Russell named Council President, emergency support program approved
On Tuesday, April 21, the city’s Common Council convened for their biennial reorganizational meeting. Given former council president and District 7 alderman Rob Norton filed non-candidacy this spring, last Tuesday the council introduced the new district seven alderman Mark Weix Jr., as well as selecting First District Alderman Paul Russell as Common Council President.
A Merrill native, Weix is a class of 1980 graduate of Merrill High School. Also a graduate of UW-Stevens Point, Weix taught in Medford for four years before returning to Merrill to teach for another 28 years.
“I retired as a full time teacher two years ago and I currently substitute teach. I’ve lived in Merrill for 50 years and now I’ve decided to go into public service to see what I can do to help my community,” Weix stated last Tuesday evening.
Mayor Derek Woellner then asked for any nominations for council president, to which Fifth District Alderman John Van Leishout would nominate First District Alderman Paul Russell. Second District Alderman Steve Hass was also nominated, however Hass would withdraw from the nomination, citing his previous stint as council president as his reason why.
“Mayor Woellner I would like to withdraw my name from nomination for president,” said Hass. “I was council president for six years in the past, so I think it’s time for someone else to step up and take that role”
With no other nominees, the common council would unanimously vote to make alderman Russell the new council president.
“Thank you guys for making me the new president of the council,” said Russell. “Our former president Rob Norton served on the council for many years and deserves a lot of recognition and credit for the job he did. I will do my best in the next two years to work with each of you and lead the council. I look forward to the opportunity.”
Later in the meeting, the council would go into discussion on a small business emergency support program, which was brought to the council by City Administrator Dave Johnson. According to Johnson, the program would feature a $1,500 grant along with a $1,500 loan for businesses in Merrill affected by the state’s Stay at Home Order.
“This program is an opportunity to help out our local businesses in a time of need,” said Johnson. “This program would allow businesses to apply for a $1,500 grant which can be used for mortgage, rent or utility payments, and a $1,500 loan to be used for the same thing. The loan will be repayable over three years, with payments beginning at the end of this year and the following payments due at the end of each of the next two years.”
When asked where the money would be coming from, Johnson pointed to the Community Development Fund as the funding source.
“All of the money for this program would come out of the Community Development Fund,” said Johnson. “We had just recently received repayment for a loan given out, so there is about $350,000 in that account right now. Also, for this program we will be setting a cap at $100,000 for grants and $100,000 for loans. Once all of that money is used up, we will no longer offer the grants or loans. And again this will be for businesses that are closed down entirely, or businesses that have had a large portion of their business affected by the closure.”
A motion to approve the small business emergency support program was made by alderman Hass, with a second from alderman Van Lieshout. The council would unanimously approve the measure.