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



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

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


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



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 or, or call 715-421-8911.

Check out this opportunity today!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


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



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.


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

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



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

Community Update: Wisconsin Rapids Earns U.S. Mayors Award for Bike Share Program, Free Access to Wi-Fi Now Available in Downtown Parks



Wisconsin Rapids Earns U.S. Mayors Award for Bike Share Program

Last week when the U.S. Conference of Mayors held their Summer Meeting, I’m pleased to share that we were recognized through the 2017 annual Mayors’ Climate Protection Award Program. Specifically, receiving the Small City-Honorable Mention Award for our River Riders Bike Share program. The award was presented at the Climate Awards Luncheon on June 23, during the Conference of Mayors’ annual gathering in Miami.

Now in its third year, River Riders Bike Share makes more than 20 community-donated bikes available for checkout by riders at Hotel Mead, the Wood County Health Department, South Wood County YMCA-Wisconsin Rapids and West Grand IGA. Cyclists can check out bikes at no cost, for up to 24 hours. A bike can be returned to any of the locations, regardless of where it was first checked out.

Thus far, River Riders Bike Share has been a tremendous success. During the first two summer seasons of 2015 and 2016, more than 500 bike checkouts were recorded.

River Riders Bike Share is empowering people to re-think how they get from point A to point B; how can we change a car-centric rural community into one that promotes bicycling; a healthier, non-polluting mode of transportation. The bike share program was originally  designed with recreation in mind; however, the primary use of bikes by riders is transportation, an unintended benefit of the program. River Rider bikes have been most commonly used for; short grocery shopping trips, job searches, recreational purposes, work release programs, and visitors looking to explore the area!

Just as important, the conception and growth of the program points to the spirit of community and collaboration that makes ours such a unique and inviting area. River Riders was born through a collaborative community effort under the Healthy People Wood County Coalition; Recreate Health. Planning, implementation and evaluation was done by staff from multiple partner organizations, including; Wood County Health Department, Incourage, City of Wisconsin Rapids, civic organizations, and community volunteers.  

River Riders Bike Share is now it’s third year and continues to see increasing numbers of riders utilizing the program. “Our committee is planning for the future; we’re putting together plans to see if it is feasible to bring a more robust system to Wisconsin Rapids; something you would find in a larger city, but catered towards our rural community.” (Sarah Salewski, Wood County Health Department, Healthy People Wood County Recreate Health Coalition).

The award recognition by the U.S. Conference of Mayors heightens the profile of Wisconsin Rapids as a forward-thinking community, whose citizens are actively engaged in promoting a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live, work and play.

This is the 11th year for the Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, in conjunction with the 2005 Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, to which more than 1,000 U.S. mayors have signed. Under the agreement, signatories vow to reduce carbon emissions in their respective cities below 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Ten awards are given out, with five for large city winners and five for small city winners.

Free Access to Wi-Fi Now Available in Downtown Parks

A potentially important element in our menu of initiatives designed to spotlight our city’s Riverfront and Downtown districts is now “Live”.  That is when the Wisconsin Rapids City Council approved a 12-month trial agreement with Solarus to provide wireless Internet services at Veterans Memorial and Mead View parks. As a result, residents are now able to access the Internet along the river from the Wood Trust building to the clock tower.

This creative government-business partnership recognizes the key role online communications can play in powering a connection to the heart of the City and driving community inclusiveness. Veterans Memorial and Mead View parks are scenic public spaces just steps away from Downtown-area businesses, and are popular gathering spots for people who come out to take in events such as Lunch by the River and our upcoming Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

During the one-year trial, Solarus Media Shower subscribers who visit the parks can gain free, unlimited access by logging into Wi-Fi with their account email and password. Non-subscribers will be able to access the Internet once a week for a free, 30-minute session, and then choose from a menu of options to purchase more Internet services.

Solarus is providing this Wi-Fi service at no cost to the City. As part of the trial, Solarus & the City will survey individuals who used the service to better understand preferences and feedback. City leaders and Solarus will then determine the size of the audience for this service and any changes that may be required.

In the meantime, we invite you to stay connected with free Wi-Fi in the parks for yourself.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: “Did You Know … ?” City Ordinance Enforcement Tip & Northern Steel Castings Statement



“Did You Know … ?” City Ordinance Enforcement Tip

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM
Vehicles can’t be parked on the grass by City ordinance.

Did you know … the City of Wisconsin Rapids has a Municipal Code section that deals with the parking of vehicles, trailers, and recreational vehicles?

Find out more, by visiting Chapter 11 in the ordinances section on the City website. 

This is one of a series of City ordinance updates I’ll be highlighting on a monthly basis throughout 2017. It’s designed to encourage all citizens to do what we can to help our Code Enforcement personnel protect the health, welfare and safety of our citizens.

If you have questions about this or other Municipal Codes, please contact your Wisconsin Rapids Code Enforcement Officer Ray Starks at 715-421-8229 or 715-421-8228.

SeeClickFix is available on a smartphone or a computer desktop to help citizens report issues within the city of Wisconsin Rapids.

In addition, I urge you to put SeeClickFix at your fingertips. This app offers a quick and easy way to report and track City response to possible ordinance-violations through online and mobile download. View the app in action, here. Be part of the solution!



Statement on Northern Steel Castings

Early this week unwelcome news broke related to the business operations of Northern Steel Castings. In December, a fire occurred at their Goggins Street, near Rapids Mall, facility. That situation had a serious negative impact to their business. Since then, they have performed extensive cleanup work and have restored electric and gas utilities to normal operation. Unfortunately, the impact sustained was substantial, and their employees were notified last week that the facility would not return to full operation.

Our thoughts go out to the 40 individuals and families who have been affected since the fire and the most recent determination to cease operations. I issued a statement to clarify facts surrounding the information contained in reports. Read here.

Growing our economy is a constant priority. Setbacks like these are tough to swallow. Nationally, the steel industry remains challenged and that includes operations such as those casters and foundry operators such as Northern Steel. I hope the new Administration continues to make good on their word to support American made industries and that includes those here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: Public Works Projects Continue Important Reinvestment



Public Works Projects Continue Important Reinvestment

The “drive” continues to ensure that our City put on its best “face” as a safe, efficient and accessible home for residents and destination for visitors. Annually we take on a series of public works projects designed to enhance our community’s appeal as a desirable place to live, work and play. Despite flat or declining state-aid payments for important transportation reinvestment, we continue to do what we can.

  • 1st Street North (200 feet North of Poplar Street to the City Limits)

Photo submitted by Public Works Dept. – New curb and gutter along 1st St. N. project was recently constructed.

Work on this project, which began on April 17, will result in adding a recreational trail along the Wisconsin River, the installation of underground utilities, and new asphalt pavement and curb & gutter from 200 feet north of Poplar Street to the City Limits. All underground work is complete on the first two blocks of the project, and work continues up 1st Street North, as city crews approach Pleasant View Drive. Base course gravel will be placed after all the subgrade material is placed and compacted. Contractors have completed the direct bore conduit and gas line on Shorewood Terrace. Work is currently about 50 percent complete, with completion expected by the middle of July.

  • 8th Street South & East Grand Avenue

Construction crews began work May 22 on this Federally-funded Highway Safety Improvement Program project, which is designed to modernize infrastructure, and increase motorist and pedestrian safety, at one of our busier traffic sites in our community. Work consists of replacing water and sewer mains, new pavement, curb & gutter and sidewalk, and new traffic signals. The entire intersection has been and will remain closed during construction, and both sidewalk and roadway detours have been set up. Traffic signals and pavement were removed throughout the first week of construction; new traffic signal and lighting circuit pull boxes and conduit were installed last week. In addition, the road base was placed and compacted, and underground utility work was completed. Placement of concrete pavement, curb and gutter began this week.

  • Mead Park Splash Pad

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – A groundbreaking ceremony for a new Splash Pad took place in May.

After a festive groundbreaking ceremony on May 10, work begins in earnest July 1 on this recreational experience that promotes the health and wellbeing of neighborhoods and local residents. Anticipated completion is expected this summer or autumn of 2017.

Looking ahead:

Washington Street (8th Street North to 12th Street North)

Beginning sometime during the middle of July, this stretch of Washington Street will undergo a full reconstruction that includes replacing water, storm, and sanitary mains and laterals; installing new pavement, curb & gutter, sidewalk and driveway approaches. Project completion is expected by the middle of October.

Witter Field Aquatics Facility

With a mighty assist from the Mayor’s Youth Council, fundraising efforts have begun for this ambitious regional facility. But the process – and the project – begins with us … gifts are vital to the success of this project.

We’re accepting donations, please click here to find out how to donate.

Centralia Parking Lot

Work begins in August to reconstruct the Centralia parking lot. Construction includes replacing deteriorating concrete sidewalk and curb & gutter, and installing new asphalt pavement with a new driveway entrance at the south end of the parking lot on 3rd Avenue South to help alleviate existing entrance traffic problems at the intersection with Goggins Street. Project completion expected during the month of September.

East Side River Bank Trail

Thanks to a stewardship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the City has moved forward to improve and stabilize this essential piece of our Downtown Revitalization Plan. The City is expecting to get permit approval from the DNR and Army Corps of Engineers late this summer, with a groundbreaking and anticipated completion in 2018.  The DNR also was impressed with proposed pedestrian safety and connectivity components that foster recreation and tourism, such as linking the recreational trail from East Riverview Expressway up to the Village of Biron, and from the former Elks Building south to the under-bridge Expressway crossing.

Watching the future of Wisconsin Rapids take shape before our very eyes is truly exciting. While there is work yet to be done, our progress even now is to help us put our best “face” forward.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink