s share, but instead the state dropped the payment by a nickel. The total city budget this year is $5.42 million and residents will see an increase of about $44 per $100,000 of assessed value. State Senator Clifford Krueger has been re-elected the leader of the Republican Party in Madison. He is pictured with incoming Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus. Congressmen on both sides of the aisle are shocked at the sudden and unexpected death of William Steiger (R-Oshkosh) who was found dead Monday morning in his Washington DC home of an apparent heart attack. The 40-year-old congressman, first elected to congress in 1966 when he was just 28 years old, was often mistaken for an intern during his first few terms and had to show his identification card to gain access to the House floor. Steiger was also a well-known speaker in Wisconsin appearing in front of many civic and GOP groups; he spoke in Merrill in front of the Rotary Club this past Halloween. Condolences have come from President Carter, House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, and fellow Congressman David Obey.
Candidates for local offices can begin circulating papers this Friday for the April 3 election. You have until January 2 to file for offices for local township and school board seats both in Merrill and Tomahawk. Possibly the most watched contest will be for the Lincoln County Circuit Court spot being vacated by the retiring Judge Donald E. Schnabel. Two Merrill attorneys have announces so far that they will seek that post, Richard Olson of North Genesee Street and William Wulf of Scott Street. Olson is currently the Lincoln County District Attorney, a position he has held since 1976, and Wulf is the former Merrill City Attorney, having held that spot for six years beginning in 1972.
The DNR has released numbers on this year’s nine day gun deer hunting season. In total 34,659 deer were registered in the northern region, a number the DNR considers a “substantial increase” over previous year’s harvest. In total 20,345 bucks were taken, a number the DNR is disappointed with due to the “abundance of available deer” in the district. In a follow up to the season, the DNR held a meeting at the Lincoln County Sportsman’s Club this past week to discuss past and future deer hunts. Of the 140 men who attended most were opposed to the idea of making the gun hunt a 16-day event. The DNR has spoken in the past of adding an extra week to the hunt for regions north of State Rd. 64 or US Hwy. 8. Those assembled feared the north woods becoming a shooting gallery filled with hunters from down south all congregating in northern Wisconsin.
The City of Merrill Common Council welcomed a new alderman and approved the city budget this past Tuesday. Matt Holt will fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Russell Grefe who moved from the district. Holt will serve until the spring election in April; he is the son of former mayor Richard Holt and is employed as the frozen food manager at Carl’s Foodlane. Four other candidates applied for the open seat, Marian Meyer, Dennis Grefe, Max Gordon and Roger Mootz. The council also approved the 1989 budget and tax levy. Taxpayers will be happy to see the city’s portion of the property taxes are going down for next year by a dime. That gain is quickly lost by an increase in the county of 24 cents and by the school district who raised their levy by $1.32. In a message from Mayor Ken Sparr on page one he cites all of the improvements to the city in the past year including the addition of 100 acres of land, the vast improvements to the city’s streets and water and sewer mains, the addition of two parking lots, and numerous businesses to the landscape.
The Merrill Business Council has elected its leaders for 1989. Lee Kusserow will head the group as chairman, Mike Howland of Howland’s Ace Hardware will be vice-chair, and Robert Johnson of Johnson’s Pharmacy will be treasurer. Members of the committee include Roger “Budda” English, Scott Voigt and Jim Bares. The Merrill Business Council was formed in 1985 with the merger of the East and West Side Business Associates. The Merrill Business Council is not affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce but works closely with the group for events and promotions throughout the year.
An update on the status of the restoration process of the future Merrill Historical Museum. The Merrill Historical Society (MHS) took possession of the building which was once home to Merrill’s first mayor Thomas B. Scott. In later years the home was owned by the Littlejohn and Heib Families before it was converted into the Krueger and then Wistein Funeral Homes. The MHS stated their first project was to remove the “funeral parlor” feel of the layout of the building and develop it so it could be used for exhibits and social functions. Each of the owners had left their own touch on the home and it was felt the best way was to return it to its Victorian splendor. Without the funding to hire restoration experts, members of the MHS instead attended workshops throughout the state and sought help from the Wisconsin Historical Society in restoring the building. Plans are to open the building to the public in May of next year, or a year and a half after the lease was assumed from the neighbors at Christ United Methodist Church.
If you pay property tax in the city of Merrill your tax bill will have both good and bad news. First off, the school system has a slight decrease in the tax rate but the city has an increase. In a statement to the city, Mayor Michael Caylor explains the reason for the increase is the city had to repair its rapidly shrinking general fund. Caylor explains the city had been spending much more than it was taking in and the general fund had shrunk as a result. Caylor points to the health care plan, which was not adequate to the city, debt from the MARC Center as a result of uncollected or unpaid pledges, and the increasing number of employees. To combat the slide the city has refinanced the debt, enacted a hiring freeze and have asked all department heads to reduce expenditures without reducing services. Caylor and City Finance Director Bruce Redlin caution that the city will still have to make hard decisions in the future in order to bring the general fund back to health and calls the financial hardship temporary.
Supervisors Melissa Schroeder and Phil Cohrs of the Lincoln County Board held a press conference yesterday and called for the dissolution of the county building committee. Schroeder and Cohrs would like the committee reorganized with the addition of four citizen members, along with the choice of the current jail site being added back to the referendum question slated for the February ballot. The group did approve a referendum on the subject of the proposed jail or Justice Center but kept the choices of possible locations to the ice rink by Pine Crest, the area known as Jack Pines north of Pine Crest, or the now vacant Lincoln School lot. Schroeder stated the makeup of the committee was not as was originally intended and she did not see how a temporary subcommittee would be allowed to spend up to $18 million. Resolutions the pair will present to the board also call for future meetings regarding the proposed building project be held during evening hours to accommodate more citizens. Meetings the building committee does have listed are scheduled in various places in the county to discuss the plans with the public; two of the six meetings will be held at 1 p.m.
A deadly year on the roads of Lincoln County only got worse this past weekend after a crash in the Town of Scott. The fatal crash happened at the intersection of County Rd. K at County Rd. Q just as Merrill’s Christmas parade was about to get underway. The crash occurred when a vehicle traveling west on County Rd. Q failed to stop for the stop sign at County Rd. K and crashed into a vehicle traveling north. Three people from Medford in the westbound vehicle were killed, while a Merrill woman and her unborn child who were in the northbound vehicle also were killed. Emergency responders from Merrill and Wausau all responded to the crash, Sheriff Paul Proulx has made a public appeal for the county to install rumble strips at this intersection, the site of many crashes over the years, several of which were fatal. So far this year, 17 people have lost their lives on Lincoln County roadways.