Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Merrill Chief of Police Gerald Plautz and Sheriff Alfred Giese have both agreed to consider sending their latest recruits to a new 160 training course designed to set the standard for law enforcement officers throughout the state. The program will begin in Wausau with the first class this January. John Harrington, field representative for the Training and Standards Bureau spoke of the class in front of the Northeast Crime Control Council during a meeting in Merrill last week. Plautz told of his intention to send a recruit starting on January 1st to a one week state patrol academy, but he instead will look at the local course. Giese said he would ask the Lincoln County law enforcement committee to approve the training for at least one deputy he has on probation and three others who would qualify. The training is completely paid for by the federal government. (Look for the names Caylor and Proulx on that first roster)
Police reported no real problems around town with Halloween, however an arsonist set fire to Jefferson School, 1601 W Main St. Harold Hanson was leaving work at the nearby Northern Door plant when he saw the flames coming from the doorway at the Water St entrance. He ran to a nearby home to turn in the alarm. Firemen from the Sixth Ward station quickly arrived in the scene and extinguished the fire which was confined to the doorway; smoke filled most of the school and that odor may linger for days. Keen eyed officers took in their share of eggs, spray paint cans, and other items during contacts with some ne’er-do-wells.
Merrill police and firemen will now sport an American flag on their jackets thanks to a donation from the local Optimist Club. Patrolman and Marine Corp veteran Donald Trantow was the inspiration for flags which will be placed on the right sleeve. Chief Plautz noted, “during these days of demonstration and brazen disrespect for the American Flag, I can assure you that our officer officers will wear these proudly.” (They still do)
No real news to report on the local election front as all seven incumbent office holders in Lincoln County run unopposed. Elected to new two year terms were: Register of Deeds Warren Weckwerth, Sheriff Alfred Giese, County Clerk William Oldenburg, Coroner William Braun, Treasurer Florian Koehler, Clerk of Court Lucille Lokemoen, and DA James T. Rogers – all republicans. Gov. Patrick Lucey narrowly carried Lincoln County by 198 votes as he won a four-year term in statewide totals.
A federal grand jury has handed down indictments against three owners of the former Anson and Gilkey factory in Merrill charging them with multiple counts related to the attempted arson of the plant last June. The incident began when Merrill Police interrupted a bungled attempt to burn the structure by two men from Illinois who were captured after kidnapping watchman Phillip Boyce. The pair would never identify the third suspect who escaped that night but soon implicated Charles Conant, reported to be an attorney and chairman of the board of Anson and Gilkey, along with Frank Biggs of Chicago, Daniel Schlacks of Hoffman Estates, IL, and Fred Welchman of Los Angles. A joint investigation by Merrill Police, the state fire marshal, and the FBI revealed the plant operated at a loss of $500,000 in 1979 and was $200,000 in the red in 1980 when production was suspended. If the factory was burned the owner and creditors would have reaped insurance cash upwards of $6.5 million on the buildings and equipment. The land is now owned by Lincoln County Bank, the only bidder on the property at a recent auction.
There was a wave of Republican victories during last night’s election, and locally both local members of the legislature and all local office holders are now Republicans. Former actor and California Governor Ronald Reagan will become the 40th President of the United States after winning in all but a few states in the nation, sending President Jimmy Carter back to Georgia after one term. Locally six out of nine Merrill wards supported Reagan, while in the county he won by over 1,000 votes. State Senator Clifford Krueger will return to Madison to begin his 31st year representing the 12th senate district; he ran unopposed. State Representative Sheehan Donoghue won by her largest margin of victory as she was reelected to her fifth term for the 35th assembly district. She defeated a challenge by James Mabry of White Lake; the final total there was 13,940 to 8,656. Locally, County Clerk Kenneth Oldenburg, County Treasurer Florian Koehler, Sheriff Ronald Krueger, Coroner James Janowiak, Clerk of Court Janet Beyer Thums, DA Ken Dudley, and Register of Deeds Warren Weckwerth will now serve two year terms. Krueger and Dudley defeated challengers in the primary.
The Catholic Community of Merrill has made an offer to Merrill Area Public Schools to sell their building on East 10th St to MAPS for $1.3 million dollars. Father James Kraker of St. Roberts says operating two church and two schools for the same mission is redundant and too costly to continue operations and estimates the churches would be out of money if they continue in this manner for five more years. Father Edward Powell of St. Francis Church said the current buildings on W 10th St would become the school complex and the two parishes would combine in a new yet to be built church. Powell noted the two churches split 30 years ago and he hopes this merger can be done smoothly. (It happened, but it was the west side that was sold.)
The elections are over locally with voters sending reps from both sides of the aisle to Madison. Representative Tom Ourada withstood a challenge from Phil Schneider while tavern owner Roger Breske defeated Gordon Connor for the 12 District Senate seat that was vacated by Lloyd Kincaid. Tommy Thompson was reelected governor of the state by a wide margin, but this was only one of a few republican victories statewide. Locally, Jolene Callahan will be the first new register of deeds in 26 years as she replaces her boss Warren Weckwerth who will retire in January. Callahan defeated democrat Dave Hart. Marlene Fox will be the next count clerk; she defeated Penny Ourada, a democrat, in an effort to gain the seat being vacated by retiring clerk Elizabeth McHenry.