Community Update: Celebrate the spirit of the season at City Hall, Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer



Celebrate the spirit of the season with us at City Hall

Glad tidings and cheer will mark the evening of Thursday, December 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. That’s when we’ll welcome local residents to join us in celebrating the season, and the work of our City officials and staff, at our annual City Hall Holiday Open House, in our Lobby at 444 W. Grand Avenue.

You’ll experience “season’s greetings”-style entertainment from the Lincoln High School Chamber Singers. And for younger ones, Santa Claus will be on hand to help keep spirits bright.

Bring a cash, food or toy donation, and your young ones will be able to have a free photo with Santa. All donations will benefit the food pantry, The Family Center, Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club and the Firefighters Toy Drive.

In addition, you can tour City Hall, visit City departments, and learn more about how we serve you and fellow citizens throughout the year.

For more information, call 715-421-8216, or email

I look forward to seeing you!

2018 Winter Recreation Guide now available

The 2018 Winter Parks and Recreation Guide is now available! Registration opens December 15th. Check out the guide here!

Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer

Local citizens looking for ways to “give back” to their community this holiday season can find golden opportunities through the United Way of Inner Wisconsin Volunteer Center.

Graphic submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin – Please click on the photo to see the Holiday volunteer opportunities.

The Volunteer Center offers a varied selection of seasonal volunteer opportunities – from serving meals or caring for homeless pets, to making crafts for shut-ins or visiting seniors who would welcome a friendly face.

Photo submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin

I strongly encourage you to take time right now to browse the Center’s online database of holiday volunteer needs. You can also call 715-421-0390 or email

And, don’t forget there are other ways to spread cheer to your fellow residents. You can also help support the work of the Volunteer Center with a year-end financial donation to United Way of Inner Wisconsin, here

Let us do our share to help ensure “Happy Holidays” for all!

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season; A time to be thankful



Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season

I invite all residents to gather Downtown on Wednesday, November 22. That is when the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce gets everyone into the holiday spirit, with its annual Rekindle the Spirit Holiday Parade and Celebration.

The festivities begin at 5:45 p.m., with the lighting of decorations in Veteran’s Park, and then rolls into high gear with a colorful, musical parade that starts at the Rapids Mall parking lot and makes its way across Grand Avenue Bridge to 4th Street. After the parade, we invite all to make their way to Hotel Mead for a visit with Santa, live music, and hot chocolate and cookies.

Rekindle the Spirit offers fun for the entire family, so make plans to be on hand.

A time to be thankful

I want to personally thank all the volunteers and public servants throughout our community who have graciously devoted their time, expertise and generosity throughout the year to make Wisconsin Rapids a special place. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and share compassion for all the little things in life that truly make a difference.  I am personally grateful.

For those who don’t have a thanksgiving meal, St Luke’s Lutheran Church will be serving a Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 1:00 pm on Thursday, November 23rd in its fellowship hall. The meal will be served at no charge to anyone in the community who is alone or who is not able to prepare the traditional meal for themselves.

Thanks for reading my blog,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: America Recycles Day encourages action for a sustainable future



America Recycles Day encourages action for a sustainable future

As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I am asking City residents to join me and millions of Americans throughout the country, today and throughout the year, by actively participating in America Recycles Day

Click on the graphic to download and print a poster for your home.

America Recycles Day is an annual celebration of the many ways all of us can improve recycling habits and help keep our environment clean, safe and sustainable. This year’s theme is #BeRecycled, #BuyRecycled. The focus is that we all do our part to deliver a cleaner stream of recyclables, to encourage local industries to use recyclable materials and recycled content materials when producing their products.

I am proud that Wisconsin Rapids citizens have already demonstrated their commitment to a greener, more sustainable lifestyle. Since the introduction of our single stream recyclable collection process during 2017, we have seen a dramatic surge in total recycling tonnage. Through September of this year, we collected 856 tons, well above the 616 tons collected during the same reporting period in 2016. That’s a 39 percent increase! We have more room to grow- be sure to consider all the recyclable materials that you utilize. Check out this infographic link to learn more about what is recyclable.

Consider these other points:

  • The City collects around 1.68 million lbs of curbside recyclable materials annually.
  • The City recycles approximately 8 million lbs of wastewater solids into exceptional quality class A sludge.
  • City collects around 16 million lbs of yard waste every year, which is recycled into compost.
  • All of that added together is massively overshadowed by the 68.4 million lbs of concrete annually the City collects, recycles, and reuses for base coarse on street and infrastructure projects.
  • And all of that is minuscule compared to the 9.2 billion lbs of water recycled annually through the wastewater treatment plant and returned to the environment.

All in all, the City of Wisconsin Rapids recycles around TEN BILLION pounds of materials every year.  Amazingly, every single pound of solid material is handled at least once by City staff – and some 4 or more times.

Together, let us continue to make ours a community that respects and protects the value of our natural assets, for the benefit of residents today and in the future.

So, take the pledge.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Residents invited to proposed Triangle-site concept follow-up with developer, City workers checking off list of winter preparation projects



Entrepreneurs, Investors invited to proposed Triangle concept follow-up with developer

The City is hosting a follow-up meeting with Gorman representatives at Karen’s Wines and Steins, Wednesday, November 15, from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm.

I was excited to see the number of area residents and business owners who turned out at Karen’s Wines and Steins on October 23, to learn about and discuss redevelopment opportunities for the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc., joined City officials to lead a productive conversation. We currently are exploring a concept that incorporates a market space featuring an anchor tenant, such as one that would feature craft brewers and distillers along with vendors who would rent kiosks to sell goods such as food, art or other creations.

To further the dialogue, the City is hosting a follow-up meeting with Gorman representatives, targeted toward individuals and entities that have a solid interest in this commercial market, or in other types of commercial or office space. This event takes place at Karen’s Wines and Steins, Wednesday evening, November 15, from 4:30 to 6:00, with brief remarks at 5:00. Light appetizers will be provided. If you’re interested but unable to attend, please contact me.

The Triangle Area overlooks the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces, and is ideally suited for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses. The City is committed to negotiating with Gorman & Company to determine how best to move this project forward. The Madison-area-based company has a proven track record of success partnering with Wisconsin municipalities on downtown revitalization projects. Our hope is to have a development agreement in place that would allow construction as early as 2018.

I am excited by this partnership opportunity, and we welcome your ongoing presence and input as we pursue our shared vision of sustainable Downtown redevelopment.

City workers checking off list of winter preparation projects

The Wisconsin Rapids Parks & Recreation Department and the Department of Public Works have been checking off a list of projects to help keep our public spaces well maintained throughout the winter season.

The Skate Park along with public bathrooms in parks around the city are now closed for the season and the final mowing of green areas are done until spring. The Witter Field ice skating pond/warming house and the low board hockey pond at Robinson Park will open as weather permits.

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM – Leaves must be bagged and placed at the curb by Sunday, November 12 for the last leaf collection by City crews.

Next week, November 13-17 is the last leaf pickup by the Department of Public Works.  Leaves must be bagged and placed at the curb by Sunday prior to the scheduled pick-up. City crews will make one trip through the city and will not go back once they have gone through an area. Leaves and brush can still be brought to one of the two City compost sites at the intersection of highways 54 and W, or at 17th Avenue North, just past Engel Road. 

Also, with freezing weather now, residents should check their recycle carts to ensure lids remain closed, and dump out water that may have accumulated inside the carts. Frozen liquid accumulation can cause cart to expand and crack, increasing the risk of damage during the recycle truck dumping process.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner, Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games



All invited to discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner

Area residents and business owners are invited to learn about and discuss the residential/commercial space redevelopment opportunities at the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc.  will join City officials to lead the conversation.

The event takes place today, Monday, October 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Karen’s Wines and Steins, 160 1st Street North.

Headquartered in the Madison-area Village of Oregon, Gorman & Company has worked since 1984 to specialize in downtown revitalization, the preservation of affordable housing, workforce housing and the adaptive reuse of significant historic buildings. Gorman redevelopment projects include partnerships with Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Portage, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Janesville and Wisconsin Dells.

The Triangle Area – located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east) – serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown Riverfront area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces. The initiative to redevelop this area was jumpstarted when the City purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar, and cleared the buildings. The resulting space is ideally suited for a mixed-use development with underground parking. The potential exists for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses.

We are excited by this partnership opportunity with an experienced community revitalization partner. We welcome your presence and input regarding our shared vision of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games

I encourage individuals, businesses and organizations to enjoy an evening of family fun, while also engaging with our local law enforcement community.

Wisconsin Rapids Police Department’s (WRPD) first “Trunk or Treat” event takes place on Tuesday, October 31, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Rapids Mall Parking Lot (Farmers Market location).

Trunk or Treat is a way for “kids” of all ages to celebrate a safe Halloween, with games, contests and assorted treats handed out by participants who fill the trunks of their vehicles, decorated in fall splendor.

All are invited to show up in costume to share in the festive gathering, and there will be free hot dogs and chips for kids in costume. Awards will be given for best decorated car and best costume.

We also advise citizens to check out helpful tips for safe trick-or-treating from the WRPD Facebook page  and watch this video from Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM).

Halloween is a colorful and enjoyable occasion. Let’s work together to keep it safe.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capture the Police Experience – Join the Citizens Police Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


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



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


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

Alexander Field Improvements are Underway!

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

ISW Closure 2017

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


Phase I (August 28 to September 10):

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Volunteers Needed to Walk Kids to School

File photo – Walking School Bus.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink