Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor, Jr.
What will be the future of radio in Merrill, now that our local radio station has been purchased by another provider? Don Roberts of Minocqua, executive vice president of Northwoods Enterprises, has announced that his company has purchased WXMT AM and FM. The station, whose studios are in the Lincoln House Motor Lodge, plays middle of the road country music. (I think that means both country and western.) Roberts did note that Ken Farnsworth will stay on as the manager and no personnel changes are planned. Northwoods Enterprises also owns WJMS radio, a 5,000 watt AM station in Ironwood, MI. (Now known as WJMT, while the call sign WXMT is now used by a radio station in Smethport, PA.)
August Braatz is looking for young ladies 14 or older and single to be candidates for queen for this year’s Polka Festival. The event will be held in August at the fairgrounds; Braatz advises interested candidates to seek out Steve Blake or Bud Schmitz who are co-chairs of the contest. The Merrill Optimist Club is sponsoring the fest.
School and City officials have all inspected and agreed that the Jefferson school is in poor shape. Recommendations from the various sources have gone from expanding the exits and installing emergency routes to just replacing the school altogether. Patrick Nugent, president of the Jefferson Parent Teachers Organization, thinks the building could be saved for a few more years if more exits from the basement are added. Currently, the only exit from the basement goes to the center of the building where it meets with two stairwells, and the exit routes from the lavatories, creating a literal traffic jam of students in the case of an emergency. Ross Brietzman, a state building inspector, told of his concerns for adequate exits coming from the cafeteria. Charles Pierotti, City Building Inspector, explained his concern about the lack of a proper exit from the gymnasium of the school. Both the building sub-committee and the citizens’ long-range planning committee report the building just needs to be replaced. The School Board hopes to put any decision off until next spring but concedes they likely will need to spend a lot of money either renovating or just replacing Jefferson.
Unemployment in the County has hit an all-time high, and no relief is expected soon. The rate of unemployment in the County is 13.2 percent for the month of March. Unemployment compensation paid to County residents for the month was also the highest for a single month at $435,846. James Alft, the manager of the local job service office, reports the economy in general is not improving, both nationally and locally. Currently, 1,540 local people are collecting compensation, with the average check being $110.89.
The Chamber is hosting a joint meeting of the East, West, and Sixth Ward business associations to discuss store hours. A survey was sent out recently to merchants on current and preferred store hours in order to get some uniformity on all sides of town. A special committee on advertising is also scheduled to give their report. The meeting will be held at Les &J im’s, with cocktails at 7:00 p.m. and dinner at 7:30, and cost is $5.50. (This is when the push went to change the 8:00 p.m. closing on Friday to Thursday, which didn’t work so well.)
Staff members of Lincoln Hills School at Irma staged an informational picket outside of the school this past week. Wayne Wianecki, field representative for AFSCME Council 24, says plans to close two cottages will result in the elimination of seven jobs at a time when security issues remain a huge concern. Last week a female counselor at the facility was assaulted and injured by a female student, a girl from Milwaukee sentenced to the facility. School Superintendent Russell Leik said he has little choice but to close the cottages in the wake of state mandated budget cuts. Leik is hoping to shift students to another maximum security cottage and said he hopes a reserve cottage won’t be needed. Staff members stated this is the worst time to make cuts at the institute now that runaways and assaults are on the rise.
It is back to the drawing board for the City Plan Commission, who had to scrap plans for a new sign ordinance targeting Merrill businesses. Little was said, and meetings to discuss the plan were held in empty rooms, until last week when news of the plans brought strong opposition from merchants and the Chamber alike. Local pharmacist and store owner Robert Johnson explained how he just spent $675 on a new sign outside of his business on West Main St., a sign that would now be illegal under the new ordinance which would ban overhanging signs. Bruce Boettcher, owner of Bruce’s Cover All on E. 1st St., wondered how many traffic crashes will occur when vehicles have to slow in shopping districts to find stores.
A Town of Merrill man was killed last Thursday afternoon after a fire in the basement of his home. Emil Ricci, 79, was pronounced dead on the scene by Coroner David Haskins. Haskins, acting as the chief detective for the Sheriff’s Office, said the incident involved a quickly moving fire, and gasoline was involved. Merrill firefighters were told initially of the need for only an ambulance, but firefighters quickly followed when a deputy noticed the fire.