Enjoy the National Public Lands Day, Early Voting Underway, Crossing Guards wanted

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Early Voting for the November Election Under Way

This past Monday, Wisconsin Rapids had the distinct honor of being among the first in the nation to open early voting (in-person) for the upcoming historic 2016 Fall election. I was proud to join over a dozen other residents to cast an early-morning ballot.

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Filling out my in-person absentee application

Eligible residents can cast their ballots at City Hall, 444 West Grand Avenue, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You can also register to vote at the City Clerk’s office at City Hall if you are not yet on the voter rolls, or have changed your address or name.

Please keep in mind that if you intend to vote, you must have a photo ID. Deadline for early voting is Friday, November 4, four days before the November 8 Election Day.

If you can, take advantage of this convenient opportunity to make your voice heard, by exercising your precious right to choose your elected representatives. Don’t risk Long lines or Election Day obligations that may keep you from voting!

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-10-52-28-amAt left:  City Clerk Paul Przybelski explains the voting process for the 2016 fall election in this short video or click, here.

 

National Public Lands Day an Invitation to “Kick Back” and “Give Back”

IMG_0585Did you know that more than 30 percent of America’s land is public land? From neighborhood parks or beaches such as Veterans Memorial Park and Lake Wazeecha, to awe-inspiring national parks, public lands are the places where we can play, exercise, learn and relax. Now, all of us who enjoy these public spaces have a chance to both “kick back,” and “give back.”

The 23rd annual National Environmental Education Foundation National Public Lands Day, on Saturday, September 24, is the nation’s largest, single-day effort to connect people to public lands, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation and general health.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-10-26-06-amAs a special incentive, this Saturday is a fee-free day for all federal public lands and many state parks.

You can invite family, friends, students or coworkers to spend the day outdoors, helping to keep our public lands free of litter and invasive species; take in some outdoor recreation; or simply learn more about plants and wildlife.

Get out on Saturday to enjoy the great outdoors and celebrate the lands that give us so much.

Wanted: People to Keep Our Kids Safe – Hiring Now for Crossing Guards

If you have an interest in staying active and want to help young children, the City of Wisconsin Rapids needs you. As we move ahead in our school year, we are looking for individuals to work day and/or afternoon shifts (approximately 7:45-8:45 a.m. and 3:15-4:15 p.m.) as Alternate School Crossing Guards. Compensation is $10.66 to $11.73 per crossing. For more information, or to apply, please click here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Market Block Party, Council Selects Path on Aquatics, City Visit with Congressman Kind & Tribune receives Urban Design award

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Residents Celebrate City’s Past, Present and Future During Market Block Party

I was gratified by the enthusiastic response by area residents to celebrate the past, present, and future of our City during the two-day Market Block Party on Tuesday evening, August 23rd and Wednesday the 24th.

The City and the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce hosted the party to commemorate the clearance and reclamation work on the triangular Market Block bounded by 1st Street North, East Jackson Street and Market Street.

I personally thank the vendors who provided food and beverages for this twin event: Culver’s, J Squared Catering, Jamaican Kitchens, Rocky Rococo, Hawaiian Ice, Klaus Treat and S&S Distributors. Special appreciation also goes to the local entertainers who entertained us with live music: Goats in Trees on Tuesday evening, and Dade Grode on Wednesday.

The Market Block Party allowed us to reflect upon the hopes and dreams for redevelopment and renewal of Downtown Wisconsin Rapids. As I have stated previously, it is our intent to get this property made aware of to developers who will commit to building a multi-story, mixed-use structure that could contain apartments, condos, offices, retail space and restaurants. In this regard, event attendees demonstrated their engagement, by offering numerous ideas and suggestions that will surely be considered as we explore ways to best rebuild this area.

The City purchased the buildings previously occupied by Spath Accounting, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Bring’s and Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. City crews completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building by mid-April. Once the former Good Time Charlie’s building has been removed, engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment. With that due diligence underway, we have just begun the proposal process to select a qualified developer partner for ultimate redevelopment.

  • The City of Wisconsin Rapids is seeking statements of qualifications from developers (individuals, firms, or teams) interested in presenting a viable design and development concept  For more information in regards to Requests for Qualifications, please click, here.
  • The City of Wisconsin Rapids has just finished seeking proposals from qualified firms interested in contracting with the City to provide building demolition services for the removal and cleanup of the City-owned site. For more information in regards the Request for Proposals, please click, here.

As planning/development proceeds, I urge you as community members to continue making your voices heard on what opportunities you see for the site. The future vitality and prosperity of our City lie in the hands of all our citizens.

Council Approval of Outdoor Regional Aquatics Facility Brings City One Step Closer Toward Meeting City’s Recreational Needs

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 3.39.50 PMDuring a special Council session held Monday, August 22, Wisconsin Rapids City Council members voted 7-1 to pursue a regional-scale outdoor aquatics facility at Witter Field. This decision came as a result of extensive consideration by the Council of a YMCA collaborative opportunity for access to their indoor aquatic facility as well as consideration of a municipal-owned and run outdoor facility. Resident participation was high- with interested individuals weighing in via letters, phone calls, emails, social media and participation on my radio show. Many residents expressed interest in realizing both indoor and outdoor options. The council decision to pursue an outdoor facility brings this position closer to reality.

Council Video: https://youtu.be/iwfBy0lZLA0

WR Tribune Coverage: https://goo.gl/6O1mUU 

After discussion among Council members, Public Works Director Joe Terry, YMCA CEO Bret Salscheider, citizens in attendance, and myself, the Council ultimately viewed this proposal as one that would provide our residents with predictability, optimal affordability and accessibility in terms of both location and hours of access. Having a City-controlled project also would make more certain an opening in time for the summer 2018 season.

pool-layout_2-conceptualBurbach Aquatic’s general scope proposal estimates that this project would encompass about 57,000 square feet. In addition to the aquatic recreational aspect, the facility would offer enhanced park facilities expanding the use beyond the summer season. A facility such as this would not only to attract residents but visitors from around the region for visits from a few hours, but encouraging extended, overnight visits.

At this point, the investment in a facility of this scale would be a minimum of $5 million, with the exact budget established after City leadership considers more details and designs as the development process goes forward.

In a second vote, Council members unanimously voted in favor of exploring the option to also install splash pads strategically throughout the City.

It was encouraging to see the level of interest this meeting evoked among members of our local community. About 50 residents attended, several of whom were given speaking time by their alderpersons to offer their opinions.

Although the majority of the Council felt that public funding should go to an outdoor facility, I would add that the YMCA vision of a healthy living center is certainly an exciting project. As someone who has lived my entire life in this community, I believe that the financial and human capital exist to make the Y’s project a reality now even with the Council’s decision not to contribute City taxpayer funding. A community of our size has the resources to ensure that indoor and outdoor facilities can coexist and be sustained. I look forward to encouraging and supporting the development where possible.

Alderman Todd Ferkey echoed this view when he advised Bret Salscheider to contact neighboring municipalities, as well as local foundations, to pursue funding options for the realization of the YMCA proposal. As Alderman Ferkey pointed out, having both outdoor and indoor aquatics options would provide a regional attraction that would generate revenue for our local economy, and make Wisconsin Rapids & central Wisconsin a better place to live and raise a family.

As the project-development process progresses on this important effort, I encourage residents to remain engaged and keep City officials aware of any concerns, questions or suggestions. We intend to include resident participation in various aspects of the design process. This is a community endeavor that will become reality only with the full participation of our citizens.

Roundtable discussion takes place with Congressman Kind

City staff and I recently had the opportunity to visit with Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District to talk about issues and challenges that face our community.

KInd 1a visitRep. Kind, whose district includes Wisconsin Rapids, is a highly touted conversationalist who also understands that sustainable economic development helps build stronger and more vibrant communities, resulting in a higher quality of life.

