Community Update: Refurbished Bell Tower Clock a “Timely” Symbol of our History and Future, Capture the Police Experience – Join the Citizens Police Academy

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Refurbished Bell Tower Clock a “Timely” Symbol of our History and Future

On behalf of the City of Wisconsin Rapids, I extend a warm invitation for area residents to experience the restoration of a special part of our City’s proud history. 

Tomorrow, Thursday, September 28, the City will host a Rededication Ceremony the refurbished Wisconsin Rapids Memorial Clock and Bell Tower. We will mark the occasion with a reception from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Triangle Area site across the street from the Bell Tower, with remarks acknowledging involved citizens, vendors and donors at 5:30 p.m.

This large brass mechanism is a clock. In 1892, it was installed in the tower of the Grand Rapids City Hall, which was also home to the T.B. Scott Free Library.

All who share this occasion with us will appreciate that the clock mechanism has undergone a complete renovation, funded by the Mead Witter Foundation. This restoration project enables more operation of the dials and the installation of remote electronic controls to allow repairs during the winter months. The hands of the clock are virtually identical in design to the original hands, but will be easier to read.

This large brass mechanism first was installed in 1892, in the tower of the Grand Rapids City Hall, which was then located on the corner of First Street North and Baker Street. Just before the old building was demolished in 1957, the clock mechanism was saved when longtime business leader Paul Gross, along with some friends, helped to move the clock to the city garage, where it was stored for many years.

During the 1980s, jeweler and historian Paul Gross led a group of volunteers to raise money to restore the Memorial

File Photo – During the 1980’s, a group of civic-minded citizens organized a campaign to build the Memorial Clock and Bell Tower, located on the east bank of the river upstream of the Jackson Street bridge.

Clock, as well as construct the Mead Rapids View Park Bell Tower. Historian Phil Brown joined architect Jerry Feith of Wisconsin Rapids, who drew up the plans, and work began in 1990, with a dedication in 1991 to the early settlers and the Mead families for their commitment to the beautification of local riverbanks and parks.

In 2014, a committee was formed to address restoring the tower and clock to their original condition. After almost two years of work, the exterior and interior of the tower have been extensively reconditioned. Now, on September 28, the Memorial Clock will re-assume its place as a part of this distinctive 55-foot-tall structure.

During the ceremony, the tower and clock will be rededicated in honor of Paul Gross. This is fitting recognition, not only for Paul’s immeasurable guidance and perseverance in jumpstarting and overseeing these projects, but also for his devotion to telling our City’s history in so many ways.

The Mead Rapids View Park Bell Tower is a symbol of where we started and where we’ve been. But the tower also symbolizes the future our citizens visualize as we enter another chapter to revitalize our riverfront district. It is easy to envision this landmark becoming an iconic gathering place for both residents and tourists, while they enjoy our City’s natural beauty and the recreational trail that courses through the park.  

I am proud to see the Memorial Clock and Bell Tower and make an energetic reappearance on our City’s riverfront, and I look forward to seeing all of you next Thursday evening.

Capture the Police Experience – Join the Citizens Police Academy

File photo- A tactical shield is displayed during the 2013 academy.

Experiencing local government – the level that is closest to our residents – is why I offer Mayor’s Councils in areas such as Youth, Beautification and Sustainability. Other City Departments offer ways, as well.

For example, the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department (WRPD) has long committed itself to building positive relationships with the citizens of our community.

That is why the WRPD invites eligible residents to experience life in the shoes of a law enforcement officer, as part of its Citizens Police Academy. The program runs for 10 weeks on consecutive Mondays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., beginning on October 9.

Selected participants have the opportunity to drive squad cars, fire police-issued weapons, observe a demonstration from the WRPD Special Response Team, learn about sensitive crimes and drug investigations, and more.

City residents 21 years of age or older can obtain an application by going to the City website www.wirapids.org], or by calling Detective Andy Dewitt at 715-421-6217.

More than 300 participants have graduated from the Citizens Police Academy. Now, you can share in this unique opportunity. Apply today!

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update: Alexander Field Improvements Begin, Adult Volunteers Needed to Walk Kids to School, Join us for the Splash Pad Dedication Friday, Sept. 1

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Join us for the Splash Pad Dedication Friday, Sept. 1

 

The Splash Pad is substantially complete and ready for late-Summer recreation. Tomorrow, we will formally dedicate the project with the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin which funded $575,000 of the project. Officially, the Grand Opening will be held at the beginning of summer 2018!

Alexander Field Improvements are Underway!

This past Monday, August 28, Alexander Field/South Wood County Airport began to undergo a redevelopment of infrastructure, designed to improve the safety and overall experience of users flying in and out of the facility.  The renovations being undertaken reflect the increased importance of the airport to the economic well being of our community.

ISW Closure 2017

The $800,000-plus project will include reconstruction/realignment of a taxiway, storm sewer installation within the taxiway area and installation of new lighting along the edge of the taxiway. The project is funded primarily (95%) with Federal and State Dollars, with a small local cost-share. The work is scheduled to take nine to ten weeks, conducted in two phases.

 

Phase I (August 28 to September 10):

  • The access/egress point of Runway 30 (east end of the runway) will be closed.
  • Runway 12/30 will be closed as a runway during the entire project, but will continue to be useable as a taxiway.

Phase II (September 11 to late October or early November):

  • To eliminate a hazardous entrance point identified by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), existing Taxiway C will be demolished, then reconfigured and re-designated as Taxiway B, running parallel to short Runway 12/30. This will require closing access to the north terminal apron area and fuel system.
  • Long Runway 02/20 will be closed for up to 10 hours per day, for as many as non-consecutive 10 days. During these closures, the entire airport is considered closed.

Alexander Field/South Wood County Airport users have received detailed information from the Airport Commission regarding the closures and their effects on airport usage. As Commission chair, I will work with fellow commissioners and Airport Manager Jeremy Sickler 
to keep these valued customers updated on the progress of this project. For further information, please call 715-423-0330.

The airport has experienced an increased influx of traffic in recent months, and we can anticipate an even stronger surge with the ongoing development of Sand Valley Golf Resort. Improving our airport’s infrastructure is an encouraging sign that we continue to invest in our future and economic prospects for our area are looking up!

Adult Volunteers Needed to Walk Kids to School

File photo – Walking School Bus.

Can you help to ensure the safety of children in our local community? The Walking School Bus program at Howe and Mead elementary schools is in desperate need of adult volunteer walkers.

A walking school bus is a group of children who walk to school with one or more adults. Adult volunteers walk on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, from 7:30 – 8:30 a.m., depending on the route. You can walk one, two or all three days. You can even form a group to get together and share a route.

For more information, please contact: Beverly Ghiloni at 715-459-5599.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink
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Community Update: Splash Pad Dedication at Mead Field Friday, Sept. 1

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Splash Pad Dedication at Mead Field Friday, Sept. 1

Wisconsin Rapids is proud to mark the achievement of renewed family-friendly outdoor recreational amenities at Mead Field built on the west-side of the city. City leaders are planning to celebrate a soft opening and dedication at the newly constructed Mead Splash Pad on Friday, Sept. 1 at Noon.  A ribbon cutting and brief remarks will also take place during the event.

This is the first in many steps in providing family-friendly outdoor recreational facilities for residents, visitors and for future generations to come. We are also “Taking the Plunge” by fundraising for the Regional Aquatic Center at Witter Field. Our goal is to raise $7 million with corporate, individual and philanthropic donations in order to reach our $12 million goal for a 2019 opening. We encourage you to follow our progress at aquatics.wirapids.org and make a donation to the project.

Earlier in this year, students from Mead Elementary Charter School held a planning session with City staff and the Mayor’s Youth Council to brainstorm and create the splash pads artistic design features .  The outcome of that session spurred the creations of a giant spider, flower, plant and a bullfrog, which is now placed in the center of the splash pad.

This project wouldn’t have come to fruition if it wasn’t for co-investment between the City and Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin who funded the $575,000 for the project.  We are grateful for their contribution and honored for their commitment to help make Wisconsin Rapids a fun destination for families to visit, and pleased that residents and visitors will be able to enjoy this new recreational experience free of charge.

While finishing touches and final testing is ongoing, a soft opening will occur next Friday. The aesthetic features like plantings, grass and other landscaping amenities around the site won’t be complete until later this fall, so we plan to hold a grand opening at the 2018 season opener.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink
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Community Update: Wisconsin Rapids and Biron Recreational Trail Link Closer to Reality

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Wisconsin Rapids and Biron Recreational Trail Link Closer to Reality

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM – A view of the construction along 1st St. N.

During a special meeting held on July 20, members of the Biron Board voted 5-2 to approve an intergovernmental agreement to reimburse the City of Wisconsin Rapids up to the amount of $10,000 for design, construction and other costs associated with the 1st Street North-Biron Drive road and trail project. The entire trail connection is estimated to cost $65,000.

This decision makes possible the expansion of a recreational resource that links multiple communities, by tying into our existing trail system that connects to Grand Rapids, Port Edwards, Nekoosa and beyond.

Over the past three years or so, the Village of Biron has performed a reconstruction of South Biron Drive. During this time, Biron’s engineers reached out to Wisconsin Rapids leadership about a potential connection to the project that would tie into our current trail system. As City leaders, we took a holistic view of this project. By financially assisting Biron, we would create an asset that attracts thousands of residents and visitors each year, and add value to our Riverfront and Community Redevelopment efforts.

Officials from the City, the Village and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative met several times to discuss realignment and trail connection issues. We placed the trail on the Wisconsin River side to maximize the aesthetic pleasure of users, avoid a nuisance to property owners and alleviate snowplowing maintenance questions. As part of the street realignment, the road width was narrowed and on-street parking eliminated. This entire project has been conducted on existing right of way, so that no property had to be purchased.

Wisconsin Rapids construction crews have been engaged in utilities, pavement and asphalt work along 1st Street North, up to the north City limits. We could not, however, begin work beyond our corporate border with Biron without a cost-sharing agreement with the Village. At the July 18 Wisconsin Rapids Common Council meeting, City officials negotiated with our counterparts in Biron to find a solution that allows for a connection. These tough, yet civil, conversations led to the positive July 20 decision by the Biron Village Board.

I want to send out a special thanks to the residents along 1st Street North. These citizens have displayed so much patience during this uniquely challenging construction project. Their understanding and positive attitude have contributed to what promises to be a much appreciated recreational amenity.

For weekly updates from the Engineering Department in-regards to construction, please visit www.wirapids.org.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update: Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment, AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs

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Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – The State Senate budget transportation plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Recently I had the privilege of joining State Senator Patrick Testin to announce a proposal that could very well usher in an era of renewed prosperity in our local community: The State Senate budget plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Airport expansion would establish Alexander Field as a reliable transportation hub with convenient access to anywhere!. The accompanying increased traffic offers more opportunities for:

  • Potential investors to view our assets of natural beauty, affordable living and highly skilled labor force as solid reasons to build in the area;
  • Existing businesses to expand their operations;
  • Event planners to value our area as a prime venue for meetings and special activities; and
  • Stay-over tourists to visit for special events – such as the State Water Ski Show Championships, among many other opportunities.

Making a positive and lasting first impression on these visitors will help to ensure they want to continue to visit the area and patronize regional businesses, resulting in a considerable contribution to the regional economy.

Indeed, Sand Valley Golf Resort General Manager Glen Murray noted, “This is great news that our state officials see the significant value in continued infrastructure investment in Central Wisconsin and the airport. We are grateful for the partnership with Alexander Field and all those that are involved in this community asset.”

As chairman of the South Wood County Airport Commission, I have worked with fellow Commission members Arne Nystrom (Grand Rapids), Katie Martinson (Port Edwards) and Brad Hamilton (Nekoosa) for some time to seek funding for the airport. In the funding request submitted to the State in December of 2016, we emphasized the increased volume and size of aircraft we could expect in the near future and for some time to come from Sand Valley clients choosing private air travel as their means of access to central Wisconsin.

We also pointed out that, through thick and through thin, our community has made substantial investment over the years to support operation, maintenance and development of Alexander Field, viewing the airport as an essential feature for regional tourism, industry, public relations and economic development. The inclusion in the Senate’s budget plan of four million dollars for infrastructure improvements and expansion is a most positive step.

As Senator Testin observed, “This funding will help improve our infrastructure here in Wisconsin Rapids, and will be helpful for businesses and individuals in the region.”

I have enjoyed working with Senator Testin and Representative Scott Krug on this proposal. This project holds a lot of potential for central Wisconsin, and I am confident that the State Legislature and Governor Walker understand the importance of Alexander Field to our region and to the State’s economy as a whole.

AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs

AmeriCorps is seeking a very special person to improve the overall health of her/his community … while also gaining valuable work experience, developing sought-after job skills and enjoying career-building networking relationships.

As an AmeriCorps member, this individual will receive volunteer management training to recruit, train and supervise volunteers for Wood County Community Health Improvement Plan initiatives. Plan priorities include mental health, alcohol and other drugs, food systems, and achieving optimal health for youth and families.

The successful applicant will also create volunteer handbooks, application forms, and brochures; write position descriptions; and update website content and coordinate social media. The service period for this position extends from September 11, 2017 to August 31, 2018.

This is an opening for a person of college age, in particular, to create a record of community service and a vocational background coveted by potential employers.

Often viewed as a domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps places individuals with a wide range of local service programs that meet critical community needs. Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach is a national service grantee, through which individuals are placed with nonprofits across Wisconsin. Nationwide, the program is supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations and other donors.

Find more application information here. You can also e-mail krauter-egge@co.wood.wi.us or anormington@co.wood.wi.us, or call 715-421-8911.

Check out this opportunity today!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update: Fire Department Reaccreditation Affirms Commitment to Community Health, Alexander Field Prepares for Increased Economic Opportunities

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Fire Department Re-accreditation Affirms Commitment to Community Health

I was proud to receive news from outgoing Chief David Kerkman that our Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department has reaffirmed its commitment to the health, safety and well being of our community.

WRFD recently earned reaccreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services  for its compliance with national standards of excellence. WRFD was the first ambulance service to be accredited in the State of Wisconsin and is just one of two fire departments in the State of Wisconsin to successfully complete this voluntary review process.

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File photo submitted by the Fire Department.

To successfully meet these standards, WRFD had to complete a comprehensive application and on-site review by national experts in emergency medical services (EMS). Nationwide, only some 180 ambulance services in the country qualified for this accreditation.

The Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services is a non-profit organization that was established to encourage and promote quality patient care in America’s standard medical transportation system. This mission is realized by establishing standards that address not only the delivery of patient care, but also the ambulance service’s total operation, and its relationship with other agencies, the general public and the medical community.

Each staff member of the WRFD deserves praise for contributing to this recognition. Having accredited EMS capability demonstrates a commitment to excellence that affirms the status of the Wisconsin Rapids area as a desirable community in which to live, work and play.

Alexander Field Prepares for Increased Economic Opportunities

With the emergence of Sand Valley Golf Resort as a major destination and the promise of our City’s revitalization efforts, the South Wood County Airport Commission, of which I am proud to Chair, continues to take steps to enable Alexander Field to meet the needs of an expanding regional, national and even international user base.

A fueling truck was purchased by the airport making it more attractive to pilots to refuel their aircraft in Wisconsin Rapids.

For example, the Commission approved in December of 2016 the purchase of a 3,000-gallon-capacity fueling truck, which was delivered on May 20. This fueling truck enhances our services to more aircraft who cannot access our stationary fueling facilities; improves safety; and offers staff and aircraft operators more landing, taxiing and parking flexibility.

Features include three separate fueling hoses, which allow separate planes to be fueled at the same time, or for two separate tanks on the same plane to be fueled simultaneously. A state-of-the-art water monitor filtration system helps to assure that clean fuel is being delivered to the aircraft.

A view from the back of the truck showing a closer view of the levers and hoses used in the fueling process.

Offering aircraft operators a mobile fueling option upgrades the experience of traveling through our area. Making Alexander Field a more attractive refueling stop for aircraft operators will result in increased fuel sales and profits to further enhance the Airport.

From new equipment, to facility improvement grants from the State of Wisconsin, to active leadership engagement and collaboration, your South Wood County Airport Commission is working to ensure that Alexander Field provides services that go “above and beyond.”

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink
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Community Update: Alexander Field Hosts Events to Promote Aviation Awareness, Youth Lead Community in 4th of July Fireworks Fundraising

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Alexander Field Hosts Events to Promote Aviation Awareness

The local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter invites area residents and aviation buffs to its two annual “Flying Hamburger Socials”, on July 12 and August 9, at our South Wood County Airport-Alexander Field .

The Social travels throughout participating states each week between the months of June to August to promote aviation, increase public awareness of airport facilities and raise funds for the local EAA chapter. This marks the fifth year for “Flying Hamburger Socials” in Wisconsin, and the second year that the event has extended its reach to the states of Michigan and Minnesota.

In addition to potentially seeing an array of small aircraft descend upon Alexander Field, attendees can enjoy a meal that includes hamburgers, fixings, sides, salads, snacks and and drinks. The meal is usually served between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., and donations are appreciated.

As our community attracts more travelers with attractions such as Sand Valley Golf Resort and special events like the Wisconsin State Water Ski Show Championship and Cranberry Harvest tours we value more and more the importance of having a facility such as Alexander Field right in our own backyard.

Show your appreciation, by being on hand for an evening of fun, food and flying!

Youth Lead Community in 4th of July Fireworks Fundraising

Photo by Jen Clark/Mayor’s Office – This group of students from the four area high schools contacted local groups and municipalities, asking individuals to contribute to help cover the fireworks cost of $18,000. They also raised another $2,000 during the fireworks event this year.

The call went out last month for donations to our annual Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July fireworks spectacular … and our City responded with flying colors. This year, both residents and visitors from throughout the region were treated to a celebration of our nation’s freedoms, highlighted by an awesome display of pyrotechnics.

This is a tribute to our community as a whole, and to the tireless efforts of the Teen Fireworks CommitteeThis group of students from the four area high schools contacted local groups and municipalities, asking individuals to contribute to help cover the fireworks cost of $18,000. These young people never stopped – they even raised over $2,000 from the crowd on the night of the 4th!

As your Mayor, I am proud to be part of a community that generously gives of itself for a glorious  local tradition.  Many thanks to all those who were ‘on-duty’ working the event as well as those who volunteered their time!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink
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