March 3 – March 9
Last week, Stevens Point Mayor Halverson and Police Chief Ruder hosted a summit on Heroin. There, Police Chief Heuer and I joined health professionals, Judges and county officials from Wood & Portage to address the ever growing epidemic of heroin use. Recently, our communities have suffered tragedies resulting from use of Heroin-a drug once believed to be exclusively a “big city problem.” The demographic and size of Wisconsin Rapids and our neighboring communities make for a logical first step to collaboratively address and discuss heroin issues facing our cities, towns and villages. The drug is highly addicting and is incredibly dangerous, often resulting in overdose at first use- of major concern to law enforcement and health care professionals. We were told this is not the heroin drug of the past.
The daylong event began laying out the foundations for an action plan. We heard from the University of Wisconsin Chief Riseling on their approaches in Dane County. Through presentations and a productive round-table discussion, it became apparent that our community is not alone in dealing with this epidemic. It was also clear that this is not a problem we can “arrest our way out of,” and that a mindful, collaborative approach between leaders, law enforcement and stakeholders with an “all of the above” attitude to address this widespread problem. Wisconsin Attorney General, JB Van Hollen joined us to talk about his department’s role and how they can assist us in our regional effort. We will be meeting on this very important subject soon as we chart our path forward.
County Facilities Input Meeting
Recently, Wood County has introduced the findings of their space needs study. Last Tuesday, I and members of my staff met with members of the Wood County Space Needs Implementation Committee to discuss the opportunities that might exist through a partnership, and how that might positively impact their financial investment in county facilities in the near future. The Committee is in the process of soliciting feedback and input from the public (April 14th) and other officials before considering recommendations.
Our meeting last week reinforced the opportunities that exist for the City and County to work together to find a solution that includes the best use of land surrounding the entire Courthouse. I look forward to the continued discussion with county representatives and members of the Space Needs Implementation Committee to find a solution that not only meets their needs but also provides greater benefits and return on investment to the taxpayers.
New Business Visit, Business Relocation, and the ‘Third Space’
This week presented us with the opportunity to meet with a new company locating in Wisconsin Rapids. This company, known for dehydration and food processing, will create 12 full time positions initially, with strong promise of more after they become operational. When asked “Why Rapids?”, the answer was short and simple- you have available buildings at a very competitive cost, available labor force and are close to food production. I am excited to welcome their investment in Wisconsin Rapids. They will be operational mid-April and will formally announce more at that time.
Additionally, last week the Industrial Development Commission took the necessary steps to approve a micro loan request to aid the relocation and expansion of Higher Grounds Cafe to a new location on 8th Street. They will be open in April featuring bulk foods, unique coffee (with drive-thru) and very tasty bakery items (I know because I’ve indulged in a few myself!). The business is located next to Sleep Inn, in front of Park Institute Karate. If you know of someone interested in starting or growing their business, the revolving loan fund and attractive terms may be a fit. Contact me for more information.
Finally, I had the pleasure of introducing progressive ideas regarding our public spaces and park enhancements to the Parks & Recreation Commission last Wednesday. This directly relates to investments in the 3rd space, introduced at my 2014 State of the City Address. At the Address, I drew attention to the areas for improvement, particularly our parks, and called for a multi-year investment in the City’s recreational assets. The natural beauty of our city on the river can be a more of a destination for visitors and further, a more attractive place for our residents and future residents. I am excited for the coming months, with opportunities of further discussion on the topic to introduce a formal opportunity to involve residents interested in improving our City’s parks and public spaces.
Coffee with the Mayor
Last week, I held a discussion session at the Olympic II Family Restaurant.
This Friday, March 14th, I invite you to join me at Perkins Family Restaurant, 2311 8th Street South, from 7:30AM-8:30AM. All are welcome to join me for all or just part of the time, for breakfast or coffee, so spread the word to friends and neighbors.
I am glad residents are attending to ask questions and provide me feedback. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet and have conversation!
Mayor Zach Vruwink