During our meeting, we talked about local job growth, the waterfront development project, local infrastructure challenges, changes in the photo identification law in regard to elections and ways to provide early capital for local entrepreneurs to invigorate business.

Director of Public Works Joe Terry shared his vision and suggestions to help maintain and replace local roads, wastewater and other infrastructure in our community. He stated that keeping pace with repairs and replacements of 150 miles of local roads requires more federal funding, as well as a more efficient way to apply for grants to help fund these projects.

Group Ron KindWe also discussed the need for a highly skilled workforce to help alleviate the shortage of experienced, well-trained workers our community is going to face over the next 10 years.

During my tenure as Mayor, I have valued the importance of meeting with both state and federal leaders such as Rep. Kind, to voice the concerns and aspirations of our community. This exchange of ideas and goals, in turn, can help plant the seeds for progress and revitalization that benefit our community for generations to come.

Incourage Urban Planning Award Emphasizes Tribune Project Value to Downtown Redevelopment

In the midst of so much progress being made being made to revitalize our Downtown area, Incourage has just been honored for its Tribune Building Project with a 2016 American Planning Association (APA) of Wisconsin Award for Urban Design. The award highlights an approved design concept for a new or redeveloped area of unusually high quality.Tribune Building Drawing

This recognition is especially gratifying for our City, in that Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, nominated Incourage for the award.

Tribune Building Updates/FAQ can be found here.

The Tribune Building Project was judged on the criteria of originality and innovation; value added to the community; quality of physical form; relationship to the natural environment; and long-term sustainability.

Planners from Michigan and Minnesota reviewed the Tribune project, which one judge praised for its “visionary approach to community engagement and design.” Recognition such as this underscores the importance of the Tribune Building Project in generating enthusiasm and attention, as well as its potential for helping us to transform our Waterfront District.

Incourage will be presented with its award on September 23, during APA Wisconsin’s “Planning for Prosperity” Conference in Appleton.

With more than 2,000 residents thus far having contributed their time, ideas and energy, the Tribune Building Project reflects our community’s priorities to support entrepreneurial activities, local business and increased environmental awareness. Congratulations to Incourage for nurturing this important initiative.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

 

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World Water Ski Show and Downtown Grand Affair Celebration this Weekend!

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World Water Ski Show Tournament Brings Invaluable Exposure to Wisconsin Rapids

The competitive aquatic sports world will be watching Wisconsin Rapids, September 9-11. That’s when the World Water Ski Show Tournament takes place at the Red Sands Beach area of Lake Wazeecha in South Wood County Park. Teams from the United States, China, Canada, Belgium and Australia will compete in this highly competitive international sporting event.

World Ski showWatch the video created by Wisconsin Rapids Community Media for World Ski Show, here.

The tournament will serve as another opportunity for our community to display to a wide audience our world-class hospitality in welcoming people of different backgrounds and cultures.

In addition, this event promises to have an enormous economic impact. The influx of dollars will come not only from spectators during the competition itself, but from the participants, most of whom will be in town throughout the week – providing a longer duration of economic opportunity for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality service businesses.

The World Water Ski Show serves as the peak of summer sports excitement for the City of Wisconsin Rapids. This year, we also have experienced the thrill of the 50th Annual Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships, and the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters’ incredible run to the Northwoods Collegiate League World Series Championship. All in all, our community could not have asked for a better summer of success and exposure.

If you have a chance, take time for the World Water Ski Show Tournament and continue to express our unique Wisconsin Rapids tradition as warm and gracious hosts. Congratulations to Visit Wisconsin Rapids & WR Aqua Skiers on making our host bid a successful one!

2016 Downtown Grand Affair Celebrates Tradition and Future

One of my favorite times of the year occurs when our community celebrates the end of summer and beginning of fall in our own way. Once again, the past, present and future of Downtown Wisconsin Rapids will be the focal points of the 16th Annual Downtown Grand Affairon Sunday, September 11.

Grand AffairFrom 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., West Grand Avenue and Grand Avenue Bridge will come alive with activities and special events the entire family can enjoy, including arts and crafts, farmers market, live music and food vendors, and the annual Cruise-In Car Show. Sports fans can also take in the Packer Game & Beer Tent.

You can also take in a bus tour of Historical Wisconsin Rapids, or a nature exhibit featuring the works of 35 local artists at the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center.

In addition, all past and present emergency services personnel, active military members, military veterans and the general public are invited to join in a special acknowledgement of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at Veteran’s Memorial Park, beginning at 11 a.m. Performances of traditional patriotic tunes will be followed by a moment of silence, as we remember those who were lost on that dark day and their loved ones. (A group photo of emergency services personnel, military and veterans will be taken after the ceremony.)

Please join me as we close out the summer on both a festive and a patriotic note, on September 11!

“Get to Know Your City” Spotlights Our Local Public Servants

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 1.27.10 PMThrough his monthly City television program, “Get to Know Your City,” City of Wisconsin Rapids Multimedia Coordinator Tom Loucks for Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM) offers you an opportunity to learn more about the City officials, departments and offices that make Wisconsin Rapids work. The current edition profiles the career and work of Wisconsin Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jim Neitzel, while also providing an overview of the department’s responsibilities. Tune in “Get to Know Your City” on Solarus High Definition Channel 3 or Charter Standard Definition Channel 985, streaming on www.wisconsinrapidscommunitymedia.com, Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm or any time on demand the Community Media’s website.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Market Block Party Celebration Kicks Off Tomorrow

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You’re invited to Celebrate at the Market Block Party

1st St 1918 photo 04All area residents are invited to attend and enjoy the Market Block Party in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, near the corner of First Street North and Market Street, across from the Wood County Courthouse and Clock Tower. This City and Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce-hosted event takes place tomorrow evening, August 23, from 5:00-8:00 p.m., and then again on Wednesday, August 24, from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and live entertainment by Goats in Trees will add to the festive atmosphere tomorrow night and by Dane Grode on Wednesday.

We will celebrate the clearance and reclamation work that already has been accomplished at the Triangle Block site. It also will be a time to reflect upon the hopes and dreams for redevelopment that will help to re-create and revitalize the Downtown Wisconsin Rapids experience for residents and visitors alike.

IMG_2690Last year, the City bought the buildings previously occupied by Spath Accounting and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/ formerly Brings, and just recently took ownership of the former Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. On February 29, City crews started demolishing the former Spath and USDA office buildings. Along with other City and Wood County representatives, I took a ceremonial sledgehammer swing to signify the beginning of the end for these buildings, which were dilapidated and had outlived their useful life. City crews completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building by mid-April.

Once the former Good Time Charlie’s building has been removed, engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment.

image1[1]As I noted in my March 11, Community Update, we don’t want to be a landlord, or to have long-term ownership of the site. We want to get it in the hands of private developers who will commit to building a multi-story, mixed-use structure that could contain apartments, condos, offices, retail space and restaurants. We have just began, in earnest, the proposal process to select a qualified developer.

We urge you to share your ideas during the Market Block Party about the future of this location- as any community redevelopment must be representative of our people and aspirations. And to acknowledge the historic significance of the Triangle, we also ask that you send any photographs that capture experiences you have shared at the site to jclark@wirapids.org.

In the meantime, bring your friends, lawn chairs, blankets, and join us at the Market Block Party, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Hope to see all of you there!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Wisconsin Rapids Aquatics Options Offer Path Forward to Exciting Aquatics Offerings

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Aquatics Presentation Offers Path Forward to Exciting Aquatics Offerings

With a tradition of over 100 years of public aquatics, the City is looking at how best to use public funds to continue ensuring access to safe aquatic recreation that meets the needs of the entire community – kids, families, and seniors. Research into this decision has required considerations that are core to our community’s vitality including economic development, engaging youth and young families, inclusiveness and access.

HIGH DEMAND
A theme that has repeatedly occurred in feedback received from community members is the preference for both and indoor and outdoor aquatic options in the City. Why can’t we have both? has been asked many times. Both the City’s aquatics consultants and the YMCA’s consultants have determined that there is the market and desire for a regional aquatics facility as well as an indoor facility.

A SHARED COMMUNITY ASSET
There are also economic opportunities for the City to take advantage of with an outdoor aquatic center that relate to the overall value and long term impact over the 40-50 year life of the facility.  An aquatic center is a family destination. Situated in Witter Field, near the library, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, the Skate Park, Dairy Queen, East Junior High, and other amenities the entire Witter Field area becomes a family friendly entertainment hub. There is potential for regional draw to the entertainment hub that could result in economic development. An outdoor option would encourage residents to spend their money locally (instead of traveling to Weston or other areas) and entice others to visit our community. As an example, two teams passed on attending a WRYSA tournament in our community this summer due to the lack of outdoor aquatics.

A MORE COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP   
If continuing the historical precedent of both and indoor and outdoor aquatics in the City is the preferred goal, the question before the Council and before City residents is how best to use public funds to further this goal.  We explored the idea and found that through existing relationships a partnership of philanthropy, non-profits, the YMCA, the City, and the surrounding municipalities can make both of indoor and outdoor aquatics offerings happen for Wisconsin Rapids residents, and would not require a choice between one or the other.

The YMCA is a tremendous asset to our community and at the forefront of healthy living, and specifically, for indoor aquatics opportunities. The YMCA, with the full support of the City, can pursue their Healthy Living Center and the indoor aquatics piece, as has been their historical place in our community as a private organization. In the context of achieving ‘both’, the City’s greatest impact can be achieved by stepping up and committing to building an outdoor aquatics center, as the only partner at the table who can dedicate the resources. The City could make the financial investment in this community asset – to build the facility, maintain it, and operate it. As part of this collaboration, the City would work with surrounding municipalities to establish access for their residents help ease the burden on City taxpayers.  These discussions have already been happening.  It is not the intention to delay a decision or construction until such collaboration comes to fruition.  It is a win-win for the partners and all residents of Wisconsin Rapids to work towards continuing to provide both indoor and outdoor aquatics offerings to meet our community needs.  The City is asking all partners, both private and public, to join with the YMCA and the City in making these aquatics facilities a reality.

See Size Comparison here. See the FAQ here. View All Aquatic info here.

Features of the proposed YMCA indoor aquatic center would include:

  • Lap pool with 6 lanes, a climbing structure, inflatable play element and ADA lift. Lazy River, shallow water play
  • Family recreation pool with a lazy river, water slide, movable basketball hoop and ADA lift
  • Shallow end of the pool with a play structure and splash pad, and ramp access from the deeper water.Option A Plan
  • Spa/whirlpool and interactive water feature will be next to the shallow end
  • Sauna and pool viewing/lounge area
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • 8,000 sf of water area for a total facility size of more than 14,000 square feet
  • 2,500 hours of non-member community access per year, with reduced admission and swim lesson rates
  • Maximum pool user capacity: 152 people; Facility Capacity: 335 people
  • Expected life of 50 years

A YMCA operated facility indoor facility with shared access offers the advantages of providing daily access to residents on a year-round basis. The city would not have the expense of operating a facility, a savings of $70,000 per year, but would still contribute to a to-be-determined maintenance reserve fund.

An outdoor facility seeks to achieve four common objectives: Recreation, wellness, competition and education.

The city considered proposals for outdoor swimming facilities that would be located at either the current Mead Pool site or at Witter Field. Proposals were broken down by probable construction cost ($4.6 million to $8.4 million, probable city operating subsidy ($49,900 to $76,200), total water surface area (8,486 to 14,584 square feet) and maximum user capacity (468 to 737).

Outdoor ConceptualConsidering a regional aquatic center sized for a community our size, characterized by more than 10,000 square feet of water surface area; a multi-use facility where people make multiple visits, staying an average of 4.5 hours per visit. The regional concept also would tend to attract people from a wider geographic area. This is an important consideration, given that a total of more than 103,000 people live within a 30-mile radius of Wisconsin Rapids.

Amenities considered in Burbach Associates outdoor regional facility would include:

  • Diving tower
  • Splash pad/spray feature
  • Multiple slides
  • Shaded structures
  • Zero-­depth entry pool
  • Lazy river
  • Picnic shelter area
  • Concessions
  • Grass lounge area
  • Children’s play areas
  • Pool surface area capacity: 570 people; Total Facility capacity: 737 people

An outdoor facility owned and operated by the City would be in a central location in the city, easy for youth to get to the facility and other amenities. While not year-round, during prime time periods has availability for uninterrupted open swim time, allowing for greater spontaneity of visits and easing time constrained access concerns. An outdoor aquatic center has a greater capacity than any previous facility. The current plan has capacity for 570 bathers, with an additional 167 in the deck areas.

Comparison Chart here:

Youth Perspective

The July 26 Aquatics Presentation also was highlighted by a video summary of results from an aquatics survey of young people conducted by the Mayor’s Youth Council, which was represented that evening by Lexi Allworden, Claire Freeh and Ryann Swanson. The survey, which connected with 515 area youths, ages 13-18 and grades 9-12, revealed:

  • 56% in favor of building new pool in place of Mead Pool; only 3% think it’s a poor idea
  • 42% would “most likely” use an inside pool; only 5% not likely
  • Use of new pool in different location, 43% very likely; 5% not likely
  • Favorite site: 63% Witter Field site; 32% at current pool site; 5% other
  • Top teen desires: Wading pool machine, diving board and concessions

These findings confirm the importance our local youth attach to recreational aquatics opportunities in our area.

A new aquatics facility will require both capital to construct and a budget to operate annually. Regardless of the preference – indoor or outdoor – generally new aquatics facilities serving a city or regional scale cost a minimum of $5 million. The city would borrow for a term of 20 years to pay back the capital investment. We will also be actively seeking donors and sponsors for various aspects of a facility. The property tax impact on a $100,000 property is estimated to be approximately $33.80 per year, for 20 years. Historically low interest rates make the timing ideal.

Public aquatics has been a component of the City’s fabric for more than 100 years. City leaders understand the social, recreational and educational importance of public, universal access to swimming pools. As was stated during our presentation, an aquatics facility provides a space where children, adults and families can enhance their health and well being; and where individuals can get “connected” and experience a sense of belonging.

With time to ponder the array of potential options now available, the City Council will establish a “path forward” at a special Common Council meeting on Monday, August 22. It is our shared desire to have a new public aquatics offering up and running by the summer of 2018. Your alderpersons and I continue to welcome your feedback and questions.

I encourage you as residents to make your questions and opinions heard by calling my office at 715-421-8216, or by posing your comments/questions via e-mail at aquatics@wirapids.org. Citizen engagement is the key to answering our community’s desire for a quality aquatics experience.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Senator Baldwin Tours Waterfront, Still time to “Stuff the School Bus”, Come together for the Community Picnic

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Senator Baldwin Waterfront Tour Builds on Passage of Waterfront Development Bill

I had the honor last Wednesday of joining U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin when she toured our Wisconsin Rapids waterfront and the Tribune Community Accelerator Project.0720Baldwinvisittribune

During her close-up look at our waterfront potential, the Tribune Community Accelerator Project site and Lowell Center, Sen. Baldwin discussed with us her Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act, which passed the Senate on July 14. The bill calls on the Secretary of Commerce to support community efforts to attract water-dependent industries and investments that leverage water sustainably, revitalize neighborhoods, and enhance recreation and tourism. The bill is now in the U.S. House of Representatives for final consideration.

DSC_6654Sen. Baldwin’s waterfront legislation could help our $9.5 million riverfront redevelopment plan move closer to reality. As the senator pointed out, government agencies can provide resources that many small communities cannot generate by themselves.  This viewpoint aligns with that of our local civic leaders, who have recognized that our redevelopment must include multiple funding sources.

For example, $672,000 has been awarded by the DNR to the riverfront enhancement project and our Downtown redevelopment initiatives have twice within the past year been recognized by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation with more than $600,000 in grant funding.

Sen. Baldwin’s support of our efforts to make the most of our waterfront shined through in her praise for the special assets our community provides in terms of people and natural resources. She noted how inspired she was by the Tribune Building project, from the perspectives of the breadth and depth of the vision for this downtown site, and the degree of public engagement that has helped to shape and accelerate the realization of that vision.

We look forward to following the progress of Sen. Baldwin’s bill as it now makes its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, with a view to making access to grant money a major part of the final legislation.

UnknownVideo of Tammy Baldwin’s visit.

Still Time to Join in “Stuff the School Bus” Drive to Help Area Students

2015-08-06 12.06.08The United Way of Inner Wisconsin’s “Stuff the School Bus” event is just a week away … but there is still time and opportunities for individuals and organizations to do their share to help ensure that children have the tools to pursue the precious gift of education. Volunteers make it happen!

Bring your donations to the annual “Stuff the School Bus” event  during Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch by the River on Thursday, August 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. During that time, a parked bus will be “stuffed” with donations of school supplies. Monetary donations are also accepted.

Through August 4, you can also purchase school supplies and bring them to organizations throughout the area that have been maintaining collection sites in lobbies, entryways or break rooms.

This annual drive provides much-needed school supplies for south Wood County students whose families who are in financial need. Eligible students will be able to pick up their school supplies at “Stuff the Desk,” which will be held Saturday, August 13, at Lincoln High School.

For more information on how you can help area youths get a leg up on a successful future, please contact Amy Fluno at United Way of Inner Wisconsin at 715-421-0390 or amy@uwiw.org.

Celebrate the Unity of Community Next WednesdayScreen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.43.50 PM

Everyone is invited to join family, neighbors and friends along the Riverfront next week, for the 5th Annual Community Picnic.  You and yours can enjoy food offerings from local restaurants, beverages and family entertainment – including live music, kids’ inflatables and a petting zoo – on Wednesday, August 3, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.

We thank Incourage Community Foundation for conceiving and investing in this great event, to help realize its vision of a community that works well for all people. Deep gratitude also goes out to individual residents, nonprofits and businesses, who generously donate time and material resources to help to make the Community Picnic an opportunity for our residents to come together as one.

So, bring your lawn chairs or picnic blankets Downtown next Wednesday evening. For more information, call: 715-423-3863.

I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Aquatics Presentation, Verso, Wisconsin Rapids Ranked for Teachers, 50th Annual Water Ski Show and Housing Study Survey Winners Announced

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Aquatics Presentation

Next Tuesday, July 26th @ 6pm in the Library Auditorium, a presentation will be made on the aquatics options from which the City will consider to invest in. This is an important moment in our present-day discussions related to public aquatics for our residents. Mark your calendar!!

Aquatics Presentation NoticeThe community has long been faced with the imminent end-of-life reality of public pools serving our region. When the we met with the State agency that issues pool licenses  (DSPS) after the season ended last year, we were notified that a much more thorough review was going to be done on Mead Pool due to imminent health and safety concerns. Their analysis concluded a major overhaul to the pool deck, underground piping and others would be necessary to have a conditional pool permit issued for 2016 operation. At this time City Staff and the Council opted to pursue a long term solution- a new facility. At the same time, the city had been discussing possible partnership opportunities with the YMCA on an indoor aquatic option through their Wisconsin Rapids expansion. In recent months, the city has contracted with Burbach Aquatics to consider general scoping of an outdoor aquatic facility. I am pleased to share both of these options are now ready for public presentation. In the time following next week’s public presentation, the City- its Council Members and myself will be listening to your options as it weighs an option to head. Following a period of public comment, the council may consider a direction at it’s August 16th Council Meeting. This isn’t a meeting where a final design or concept will be made, but merely a general direction. I hope to see you Tuesday night!

Verso Emerges from Bankruptcy

VersoIn a welcome dose of news last Friday: Verso Corporation, North America’s producer of printing and specialty papers and pulp, announced that it has emerged from bankruptcy following a successful financial restructuring. This restructuring substantially reduced the company’s debt, and includes financing to support ongoing operations and capital investment. Verso news release, here.

What is so significant about this turnaround is how relatively quickly it came about – less than six months after Verso’s Chapter 11 filings. The willingness of the company’s lenders to continue investing in its operations demonstrates their confidence in Verso’s long-term growth potential, and should serve as a source of optimism for an industry that remains very challenged.

The success of the restructuring also is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our community’s workforce, who continued to demonstrate our area’s enduring work ethic throughout the process. Verso has nearly 1000 team-members in the Wisconsin Rapids area.

Verso is now in a position to capitalize on previous operational improvements, pursue new strategic initiatives and effectively compete on a worldwide basis. As Mayor, I am excited about the opportunities our City has to work with Verso to help to ensure its continued success.

Wisconsin Rapids Ranked in Top 60 of 900+ Communities Among “Best Cities for Teachers to Live and Work

As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, it gave me great pride to hear about a report that ranks the Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield area 57th out of more than 900 U.S. communities on the job and lifestyle opportunities they provide for K-12 teachers.

wr-arial-001.jpgData analysts from college and careers website GoodCall evaluated these U.S. metro and micro areas on the basis of four criteria:

  • Affordability – Local teacher salaries weighed with local housing costs
  • Job Competition – Current open teacher job positions weighed with the number of resumés 
posted for hire
  • School Ratings – Ratings for school districts within each metro area
  • Lifestyle – The number of local restaurant, arts and entertainment amenities per capita

GoodCall.com is a website designed to help families and their children make educated financial decisions by providing objective information on everything from college rankings to financial aid. Carrie Wiley, who contributed to the report, said, “We set out to identify which parts of the U.S. are particularly teacher-friendly so that new teachers entering the field and those who are looking to relocate know which cities offer them the best backdrop for their career.”

Overall, the results suggest a smaller metro area such as Wisconsin Rapids may be the ideal environment for K-12 teachers who desire a strong community and an affordable lifestyle.

While teaching is recognized as one of the most demanding professions, it is also, according to teachers, one of the most rewarding, due to its effect on students’ lives. Competitive salaries, great schools, an active social-recreational scene and affordable housing can make the difference in attracting such dedicated professionals. Our recently completed Housing Study and Needs Assessment Report reinforces our need to explore and act upon solutions to increase or adapt more quality and affordable single-, two- and multi-family housing options, to retain our status as an appealing choice for educational professionals.

50th Annual Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships Start Thursday

I heartily invite everyone this week to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships. This fun and exciting sporting event takes place July 21-24, at South Wood County Park’s Red Sands Beach on Lake Wazeecha.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.06.31 AMThe Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers Waterski Show Team has hosted this tourney since 1967. The competition is well known in the show skiing world and draws performers statewide who are attracted by the scenic atmosphere and excellent facilities.

Because we do expect many out-of-town visitors during this week, I ask that all residents do what they can to maintain and display our best “warm and welcoming” hospitality.

Housing Study Survey Winners Announced

When the City of Wisconsin Rapids conducted its Housing Study and Needs Assessment late last year, we offered an incentive for residents to provide their feedback: Automatic entry into a drawing to win a Visa gift card from the City of Wisconsin Rapids and Paper City Savings Bank.

It is my pleasure to announce that, out of more than 700 survey respondents, the selection of three winners, all from Wisconsin Rapids: $100 winner Leah Kramer; and $50 winners Candis Challoner and Ronald Rasmussen. Congratulations!

We thank Leah, Candis, Ronald and all other respondents for helping us to identify issues, opportunities and recommendations that can guide our City in developing affordable and comfortable housing options. The full report can be found here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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