Community Update: Enhanced Downtown Facade Improvement Initiative Moves Forward, New Signage to Reduce Truck Traffic Along Baker Street, Learn How We Can Help Drug Endangered Children



Enhanced Downtown Facade Improvement Initiative Moves Forward

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-2-46-38-pmSometimes, a good idea can benefit from a little rethinking and fine-tuning – and, in the bargain, bring the promise of exciting benefits to the Wisconsin Rapids area.

This was exactly the case during the Finance & Property Committee meeting this past Tuesday evening. Planning & Economic Development Director Adam Tegen presented details of a revamped Downtown Façade Improvement Program that is now approved and ready to go before the Common Council.  Watch the Finance and Property Committee discuss the facade program in this video, here.

The Downtown Façade Improvement Program is designed to stimulate private investment in high-quality building improvements that contribute to the overall strength of our Downtown area as a shopping and dining destination.

revisedwrdowntownfacadeprogramfinal1Under the original proposal in 2014, the City set aside $10,000 for a pilot program to support the enhancements of facades within the Downtown area. This effort ultimately ran into two limitations: restrictive covenants that capped the City participation in any given project to $1,000, and the lack of a consistent funding stream.

After reviewing the previous program with the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce and other City staff, and identifying best practices from other communities throughout the region, we crafted a Façade Improvement Program proposal that is enhanced in several ways:

  • Consistent funding – The yearly allocation of $23,250 will come from the portion of the City room tax that supports economic development. This fund has previously supported such initiatives as last year’s housing study and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative (REGI).
  • Increased flexibility – Instead of being restricted by a dollar amount cap, the City will be allowed to invest up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, up to the yearly allocation, or whatever remains in the program at the time of request.
  • Lower overhead cost – In contrast to the initial program, this program will focus on fewer, but larger projects. By following this guideline, administration costs will be reduced from approximately 37 percent of the annual budget to just 14 percent. 
  • Simplified application form – To encourage participation in the program, the application form has been reduced to two pages, which each applicant will supplement with supporting information to clarify the project.

I was pleased by the positive reception the Finance & Property Committee gave to this new proposal, and I am genuinely excited by the opportunities we may have to put an appealing new “face” on our Downtown area. Thanks to all Chamber of Commerce and City staff who worked as a team to make possible this potential boost to our local economy and quality of life.

New Signage to Reduce Truck Traffic Along Baker Street

01-17-17truckstreetsignsIn an effort to reduce the number of trucks traveling along Baker Street, the Wisconsin Rapids Department of Public Works, in collaboration with the Police Department and elected officials implemented new truck signage along Baker Street, State Highway 54, Spring Street and 1st Street North.

Baker Street is not a truck route, but residents and City officials have reported many trucks using this thoroughfare. The City currently has a truck access route identified along 1st Street North between Jackson and Spring streets for trucks making deliveries to businesses. The updated truck signage is designed to draw attention to the proper routes for truck traffic and clarify any confusion truck drivers may have, by keeping trucks on the state trunk highway and truck access route, instead of wandering onto Baker Street, which is limited to five tons.

01-11-17gis-map-of-truck-routesThis clarification also allows for more consistent enforcement of truck traffic ordinances, when necessary.  The proposed signage is expected to be in place by Friday, January 13.

City officials request that residents notify their family and friends of this updated signage and the weight limit restriction on Baker Street. A copy of the City’s Truck Route Ordinance can be found at: under ordinances.

Learn How We Can Help Drug Endangered Children

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “A drug endangered child is a person, under the age of 18, who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are illegally used, possessed, trafficked, diverted, and/or manufactured and … is at risk of experiencing, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse … medical, educational, emotional, or physical harm … or … is forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs.”

That definition dramatically describes how the upsurge in criminal drug activity puts into harm’s way the most vulnerable members of our community. Now, concerned citizens can take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn how we can protect our youth.

Please consider attending “Drug Endangered Children: Who they are and how we can help them,” Monday, January 23, from 6:00-7:30 p.m., at Woodlands Church, 1000 East Riverview Expressway.

This Wood County Drug Task Force presentation is designed to help parents and guardians, extended family members, and community members gain more knowledge about the plight of drug endangered children; resources that are available to aid these young ones; and what we as individuals and as a community can do to help.

Complimentary dinner will be served beforehand at 5:30 p.m. Children of any age are welcome to participate in supervised activities.

In his role as chair of the Healthy People Wood County Drug Task Force, outgoing Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief Kurt Heuer will be joined by narcotics detective Nate Reblin of the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, and by Wood County Human Services Department personnel Rebecca Porter and Sarah Arendt.

Guest speaker is Cindy Giese, special agent in charge for the Wausau office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation.

This event is made possible by the generous support of Aspirus Riverview Foundation. Registration is required; deadline is Tuesday, January 17. Call Megan Larson at Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8949 or email

Do your part, to become part of the solution!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Single-Stream Recycling, Christmas Tree and Brush Pickup begin Monday, Honor Crossing Guards During Recognition Week January 16-20



Single-Stream Recycling Begins in Most Neighborhoods on Monday

img_0228The anticipated changes to our recycling program go into effect in most City neighborhoods next Monday, January 9! Now, residents will be able to conveniently co-mingle all recyclable items inside the new, single-stream recycling carts. The recycling collection will remain on a bi-weekly schedule with collection day remaining the same. We will analyze our efficiency as the service launches before any further changes come into effect. See Tribune article here.

Due to challenges in arriving at an accurate count of img_0235carts, implementation of the program will be delayed for the Tuesday Westside recycling route. We anticipate that the carts will be delivered within the next two months. Until then, residents along this route should leave their recyclables at the curb, where they will be picked up the present, traditional way. The recycling collection will remain on a bi-weekly schedule on your normal day.

For additional information, please access the City’s website at, call the Garage at 715-421-8218 or watch this video, here or clicking on the image below.


The new single-stream recycling program will greatly aid in our City’s effort to collect recyclables in a safer, efficient, cost effective manner, and help to ensure greater diversion from landfills, a sustainable and greener future for our community.

Christmas Tree and Brush Pickup

treepickupIn order to maintain quality of life in our City’s neighborhoods & valued service, Street Department crews will be picking up Christmas Trees and brush during the week of January 9-13.

  • Christmas tree pickup: You can place your tree out on the curb starting this Sunday, January 8. Trees should not be bagged, and the cut end must be facing toward the street. Please make sure your tree is clean of decoration, lighting and skirts.
  • Brush pickup: To assist crews, neatly pile your brush by Monday morning, to a size of four feet high, six feet wide and 10 feet long. Piles that exceed size and chipping time limits will be left as a property owner responsibility and expense.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-20-02-amPlease note: Crews will make only one trip through the city during the scheduled week and will not repeat brush collection until February. Brush piles left by the City following next week’s collection schedule will be considered in violation of City ordinance and may result in enforcement action.

Let’s work together with City Street Department crews to make this process as safe and efficient as possible!

Honor Crossing Guards During Recognition Week January 16-20

CrossingguardEach day, dedicated adult crossing guards across Wisconsin show up at their assigned crossings to assist students in their journeys to or from school. I invite and encourage you to show your appreciation for these selfless individuals, during Wisconsin Adult Crossing Guard Recognition Week, January 16-20.

In addition to simply saying “Thank you,” as a parent, teacher and/or school administrator, you can more actively celebrate this observance by drawing from a number of special-activity ideas, here.

These ideas can help stimulate your creativity in determining how your school, students, parent organizations and community might show your recognition of, and appreciation for, the adults who serve as crossing guards in your area. Electronic versions of the 2017 Crossing Guard Recognition poster also are available for local printing.

Please take this opportunity to recognize the contributions adult school crossing guards make to the safety of our young ones as they travel to and from school.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Season’s Greetings, Help Map Our City’s Future with Your Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Input



Season’s Greetings

chirstmas-lightsThe Christmas season is a time when we can gather with our family and friends in bonds of peace and harmony. This is also a time when we share the gifts of generosity and good cheer.

So, as you experience all the happiness this most wonderful time has to offer, let us also this season reflect on all our fellow citizens who volunteer their time to offer moments of grace and comfort to others throughout the year.

I also want to thank City staff for all their hard work throughout the year to make this a better place for all of us to work, live and play.

To each and every resident of the Wisconsin Rapids community, I wish you blessed and joyous holidays.

Help Map Our City’s Future with Your Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Input


Image Source: Bicycle Transportation Alliance

One of the blessings of the Wisconsin Rapids area is its bounty of natural resources, ideally suited for a wide range of recreational activities. Now, with a few clicks of their fingertips, residents in our community have an opportunity to help determine how to enhance bicycling and walking amenities both here and throughout the 10-county north central Wisconsin region.

The North Central Wisconsin Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan offers an interactive mapping activity that allows participants to provide input on a map about bicycling and walking in the north central Wisconsin region.

You can log in with an email address or anonymously. Route markers allow you to pinpoint routes you like to ride or walk, where you think improvements are needed, or where you would like a path to be created. Point markers allow you to highlight destinations, conflict points and areas where bike parking is needed. Using your email address at login enables you to return to the map and edit your input at a later time, or receive project updates.

Your contributions to this plan can also help the Wisconsin Rapids community prioritize funding, and obtain grants for bicycling and walking improvements.

In addition to Wood County, the North Central Wisconsin Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan takes in Adams, Forest, Juneau, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Oneida and Vilas counties.

I encourage our citizens to take advantage of this unique way to map our City’s future.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Join Santa, Staff and I for City Hall Holiday Open House, Share Your Neighborhood’s Christmas Spirit



Celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at City Hall

holiday-partyAs we move deeper into the season of joyous tidings and good cheer, we invite all local residents to join us on Monday, December 19, for our annual City Hall Holiday Open House. This festive event will take place from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m., in the Lobby of City Hall, at 444 W. Grand Avenue.

You’re invited to make your way through City Hall, visit each City department, and learn more about how we serve you and fellow citizens throughout the year. In addition, you and your family will experience a guest appearance from Santa Claus. Mayor’s Youth Council members have also decorated city hall with coloring’s done from schools in our city.

To help share the traditional spirit of giving, we ask that you please consider bringing a donation of food, toys or cash for local food pantries; the Wisconsin Rapids Firefighters Association’s 48th annual Toy Project; The Family Center; and the Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area. By doing so, you and yours can take home a complimentary photo with Santa.

Share Your Neighborhood’s Christmas Spirit via our App

As we have come to expect each year, Downtown Wisconsin Rapids is aglow with a lively array of Christmas lights this holiday season.

img_0836Now, I invite all residents to do their part to place holiday cheer at their neighbors’ fingertips. Share your own holiday-season experiences, by “pinning” your photos of Christmas light decorations online, via our SeeClickFix app, a reporting application for you on your Smartphone.

Since its introduction, SeeClickFix has enabled citizens to conveniently submit neighborhood concerns from their Smartphone, the Wisconsin Rapids website, in person or over the phone. These issues are then sent automatically to the right official, with the right information, to get the job done – while keeping you in the loop all the way with clear, understandable updates.


Reporting App.

Sharing your unique images of the season via SeeClickFix is a great way to become more familiar with this valuable online resource … while spreading cheer to family, friends and neighbors.
So, as you drive around this year and take in the festive atmosphere, look for opportunities to create memorable impressions. See, click and post – with your Smartphone.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Our Riverbank’s next phase, Property Tax Bills Mailed Tomorrow, City’s Recycling Program Taking Shape



Wisconsin Rapids Riverfront to Begin Next Phase

02_ph1_inviteI am happy to share more exciting news happening in Wisconsin Rapids. I invite you to join us and the Riverfront design team kick off final design for phase 1 and two of the Riverbank Project. This event will take place at the Hotel Mead Grand Ballroom C, Wednesday, December 14.

The public event will kick-off at 6 pm with a meet and greet reception, along with light refreshments for residents to see exhibit boards about the project.  The main event will be a presentation by Taewook Cha of Supermass Studio  at 6:30pm.

Taewook Cha of Supermass Studio will be providing the current state of the Riverbank project and a road map of the project.

Property Tax Bills to be Mailed Friday

The coming of year’s end reminds us of the blessings of families and holidays. We also are reminded of our shared commitment to ensuring that our community has the resources to meet the essential service needs of its citizens. Property taxes play a major role in fulfilling that commitment.

Friday, December 9, our Finance Department will mail property tax bills to Wisconsin Rapids property owners.

Payment deadlines are January 31, 2017 for full payment or the first Installment; April 30 for the second installment; and July 31 for the third Installment (balance).

To ensure that taxes are collected on time, the City enables residents multiple ways to conveniently make their payment:

  • Pay via the Internet by credit or debit card, or by an electronic check (American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa).
  • Deposit payment in the drop box located outside of the Police Department at City Hall, 444 W. Grand Avenue.
  • Mail check(s) to the Finance Department-Tax Collection, 444 W Grand Avenue, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495. The envelope must be postmarked before the full-payment or installment dates of January 31, 2017, April 30, 2017 and July 31, 2017.
  • Pay in person at the Finance Department-Tax Collection on the Third Floor of City Hall, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

As we celebrate this holiday season, let us also celebrate our ability to work together to keep our community strong, and to build for a more prosperous future.

For more information on tax collection through the City, here.

City’s Recycling Program Taking Shape

containers1The long anticipated changes to our recycling program will be instituted soon! New recycling carts will be delivered as soon as tomorrow and Saturday with Monday’s East-side routes. It is anticipated that delivery will be completed by Friday, December 16th.


Recycling Video

The carts will be dropped of at the curb of each residence and will be the responsibility of the homeowner to bring them to the house. If you are not going to be home that week, please make arrangements with a neighbor, friend or family member to take the cart up to the house.  If suitable arrangements cannot be made, call the City Garage to make alternative arrangements at 715-421-8218.

All recyclable items will be able to be co-mingled and placed inside the new recycling cart beginning January 9, 2017.   The recycling collection will remain as usual on a bi-weekly schedule.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Celebrate the Holidays at Historical Museum “Christmas Tree Walk”, Council on Beautification Spearheads Sharing of the Spirit Downtown, Legion Park Picnic Grove Begins Taking Shape



 Celebrate the Holidays at Historical Museum “Christmas Tree Walk”

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-09-40-amThis is the time of the year when one of our area’s great treasures helps us to celebrate the holidays.

Starting this weekend, the South Wood County Historical Museum adds a festive note to the season, during its annual “Christmas Tree Walk” event. You can wrap yourself in an atmosphere of warmth and good cheer, on Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.; Friday, December 9, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, December 10, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

The museum will come alive with themed Christmas tree arrangements, holiday table decorations and special Christmas collections, provided by local organizations and individuals. Live vocal and instrumental music, and complimentary refreshments will also help to convey the holiday spirit.

This event also provides an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience the rich history of our community, through a wealth of exhibits highlighted by vintage displays, photos and documents.

So, take time with friends and family to take in “Christmas Tree Walk.” This event is sponsored by the South Wood County Historical Corporation, the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and through a grant from Incourage. The museum is located at 540 3rd Street South in Wisconsin Rapids. For additional weekend events, visit this link.

Council on Beautification Spearheads Sharing of the Spirit

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-32-33-amVisitors to our Downtown area this year have been able to experience even more of the season’s spirit than usual. Thanks to the leadership of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and our local Yard & Garden Club, and generous donations from businesses and individuals, several streets in the heart of our City have been brightened by the addition of colorful floral balls – or, as they are often described, “kissing balls.”

Purchased from local tree farms, these hand-made floral creations were installed just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, on November 21. They can be viewed on 1st Street from East Jackson to Oak Street; 2nd Street from East Jackson to East Grand Avenue; and Oak Street from 2nd to 4th Streets.

According to Council on Beautification member Sue Wesley, the council’s desire to do something “special” during the holidays received a supportive “push” from a local merchant, and the (kissing) ball started rolling from there.

Thanks and appreciation also go out Public Works- Streets division staff, whose positive response to this idea affirms their ongoing efforts to make the City of Wisconsin Rapids a better place in which to live.

Legion Park Picnic Grove Plans Take Shape

dsc_7339Thanks to the generosity of businesspeople and private donors, fixed picnic tables and grills will soon be set up to create a scenic picnic grove at Legion Park. This is hopefully just the first step in an ambitious and creative proposal by Heart of Wisconsin 2014 Leadership Class members to strengthen an older neighborhood, while at the same time enhancing our riverfront trail system.

These community leaders viewed the former east-side pool site on 1st Street as a beautiful space that was woefully underutilized. After the group presented its plan to the Park and Recreation Commission, the Commission approved moving forward with the project and agreed to provide matching funds up to $11,000. At its November 2 meeting this month, the Commission approved matching funds for the purchase of park tables, in the amount of $9,206. The tables will be delivered this winter. A formal dedication will occur in Spring.

While the picnic grove is a welcome development for Legion Park and for the surrounding community, the Leadership Class envisioned even more for the area, with the support of the City. As a result, concrete pads will be poured for a patio stage/amphitheater in the southwest corner of the park, as a site for acoustic musical performances. This facility will be located inside the recreational trail. This concept is similar to park amenities found in Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park and Wausau waterfront.

The potential recreational opportunities offered by the Legion Park site, along with the recent opening of Le Chateau, The Manor Bed and Breakfast, at 840 1st Street North, should inspire all of us to consider how the living experience in a neighborhood can be enlivened and upgraded.

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


“Rekindle the Spirit” with Holiday Parade and Celebration, Local Stakeholders Invited to Learn about “Investing in Healthy Communities”



“Rekindle the Spirit” with Holiday Parade and Celebration

The holidays are upon us, and I invite one and all to again observe the season this Wednesday evening by celebrating a colorful Downtown Wisconsin Rapids tradition – the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Rekindle the Spirit” Holiday Parade and CelebrationThis festive occasion offers something for every member of t
he family.

  • The fun begins at 5:45 p.m., when I lead the countdown of the Tree Lighting Ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park.
  • The Holiday Parade immediately follows, featuring emergency services vehicles from Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities, area veterans, and floats representing local businesses and organizations. The procession starts from the JCPenney parking lot at Rapids Mall, makes its way across Grand Avenue Bridge and ends at 4th Street.screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-12-15-08-pm
  • After the parade, Hotel Mead welcomes everyone to enjoy its warm hospitality, highlighted by a visit with Santa, music, and hot chocolate and cookies in the Riverside Ballroom.
  • Then, cap off the evening at McMillan Memorial Library for a screening of the heartwarming movie Christmas Land, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Share the good cheer … join us this Wednesday for “Rekindle the Spirit”!

Local Stakeholders Invited to Learn about “Investing in Healthy Communities”

healthy-communitites-copyOur recent national election brought to the forefront significant concerns and questions about the health and economic well-being of our citizens and the communities in which they live. To this end, it is an honor that our City will soon host a daylong conference that takes on these challenges with fresh and innovative ideas.

Incourage and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago are co-sponsoring “Investing in Healthy Communities: Ideas to Action for Health People, Places and Planet” on Wednesday, December 7. A range of leaders from the fields of banking, community development finance, philanthropy, health care, city planning and government will share leading practices in economic development, sustainability and investment.

A major focus will be on approaches to strengthening ties between urban and rural communities, and on the ways in which banks, community development financial institutions, philanthropy, and others are investing to promote across-the-board access to health and prosperity.

This daylong event takes place from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at Hotel Mead. Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, Inc., University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the Wood County Health Department are among the organizations serving as hosts.

Conference attendees can expect to:

  • Explore promising community development opportunities and sustainable, innovative financing strategies
  • Consider the interdependence of rural and urban communities
  • Learn how environmentally sustainable practices advance health and well-being
  • Grow and strengthen networks

Participate in collaborative action to realize healthy communities.  Since my “State of the City” address in March of 2015, I have encouraged our citizens to pursue a “healthy community” vision for Wisconsin Rapids, centered on fostering and nurturing an environment for business development and job growth; making city services more accessible and responsive to our citizens; and engaging citizens to help shape the culture and the future of our community. This conference echoes and expands upon those themes.

I urge stakeholders who play a role in forging our community’s economic development to attend this most timely event.

Register for the event, here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink