Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
A meeting between state and local officials left those attending with more questions than answers this past week. The Wisconsin State Legislature approved a $200 million dollar bonding plan which will create a four lane bypass, or four lane highway between Wausau and Merrill and remove the steady flow of traffic through the city. Local business owners are concerned about the lack of revenue as numerous restaurants and gas stations line the stretch of Highway 51 in the city (Center Ave) and rely on the income the tourists bring. Local officials are concerned about who will build and maintain connecting roads between the existing highway and the new bypass. Mayor Ralph Voigt spoke of his concern over who will maintain and, most importantly, pay for the future replacement of the South Center Ave viaduct if it is considered a city street instead of a state or federal highway. Besides Voigt the meeting was attended by State Sen. Clifford Krueger, R-Merrill, Francis X. Fox, Lincoln County Highway Commissioner, State Rep. Joseph Sweda, D-Lublin, George Theiler, Arthur Heller and Oscar Osness of the highway committee, and Harry Wildes representing the chamber. The state would like to build and open the bypass by 1975 and then extend it up to and around Tomahawk by 1980.
District Attorney James T. Rogers is concerned about safety on our roadways after he received the results of a blood test on a motorist who caused a fatal crash last week north of Merrill on Highway 51. The deceased driver, a 47 year old attorney from Amherst, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .32 at the time of the crash with .15 being considered legally intoxicated in Wisconsin. A second crash the week before killed two Phillips women and a man from Wausau; he had a BAC of .16 according to Rogers.
Merrill Fire Chief Ray Priebe has announced his intent to seek bids for the replacement of the 1968 fire truck that was severely damaged in a rollover crash on September 21st. Priebe is hoping to get a truck identical to the one that was damaged in the crash on West Main St and Water St as he hopes to salvage the 750 gallon water tank that remains undamaged after the crash. Two firefighters, John Reisinger Jr and Lt. Lee Hodgson, remain off work after suffering injuries in the crash. The driver of the pumper truck, firefighter Harvey Emanuel, was not injured. The crash occurred when the crew was responding to a fire at the Alexander Hydro dam in a severe thunderstorm.
Students at Merrill Senior High School are preparing for homecoming week. A host of activities are planned for the week which will be topped by the Saturday football game against Antigo. Queen candidates include Barbara Anderson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Don Anderson, 304 N. Center Ave; Patti Coldagelli, daughter of Mrs. Jane Coldagelli, 106 S. Genesee St; and Lori Holven, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Holven, Lake Pesobic. Junior Susan Sandas and sophomore Katy Zortman round out the homecoming court.
Officials from Weyerhaeuser Corporation submitted their second feasibility report and withstood a hearing in front of the DNR this past Thursday as they continue with their plans to open a sludge landfill in the Town of Corning. Plans for the landfill call for a trench and dike system to hold up to 570,000 cubic yards of the sludge waste on the 44 acre site on a tract of land about 14 miles west of Merrill off of State Rd 64. The sludge landfill is expected to be in operation for 7.8 years before it would be considered full. Currently Weyerhaeuser is dumping sludge in the Marathon County Town of Cleveland, but that landfill needs to be closed by March 1, 1981. Even if the DNR approves the plan for the Town of Corning, Weyerhaeuser would not be able to open the Lincoln County location until at least August, leaving the company with five months worth of sludge of which to dispose. The Town of Corning, through their attorney Thomas Sazama has put up strong opposition to the plan. A formal decision from the DNR is expected December 1st.
County officials are scrambling after the DNR has ordered the immediate draw down of the Prairie River pond north of the Prairie River Dells dam. The DNR told members of the county board that the dam has continued to deteriorate over the last year, and it is at the point where two inches of rain could produce a colossal failure of the structure. Sheriff Ron Krueger had his deputies start delivering notices personally to each homeowner downstream of the dam to warn them of potential flooding. DNR officials would oversee the drawn down but have said they will not offer any engineering advice as they are only a regulatory agency. Residents of the Town of Schley have been working to save the dam whose pond creates a 150 acre lake dotted by cottages and a scenic wayside. By press time the DNR had met again with both county and town officials and conceded the dam may be repairable but wonder if it is economically feasible to this; several consultants have been hired to review the project.
Merrill Area Public Schools is still grappling with how to address sex education with its students in the wake of a report that Lincoln County ranks fifth in the state when it comes to teen births. The latest statistics from the Department of Health and Social Services shows that 13% of all the babies born in Lincoln County came from teen mothers, however smaller counties such as Menominee, Rusk, Langlade and Forest had even worse percentages with Menominee having a 23% teen birth rate. State law requires Merrill to have a community advisory committee to recommend to the School Board on human growth and development curriculum. The district had a committee to tackle those issues but never reached a decision on what courses to offer. The committee grew to 42 members at one time and was never able to reach a consensus on what to teach the students, according to James Boettcher, Merrill curriculum director. Now a new committee has been appointed by the board after the state ordered the formation after a routine audit found it did not exist. The new group includes 20 people including local clergy, teachers, administrators, students, parents, and public health workers.