Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
If you are a resident of the city of Merrill you should be very concerned about what is going on with city officials. If you are a city official you need to recognize the immense responsibilities you have to yourself, to the people you serve, and to your neighbors. Those words of advice, along with a few more regarding having a full time mayor, an improved tax base, financial impact studies before purchases and working with the neighboring communities were given to the Common Council by Mayor Patrick Nugent last night at the monthly meeting. Nugent also recognized Council President Ellsworth “Zonie” Plautz for his 35 years of service to the city as alderman. And then, Nugent resigned. Merrill’s 28th Mayor, the man who at the age of 40 knocked off an 18-year incumbent, is stepping down due to health issues. Alderman Plautz will assume the role of mayor until the common council selects a replacement, a person who will remain in office until the spring election of 1980. Nugent has been plagued by health and heart problems for years and his doctors in Milwaukee are recommending surgery and rest, especially rest from the stress of city hall to aid in his outlook. Some alderman are already discussing asking former Mayor Ralph “Fata” Voigt to return to finish out the term of Nugent, a term that would have been Voigt’s 10th if it not for his defeat by Nugent at the ballot box last April. Alderman Plautz has indicated he has no desire to fill the chair of the mayor on a permanent basis so the council will likely seek applicants for the job. (In reading through his wish lists for the city, Mayor Nugent really did have a great concept on the needs of the city and the future. Unfortunately his life was cut short as he passed away six years later at the age of 47.)
The new high-rise apartment complex for the elderly being built on Main and Scott streets will bear the name Jenny Towers. That name was selected from 906 entries in the contest for naming rights. The winning name was suggested by Roy and Jacquelyn Thiel. The name Jenny Towers and the names of the Thiels will be inscribed on a plaque which will be placed in the new building.
Local news on the business front fills the paper this week. The regular feature story of a Merrill business is Chips Hamburgers and its general manager Cal Hinz. The Wausau based business is managed by Hinz who began working for the hamburger restaurant when it first opened in 1971 and was paid $1.45 an hour. He still flips hamburgers from time to time but the now 25-year-old manages the restaurant in the place of its owner B.H. Levine of Wausau who also owns Chips restaurants in Wausau on 17th Avenue and in Marinette. Cal refuses to take all the credit for his progress in the restaurant industry, he instead thanks his wife Kathy and his 18 part and full time employees. Mel Peterson over at Merrill’s Piggly Wiggly (501 W. Main St.) is bragging about his store’s efforts to lower prices to the consumers in an article on the business page. The local Pig has implemented an electronic pricing and ordering system and the cost savings have been spread throughout the store as Peterson reports all departments now have prices so low he can compete with the big chain and warehouse stores. Lester Heckendorf has retired from the Anson Gilkey Company after 44 years of service. He began working at the company in 1934 as a molder operator earning 25 cents an hour, and now he retires as supervisor of the sash department. In his spare time Lester hopes to hunt and fish more. There is a new business in town as Mayor Nugent is shown cutting the ribbon at Fabric and Things, 924 E. Main St.; it is owned by Gladys Gerritts and Yvonne Lezotte.
The City of Merrill Common Council will once again consider a request from Harold Dahlke to rezone an area on 2nd Street from residential to commercial. A prior request to just rezone his address as commercial was denied. Dahlke operated a small shoe repair business out of the garage of his home since a fire destroyed his commercial property across the street. A request to properly rezone the parcel to bring it in compliance was recently denied by the council which would lead to his business being shut down. In response Dahlke filed 12 written complaints of improper zoning at other home based businesses in the city which he feels are also not in compliance. The city will take the measure up at their March meeting along with the request from Northland Lutheran High School to rezone their former school complex on south State Street from commercial to residential.
The board of directors at Good Samaritan Health Center is looking to the future as they make plans to survive in the ever changing health care market. CEO of Good Sam Joe Younker explains the hospital is not in dire straits but realizes they need to get more out of their current employees as the subsidies from Medicare decrease. Younker notes last year 87 rural hospitals in the United States with less than 100 beds closed their doors due to financial inequities, and Younker feels the reimbursement system unfairly burdens the rural hospitals. Currently 54% of the hospital’s income comes from Medicare, while 67% of its expenditures goes to the salaries and benefits of its employees. Younker fears cutting wages in response to lost revenue, noting he lost five key members of the nursing staff in the last year who moved to larger hospitals which can afford higher wages thanks to better financial packages from insurance and Medicare. Younker and hospital finance director Tom Semling have met with U.S. Senator Herb Kohl to discuss the issues they have with the federal reimbursements.
Former Sheriff Alfred E. Giese has died at the age of 79. Giese was a truck driver by trade until he became the under-sheriff of Lincoln County in 1953. In 1955 he was appointed as the sheriff and he served in that capacity until 1972. After that Giese worked at Bill’s House of Guns north of Merrill as a security guard. Funeral services were held this past Friday at Trinity Lutheran Church, he is survived by his wife LeElda, and one son Richard of Mauston. (His son Richard was the undersheriff of Juneau County and later worked for the Waunakee Police Department.)
The Merrill High School girls’ basketball team has been assured a first place finish in the Wisconsin Valley Conference. The last two games have been blow out victories over the D.C. Everest Evergeens last week 50-42 and this past Tuesday against the Wausau East squad 65-38. The team is 13-2 in Valley play and just has one more game to go with Wausau West.
The field has been narrowed for the new Lincoln County Circuit Judge position that was created by the legislature last year. Merrill attorney Glenn Hartley fielded the most votes in the primary contest with 1,247 with Lincoln County Assistant Corporation Counsel Don Dunphy placing second with 741 votes. Eliminated from the contest was Merrill City Attorney Jim Godlewski who received 709 votes. County Clerk Bob Kunkel noted 13% of the voters in the county turned out to cast ballots. The Lincoln County Building Committee, tasked with building a new jail or justice center, has decided to stop meeting until after the referendum on the matter is held on April 6. Sheriff Paul Proulx is warning committee members that once the location is chosen they need to move fast as the cost of housing inmates outside of the county has now risen to $55-$65 per day and he anticipates the state jail inspector will order him to start shipping out inmates to ease overcrowding. In news on the topic elsewhere in the paper a Merrill reader speaks of his experience at an educational meeting put on by the county board and calls for new blood for that group noting how he watched one of the county supervisors sleep through the meeting while another did not know the names of the streets around the current jail. Also, one county board member has died leaving a vacant seat in District 7 in the City of Merrill. Sandra Scheu passed away this past Sunday while at the Hospice House in Marshfield at the age of 65.