Community Update – GIS, Clock Bell Tower and Business/Project Funding



GIS (Geographic Information System) Update

Earlier this year at my State-Of-The-City Address, I spoke of the need for creating a more efficient, streamlined and modernized city government.  I introduced GIS as a way to achieve these goals, through increased productivity and accuracy in our analysis of data. Last week, City staff were introduced to GIS applications being worked on by our GIS specialist Chris Cantey.  Chris has been working on two applications, one for internal use by City staff, and one of which is very close to being released to the public.

GIS, short for Geographic Information System- is the term given to technology used to collect, manage, and distribute information tied to locations by layering on a map-based environment. We’ve all heard the term “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  GIS is a great example of this saying as it combines the strength of visual communication with access to information and analytics.  GIS is a technology that can be utilized for cost savings, better decision-making and record-keeping.  Other municipalities around the country have been realizing the benefits geo-mapping (i.e., Madison, Marshfield), and to remain competitive, Wisconsin Rapids must also utilize GIS.  The application for use within the City of Wisconsin Rapids is significant.  The quality of life of residents depends greatly on the health and sustainability of our community.  From streets and underground utilities, to playgrounds and parks, all City departments provide services that residents use every day.  GIS can significantly aid in better decision making- often resulting in cost savings, while improving the delivery of services in the City, with greater accuracy and transparency in operations.

Across departments, the City depends on data to provide services to the community.  From utilizing GIS to better prepare for and organize the response to emergency situations, to using GIS technology to optimize community development of neighborhoods.  GIS even aids public works in planning for maintenance or the plowing of our city streets after a snow-storm.

In talking with departments regarding what residents often inquired about, it became clear to me that there GIS Example2were opportunities for disseminating information, available 24-7, to residents to provide answers to frequently asked questions, or information on road construction, brush pickup schedules and even locations of parks.  An example of GIS for public use could be similar to that of Wood County’s parcel information database where one can look up a property’s location as well as any regulatory influences and requirements associated with a parcel (i.e. being in a flood zone).  The GIS system could also be linked to permitting and to provide some history of a particular parcel.  There are also excellent applications for GIS to be integrated into our parks & trail system.  Using GIS, residents and visitors could easily pull up a map of City parks to view amenities at each, map out a bike ride or walking within our City, and even view historical markers or memorials located at points throughout the City.  As with the internal GIS app, the possibilities of information we can provide on the public facing GIS application are endless.  As we finalize our GIS website, we want to know from you what functionality you’d like integrated.  If you have information that you wish was available online, please contact me or any City department to share your idea.  Watch for an update on our roll-out of the City’s GIS website in the coming weeks!  

Restoring the Memorial Clock Bell Tower

photo 1One of the often admired historical landmarks within the City is the Memorial Clock and Bell Tower, located at Mead Rapids View Park.  With construction wrapping up near the park and planned enhancements to the park’s space coming in the near future, I met with City staff and stakeholders to inspect the clock’s condition both on the outside and mechanically.

The memorial clock and bell has a rich history with our City, originally part of the Grand Rapids joint City Hall and Library built in 1892 and located at 1st and Baker St..  When Grand Rapids and Centralia consolidated in 1900, City Hall moved to the west side and the library remained in the 1st and Baker St. building until 1947 when it moved to the former home of Isaac and Charlotte Witter on 3rd Street (that home now houses the South HiWood County Historical Museum).  When the library moved, the “clock and bell location” was used by the Wisconsin Rapids School District until the building was demolished in 1957.  Prior to the building being demolished, Paul Gross worked with the City to save the clock and bell, storing it at the City Garage until a committee chose its new location in a tower at Mead Rapids View Park.  The funding to construct the tower and locate the clock and bell there was completed in 1990, with construction concluding in 1991.  Now, almost 25 years later, we saw fit to inspect the landmark structure to ensure its’ condition and functionality is in good order –(history of clock and bell tower provided by Philip M. Brown).

photo 3As a result of our inspection, I am happy to report that we are exploring options to  improve the actual clock mechanism to continue the clock’s functionality for years to come. Repairs to the lighting operation, clock mechanism and the surrounding grounds are in order. With historical significance and prominence in our community, I am happy to see steps being taken to preserve the clock bell tower, restore its operability and ensure its place in our City for generations to come.

New and Existing Business Loan Availability and Project Grant Opportunities

Whether you are an existing or prospective business, or an individual with an idea for improvements to our community and need funding, there are solutions in our area for funding ideas and ventures:

For prospective and existing businesses in our area, the Central Wisconsin Economic Development (CWED) Revolving Loan Fund makes funds available for supporting business growth in our region.  With a goal of serving as an economic stimulus for Central Wisconsin, $2.7 million is available to fund new and existing businesses looking to for start-up or expansion.  The funds are made available with the objective of creating new and diverse jobs, increasing incomes, and leveraging bank financing- all leading to an expansion of the region’s tax base.  The result of this expansion has the potential to be significant: a positive and proactive business climate, encouraging the expansion of existing businesses and helping to attract new businesses- all leading to a diverse mix of employment opportunities.  To learn more about the CWED fund, visit this link.

“What if?”  Do you or someone you know want to bring people together around an idea?  Incourage Community Foundation has recently launched “What-If” grants to assist resident-led projects that bring people together to move a good idea into action in the south Wood County area. Recent examples are the Community Fundraising Resource Center, the Flowering of Grand Avenue and the Ben Hanson Park Boat Landing Study.  To learn more about philanthropic support provided by Incourage, visit this link.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



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