COMMUNITY UPDATE – Streamlining Development, Wisconsin Rapids to host a Veterans Stand Down and an online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community



Another effort to streamline future development and land-use.

How we position ourselves to support development can mean the difference between a successful project in our city and no project. This is the reason why we have continuously focused on the way we interact with developers, investors, and business people. Cumbersome or outdated rules and regulations often times found in our city’s Ordinances can be an impediment to development resulting in lost time or worse, lost projects/opportunities. Our present zoning code- the document that sets forth what development and use of land is appropriate hasn’t seen a substantial update since the early 1980s. As we all know, a lot has changed in the world and our city since then. TO this end, the City of Wisconsin Rapids is setting forth with a major project to rewrite its zoning code to make it more modern and user friendly. In order to gather valuable input that reflects the concerns and needs of our residents, we have invited selected citizen shareholders to be part of this important project and encourage anyone else interested in participating to join us during a two-hour workshop at City Hall on Tuesday, November 3, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.55.01 PMOur consultant, Civi Tek Consulting, will facilitate a dialogue among members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and invited residents designed to identify general and specific major policy issues the new zoning code should address in new or different ways. We’ll be seeking feedback regarding the current code and its administration, and we will then collaborate with workshop participants to identify and evaluate alternative solutions to the key issues. Our ultimate goal is to develop consensus on what needs to be addressed in the rewrite and gain sufficient direction to begin drafting the updated zoning ordinance.

We are look forward to workshop participants taking full advantage to engage in this unique opportunity. When completed, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable. It will be integrated into other land-use regulations and be internally consistent, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Graphics and drawings will be used to increase reader comprehension to be more user-friendly.

Of course, we want this process to be transparent to all our citizens. As we continue along the path to a zoning ordinance that meets the needs of a growing and progressive community, we will post updates at the City website We also encourage you to call Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or email to RSVP for this important project.

Wisconsin Rapids Veterans Stand Down

I am pleased that Wisconsin Rapids will again host an event to provide support to our nation’s military people. This year’s Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down will be held on Thursday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Centralia Center.Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.26.51 AM During the Stand Down, veterans will be able to learn about resources offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) and a host of other community agencies: VA benefits and enrollment, employment programs, credit counseling, Social Security, health screenings, post-traumatic stress syndrome, drug and alcohol treatment, financial counseling, housing and shelter information/referrals, and legal aid through community partnerships. Homeless and at-risk Veterans will have the opportunity to receive food, clothing and other resource assistance.

I urge you to encourage military family and acquaintances to attend. You can also help by personally donating items for attendees. For additional information, contact Wood County Veterans Service Officer Rock Larson at 715-421-8420; or the Tomah VA at 800-872-8662, ext. 64201.  To learn more what a Stand Down event is about, visit Wisconsin Rapids 2014 Stand Down event video from RCCA Media:

Online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community

In my 2015 State of the City address I focused on citizen engagement as a key to building a healthy community. Having continued to emphasize this theme throughout the year, I acknowledge that personal feelings about families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and local government can influence the degree to which our residents are willing to become more involved in the well being of their community.

So, how do south Wood County residents feel about their community? What ‘attaches’ you to living here? You can help to answer this question, while helping a native of our community. Kristi Anderson, a 2007 graduate of Lincoln High School and current graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is working on a research project designed to measure the feelings of community attachment in the south Wood County area.

All current residents of the south Wood County area who are at least 18 years of age are invited to share their thoughts by completing a short 15-minute survey. To take the survey, click on the link here:

In order to provide Kristi with as much feedback as possible, I am also requesting that you please share this survey with others in your work and social networks.

Once the data has been collected and analyzed, Kristi looks forward to sharing her findings with local residents and community organizations. For more information, contact Kristi directly here.

Many thanks for participating in and sharing this opportunity!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown coming to Wisconsin Rapids and volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program



Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Rapids to host Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown and New, Innovative STEM Scouts program launches here

Celebrating Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for State downtown redevelopment program

I continue to be inspired and energized with our progress. To celebrate the latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, citizens and local public officials gathered this past Wednesday at Wood County Courthouse for a formal announcement and information-sharing session on Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Connect Communities program.

IMG_2157Naleeta Burr, our community account manager for Economic and Community Development for the State of Wisconsin, discussed how Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown district, by providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance our revitalization efforts. Program services include: on-site assistance to identify needs and offer assistance; multiple online and face-to-face training and networking opportunities; and access to resources and materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities.

Following the brief presentation, Burr joined us for a walking tour that highlighted recent private investments in our Downtown, featuring stops at Whiskey Rapids, the Flat Iron Building, 340 West Grand’s new residential lofts and Karen’s Wine & Stein.IMG_2197

During her presentation, Burr pointed out that while the State can assist communities in their revitalization efforts, the local communities themselves must take the lead. She listed eight guiding principles for successful downtown redevelopment:
• Comprehensive – an ongoing series of initiatives is vital;
• Incremental – small projects make a big difference;
IMG_2191• Self-Help – only local leadership can breed long-term success;
• Public-Private Partnership;
• Identify and Capitalize on Existing Assets;
• Quality – from storefront design, to promotion, to special events;
• Change – in community attitudes and habits; and
• Action Oriented – frequent, visible changes in the downtown’s “look” and “feel.”

Recognizing that a vibrant Downtown area is key to reigniting the Wisconsin Rapids community, local residents, government leaders, business people and nonprofit organizations have all helped to drive a strategic plan of action that acknowledges decades of past business and residential planning and redevelopment efforts, while incorporating current private investments and City property sales transactions in the waterfront district. I am pleased and proud that our community’s collaborative efforts have been recognized by the State of Wisconsin.

By acknowledging how downtown’s and historic commercial districts play an important role in community prosperity, the Connect Communities program reinforces our own local vision of how the Downtown waterfront district can serve as a commercial-residential-recreational-historical centerpiece.

Wisconsin Rapids to host State summit on downtown revitalization

Our community’s progress toward achieving our vision of a vibrant and prosperous Downtown district will be on full display, Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22. That’s when Wisconsin Rapids has the honor of hosting the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown, the 2015 Summit on Downtown Revitalization, at Hotel Mead.

“Destination Downtown” celebrates innovative ways to strengthen and grow downtown areas – many of which we have incorporated right here in Wisconsin Rapids, including: quality-of-life initiatives (Supermass Redesign), collaborative action (Tribune Building)  and entrepreneurship / private investment.

150701_WRB_Public_Meeting_1_Boards_Page_8The summit will feature inspiring speakers; enlightening panel and public engagement on topics such as master planning, public arts, tourism and market expansion; and best practices and resources from Wisconsin and beyond. Economic development professionals; local and state elected officials; small business owners; and arts, business and civic leaders will be on hand.

The Summit kicks off on Wednesday night with a special tour of Glacial Lake Cranberries, one of central Wisconsin’s oldest cranberry marshes; and a reception at Karen’s Wine and Stein in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.

I encourage everyone who is interested in the health and well being of our Downtown district to attend. Not often do we get to play host and this opportunity is sure not be missed! For more information and to register, go to

Volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

I am thrilled to share exciting news about an innovative program from the Boy Scouts of America that will be available to youth in our community, beginning now.

STEM Scouts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a new coed pilot program designed to focus on the exciting opportunities for youth in science, technology, engineering and math. Through weekly meetings and four-to six-week modules covering a variety of disciplines, STEM Scouts will show youth how to apply STEM in their everyday lives and encourage them to develop these experiences into future careers.

After a resounding response to the original pilot program by Scouts, leaders, parents and school officials in Knoxville, Tennessee, STEM Scouts selected the Samoset Council, our local Council as one of just 12 more councils in the nation to participate in the expanded program.

I strongly urge adults who have a STEM background to sign up as volunteers to help mentor STEM Scouts, lead special labs and host field trips. Plenty of volunteer positions are available for adults without STEM experience, as well. To make your mark, please email, or give Amanda Flannery a call at 715-409-6690.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available for local clubs, parent organizations, businesses and other organizations. Some of the Wisconsin Rapids organizations already involved include Verso Corporation, Renaissance Learning, Mead Charter School, Lincoln High School and Woodside Elementary School. For more information, check out the STEM Scouts website at

Let us, as a community, give our utmost support to this unique program and help our area’s youth expand their interests and career potential!

Have a great day and thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – The rest of the Mead Pool story



Community Update – The rest of the Mead Pool story

During my 2014 State of the City Address, I discussed our community’s need to explore sustainable approaches to upgrading our local aquatics offerings. That need became more apparent last week, when Inspectors from the Wood County Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services examined Mead Pool and found a number of health and safety hazards stemming from frost and high groundwater levels that lifted the pool basin out of the ground. Following their on-site inspection of the pool, these agencies moved the pool operational permit to a “Conditional” status.

The good news is that “Conditional” status provides us the opportunity to evaluate the hazards, formulate a plan to address them for a potential opening of Mead Pool for 2016.

To begin the process of potentially reactivating our pool permit, City staff has contacted various suggested contractors to perform a required engineering review that would cover currently identified areas of concern, as well as problems that may not have not yet have been detected. This review will provide the information we will need to identify the likely cost of making the necessary repairs that would allow us to re-open the pool for one more year in 2016. Following a review of the findings and associated costs, the City will consider making the improvements to satisfy the ‘Conditions’ placed by the inspectors.

Of course, this review-and-repair process represents is a short-term fix to our community’s aquatics issues. For some time, I have advocated that we as a community invest in our collective quality of life, through the creation of a place to nurture the potential of children and families through youth development, while helping to improve the health and well-being of all our citizens, both now and in the future. City Commits to Public Aquatics Last December, the City Council reaffirmed it’s commitment to providing public access to aquatics.

In 2014, the John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA announced plans to construct and operate a new facility in Wisconsin Rapids. While the original site is no longer under consideration, I was thrilled that, after its acquisition earlier this year of Riverview Hospital, Aspirus continued its commitment to the proposed partnership with the YMCA. The City, with the approval and support of the City Council and the Park & Recreation Commission, continues to pursue a partnership with the YMCA on public access to the aquatics portion of a facility under consideration.

As your Mayor, I pledge to continue leading our City’s pursuit of other creative collaborations to provide a long-term solution to our aquatics needs.  We will share more as information becomes available as well as opportunities to participate in any public meetings on the subject.


Kick-off Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin Connect Communities program; Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday; Mayor’s Youth and Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

Community Update

Save the Date: Celebrate Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin economic development program

In July I shared Wisconsin Rapids had been selected to participate in the Connect Communities program. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp’s (WEDC) selection is a result of the collaborative contributions of local residents, business people, government leaders, and nonprofit organizations to our Downtown revitalization effort.

wedcConnect Communities helps local stakeholders leverage the unique assets of their downtown and commercial districts, providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance downtown district revitalization efforts.

To celebrate this latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, I invite you to join us for a formal announcement and participation session on Wednesday, October 14, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., at Wood County Courthouse, 400 Market Street. More details to follow

Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday

This weekend, local households, businesses and farms can dispose of hazardous wastes in a safe, convenient and legal manner – at the annual Wood County Agricultural and Household Clean Sweep, Saturday, October 3, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the Saratoga Town Hall, 1116 State Highway 73.Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.28.03 PM

Each household and farm may bring up to a combination of five gallons of liquid or 50 pounds of solid waste at no charge; or make special arrangements for larger quantities with the Wood County Health Department. Businesses and schools can get no-obligation estimates on low-cost chemical disposal by calling 715-295-2623.

You’ll also have the opportunity to exchange your mercury thermometer for a mercury-free digital thermometer.

Take time to rid your residence or business of potentially hazardous wastes. For more information, call the Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8911 or 715-387-8646

Mayor’s Youth & Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

This past February, I announced during my State of the City address the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Council. This council gives area youth an opportunity to be engaged and participate in IMG_6743meaningful, change-making efforts such as policy development, service and recreation.

This past week, members of the Youth Council along with the Mayor’s Council on Beautification planted new shrubbery near the Hwy. 54 Wisconsin Rapids/Biron boundary. Their active participation gives real hope for what we can accomplish when our younger citizens are involved. This project will greet our many visitors upon their entrance from the east. Please join me in thanking these young and dedicated citizens for doing their share to help ensure a healthier, more attractive community, both now and for future generations.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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COMMUNITY UPDATE – Attend Economic Growth Assessment Event Tonight, Wood County Health Needs Assessment Survey; United Way Months are here; Help a Child Succeed by being a Reading Mentor



Regional Economic Growth Assessment Event this Evening

As part of our ongoing effort to engage our residents in the economic development of our community, I extend to you a hearty invitation to participate in the roll-out this evening of the recently completed study on behalf of the Regional Economic Growth Initiative, Inc. (REGI). This event takes place at Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School, 1921 27th Avenue South, at 6:00 p.m. (before the Packers Game!)

Diane Lupke, owner and founder of economic development consultancy Lupke and Associates, will present a detailed assessment of our region’s competitive assets, such as education, transportation, business environment and human resource. The study provides a firm foundation upon which to build a comprehensive economic development approach for the central Wisconsin region, focusing on the twin pillars of jobs and investment. The report also offers strategies to maximize the value of our economic development investments, address critical needs and enhance our competitiveness.

Because this initiative affects the future of all our citizens, we seek your input and reaction to ensure success. I look forward to seeing you in attendance and look forward to hearing your comments and questions regarding this ambitious regional approach to economic development.  I will report on the assessment in a future update.

Wood County Health Needs Assessment Survey

During my State of the City Address in February, I emphasized the theme of a Healthy Community. One characteristic of good health we identified was the active engagement of all our citizens. Now, each one of us has the opportunity to engage in a process that may literally improve our physical health.

The Wood County Health Department is completing a Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan for Wood County, to determine our community’s health priorities for the next three years.

We need your help. Please complete this short 5- to 10-minute survey by Wednesday, September 30.

Survey link: Community Health Needs Assessment 

By participating in this survey, you will help WCHD focus efforts on the best investment of resources to improve the health of residents of Wood County. Let’s work together to achieve a healthier community for all our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers!

September and October 2015 are United Way Months in Wisconsin

To recognize the launch of United Way annual campaigns throughout the state. Governor Scott Walker has officially designated September and October 2015 as United Way Months in Wisconsin. I am proud to join the Governor in recognizing the work of the United Way and encouraging Wisconsin Rapids area residents to support our United Way of Inner Wisconsin during this crucial time period.

IMG_9599Last year, United Way of Inner Wisconsin raised $619,688, providing funds to local programs that focus on the building blocks of a better life: education, income, health and safety net services. This year, United Way of Inner Wisconsin is raising funds to support 35 partner programs as well as the South Wood County Hunger Coalition, Supportive Community Health Services Roundtable, Learning for Life Reading Mentor Program and South Wood County Homelessness Coalition.

When a child succeeds in school, families are financially stable, and people have good health, we all win. So, it is truly heartening to see Wisconsin community members and businesses step up with passion, expertise, and resources to help create lasting change.

I urge all our residents to help to the extent you can, as financial contributors, volunteers or advocates. To learn more, please visit

Help a child succeed, as a Learning for Life Reading mentor volunteer

Now, more than ever, our children need the support of our community.  United Way of Inner Wisconsin’s Women’s Leadership Council is currently looking for 75-100 adults to help make a significant impact in the life of a child, as volunteers in the Learning for Life Reading mentoring program. This program helps kindergartners through third graders students in kindergarten through third grade to become great readers and succeed at life.  Volunteers can influence a life by “being there” for children students just one day per week for 45-60 minutes.

IMG_8088Participating schools for the 2015-16 school year are Mead Elementary Charter and Washington Elementary in Wisconsin Rapids, and Humke Elementary in Nekoosa.

Assist our dedicated teachers, and help make a difference.  Sign up to be Learning for Life Reading mentor at For more information, call 715-421-0390. 

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Celebrating Safe Routes to School and Wisconsin Rapids: a Smart Rural Community

Community Update

Celebrating Safe Routes to School 

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Washington Elementary School to celebrate successful implementation of a multi-year federal grant for the Safe Routes to School program.  IMG_20150918_120919559_HDR

Officer Kasie Borchardt, who led the grant application effort more recently, along with WRPD Chief Kurt Heuer, now retired Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation official Patti Nelles, Washington School Principal Kelly Schaeffer, and I highlighted the importance of sustained community involvement to bringing a valuable safety program to our city’s school children.  Among the grant’s deliverables- sidewalks on Washington Street, a new pedestrian island and crossing lights at 8th and Grove Streets, new ladder-style pedestrian crossings, among other programmatic features.

And now, with a new school year in progress, I invite you join me in volunteering for our local Safe Routes to School program. This is a proven way to help guide our young students through a successful year of safe travel to school.

A vital feature of Safe Routes to School is the Walking School Bus, where adult volunteers pick up small groups of students in front of their homes. The boys and girls hold onto a rope, walking along a designed route to school. Some days the students are surprised to see “guest” volunteers, such as members of the National Guard … or even myself, their Mayor!

If kids follow the routine of safely crossing streets and getting to school, I believe they will be more apt to practice safety outside the school day, in the summer and throughout the year.

Safe Routes to School goes into December, weather permitting, then starts up again with the arrival of warmer spring weather. To register your child, or to apply to be an adult volunteer, contact program coordinator Bev Ghiloni at 715-459-5599 or

Ribbon cutting video:

Wisconsin Rapids creates opportunity with smart technology

During my State of the City address back in February, I was pleased to talk in detail about high-technology initiatives such as City Viewer, Get Your Business Online and SeeClickFix. As I pointed out then, such innovations would not be possible without a solid infrastructure in place for accessing and delivering them.

With broadband high-speed Internet now an expectation in cities, our local provider Solarus has invested in laying new fiber to homes and businesses across our city. As a result, our local provider offers gigabit Internet service to our community – a service that just two short years ago was available in less than 20 cities in all of the United States that offered residential gigabit service.Smart Rural Community

These resources enable Wisconsin Rapids to promote itself to established companies and budding entrepreneurs as being on the leading edge in hosting business parks and open spaces served by broadband gigabit Internet. Our area possesses the infrastructure and capabilities for ultra-high-seed digital connectivity that can help businesses compete globally by unlocking access to new services, while enabling our residents to enrich their quality of life through access to significantly improved broadband services. Having a world-class broadband network in Wisconsin Rapids fosters job and economic growth, dramatically improves access to educational opportunities, impacts health care delivery and improves our quality of life, bolstering our city’s overall competitiveness.

Our local efforts have received national attention, including our area’s recognition as a Smart Rural Community by The Rural Broadband Association. In presenting Solarus with a Showcase Award, the Association cited the company’s advanced communications services and collaboration with local leaders. We are proud to acknowledge this honor with signs posted at all highway entrances to Wisconsin Rapids.  Solarus Tour2Just last week, Congressman Ron Kind and State Senator Julie Lassa stopped by for a tour of Solarus. These individuals understand the importance of broadband fiber infrastructure and connectivity to be competitive as a community and region. I am grateful they took the time to visit the city and learn more about this asset!

Earlier this year, I committed to working with our local providers to identify businesses or residences that do not have a broadband connection and challenged the providers to fulfill any unmet needs. Broadband is a vital way to ensure our residents and businesses have the tools to improve their economic success.

smart rural sign

From left to right: Kelly Wadsworth, Dawn Zellner, Deb Tellekson, Zach Vruwink, Lisa Stannis and Jennifer Weber.

And, I continue to invite the private sector and residents to weigh in with their own thoughts on how to better make our broadband competitive edge known to the world. Together, we can leverage our broadband advantage, improve connection rates and expand access to our great public spaces.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Supermass to present near-final preliminary riverfront designs at City Hall on Tuesday



Supermass to present near-final preliminary design at City Hall on Tuesday

1_Page_51The Wisconsin Rapids Riverfront design initiative reaches another exciting stage this week.  Our design consultant, Supermass Studio, will make its near-final preliminary design presentation to the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council on Tuesday, September 15, at 6:00 p.m. This phase of the design process comes at a timely juncture, as federal, state, community and foundation interests, along with individual citizens, have all taken an active role in advancing the present-day concept of Downtown riverfront redevelopment:

On August 19, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act to support local efforts to revive waterfronts by funding grants and extending preferred status in other federal grants and loans;   

Veterans Event Terrace & River DeckOn August 31, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and representatives of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation joined me, other local officials and representatives from Incourage Community Foundation to announce the awarding of a $472,000 grant to the City of Wisconsin Rapids to help fund the renovation of the Tribune building site. 

In keeping with the note of urgency area I struck in my State of the City Address regarding the fostering of a vibrant Downtown area, our strategic plan of action has been marked by the review and implementation of new and previously proposed development concepts; a groundswell of private investments; and City property sales transactions.

All in all, these initiatives and proposals reinforce our shared vision of a Downtown waterfront district that shines as a commercial-residential-recreation destination.  I personally invite you to attend Tuesday evening’s Common Council meeting to view the latest development in achieving this vision.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink