Community Update – Public Aquatics, Heavy Metal Bus Tour, and Visiting German Students



Commitment to Public Aquatics, Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee

Pool CrackingAt a time when our public aquatic facility is deteriorating, the City leads on looking to the future for its public aquatics offering.  For over 100 years, aquatic facilities have been an essential part of the Wisconsin Rapids community. Today, the clock is ticking on our remaining public aquatic facility.

Last August, Wisconsin Rapids received exciting news when, at a media conference, Riverview Hospital Association and John E. Alexander SWCYMCA announced an intent to collaborate on the construction and operation of a new YMCA facility in Wisconsin Rapids.  Proposed to be located on the Riverview campus, the facility will be designed to address a wide range of community health and wellness needs.

A facility like what was announced provides us with the opportunity to strengthen our community economically through attracting and retaining young adults and families. The aquatics facility announced by Riverview and YMCA could serve as a place to nurture the potential of children and families through youth development, while helping to improve the health and well-being of residents in our community.  Although the announcement was an exciting step for the future of aquatics in our area, the City recognized that work exists to preserve a public aquatics offering.  At the September City Council meeting, our Council unanimously renewed its commitment to support public aquatics offerings through an aquatics resolution, and discussed an upcoming formation of an Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee, to aid in the decision of if and how a collaborative approach to solving our aquatics challenges is practical.  Last Tuesday, the Council approved the formation of the Ad-Hoc Committee, with Common Council and Park & Recreation Commission representation, to explore the extent in which a new public aquatics facility could serve the needs of all members of the public from children to seniors.

The objectives of the Committee will be to swiftly quantify the existing public aquatic offering’s usage, Mead Poolreview recommendations by the 2012-2016 Recreation Plan to collaborate with community partners, and understand our current and upcoming aquatics challenges. Further, the Committee will work to understand resident’s desires in a public aquatics facility. The Committee will produce a summary of its findings and a recommendation in December of 2014 for full City Council consideration. All Committee meetings will be open to members of the public and attended by City staff.  Our first meeting is Tomorrow, Tuesday October 28th, 2014 at 5 pm in the First Floor Conference room of City Hall. 

It is indeed an exciting time for our community.  I am hopeful this is the first of many collaborative efforts to make our community stronger.  To read my previous reaction to the announcement, click here.

Heavy Metal Bus Tour

This Wednesday, high school Sophomore High School students from Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Assumption and Lincoln will join local and elected leaders in the Heavy Metal Bus Tour, to get an inside look at our local manufacturing facilities and highlight the challenging and rewarding careers that manufacturing offers.  The Heavy Metal Bus Tour is a program coordinated by the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, with a goal of exposing and encouraging students to consider jobs in the area of Manufacturing.  The day’s activities will include tours of NewPage, Tweet/Garot, Fey Printing, and ECC Corrosion Inc. and learning more about the training opportunities for careers in manufacturing at Mid-State Technical College. This is a great opportunity for area employers and Mid-State Technical College to come together to benefit students by giving them exposure and awareness to careers in manufacturing.

To help highlight the challenging and rewarding careers that manufacturing offers, and to reaffirm the importance of manufacturers to our state’s economy, the Governor proclaimed October “Manufacturing Month” in Wisconsin.  With his proclamation, came the encouragement that Wisconsin’s manufacturing employers host visits, tours and other events to highlight that manufacturing in Wisconsin is a robust and dynamic industry driving the creation of jobs, inspiring innovation and advancing the state’s economy.

Manufacturing is the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy, having dominance in many Wisconsin cities like ours.  Events like this Wednesday’s day-long tour shows students the highly technical and great careers in manufacturing.  With the average pay for a manufacturing worker in Wisconsin at $53,000 per year- more than $10,000 per year higher than the average pay for all Wisconsin private-sector workers, and the retirement of baby boomers- the field of manufacturing is more vibrant and appealing than ever before.  Seeing firsthand what jobs in manufacturing entail provides students with the opportunity to explore and learn more about the compelling jobs the manufacturing industry can offer them.

For our area, there is also tremendous value in having programs such as the Heavy Metal Bus Tour.  Our area is fortunate to have a great combination for youth to succeed with jobs that are high paying, have good benefits and are in an area that offers a great quality of life.  Not only does our area have fantastic manufacturing employers like ERCO, Domtar, NewPage and Golden Eagle Log Homes right in our backyard; we also have an outstanding technical college to help give students the skills and education needed to fill the positions needed by these companies in the near future.

Hosting German Business Students

German Exchange students visit City Hall

German Exchange students visit City Hall

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting Students from Max Eyth Schule, in Dreieich Germany.  The students are part of an exchange program with Mid-State Technical College, where business students spend two weeks with families in Wisconsin Rapids, tour local businesses and go on different field trips around the region.  City Hall was a destination for the students last Monday, and I had the opportunity to welcome them to Wisconsin Rapids, speak about various City functions and a bit of city history.  As young professionals, I encouraged them to take action sooner rather than later. I expressed my growing appreciation for the city and world as I became involved in starting a business as well as seeking and holding elected office. The students were full of good questions; I enjoyed discussing my role as Mayor and answering their questions!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update – Regional Economic Development Fund, Fall Photos, and Beautification Council



Election as Vice President of CWED, CWED Board Meeting

Last Thursday, I joined representatives from 7 counties and 10 cities in central and north-central Wisconsin for the Central Wisconsin Economic Development (CWED) Fund’s monthly Board of Directors meeting.  At this meeting, the CWED Fund held its election of officers.  Jeffrey L. Zriny, Marathon County Board Supervisor, was elected President, and I was elected Vice President.CWED Map

A strong regional economy elevates each of our surrounding communities. The CWED Fund, regionalized in 2009, spans a territory reaching from Adams county in the south to Vilas county in the north. The over $12 million fund is in place to serve as an economic tool for Central Wisconsin.  The funds are made available with the objectives of creating new and diverse private sector jobs, growing incomes, and leveraging bank financing- all leading to an expansion of the region’s employment and tax base.  The purpose of the CWED Loan Fund is to partner with traditional financing to fill financing gaps in local markets and to stimulate private sector development.

In a previous Community Update, I gave an overview of the fund as one solution for funding new and expanding business ventures.  The fund provides an excellent opportunity for supporting business growth in the region.  Fulfilling the objectives of the fund will aid in positively impacting the business climate in our region, 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.  I look forward to working with the newly elected President over the coming year to ensure the continued success of CWED’s fund in promoting economic development in our region.

Board of Regents, Partnership for Thriving Communities

boardofregentsRecently, I had an opportunity to join area leaders, as well as UW system Chancellors and Provosts from around the state as UW-Stevens Point hosted the Board of Regents.  As the first time since 2008 that the board has visited UWSP, it was an opportunity to highlight the campus, and surrounding communities to demonstrate how the 4-year college is a vital and energetic part of our region.

At the meeting, UWSP’s Chancellor, Bernie Patterson shared the University’s strategic plan, titled “A Partnership for Thriving Communities,” with the Board and visitors.  This plan provides a framework through which the University is becoming more engaged with area stakeholders, more responsive to local needs, and more relevant to solving regional problems.  Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with representatives from UWSP in their preparation of this plan, to identify ways that the University can aid in advancing learning and quality of life in our communities, and leveraging our area’s precious resources.  A video of the board of regents meeting can be viewed here.

The meeting also included the opportunity for student projects to be showcased to Regents and visitors. I was pleased to see an emphasis on classroom projects that applied learning such as the use of GIS in a sonar survey of river depth above the Stevens Point dam. In this way, I shared the boat landing survey that is underway to understand the usage of the stretch of river in Wisconsin Rapids. It has been said that a second phase of the project could be a hazard identification to foster a safer experience for those looking to utilize the river here.

Submit Fall Photos

Fall Picture

A recent view from my kayak looking south with Belle Island to the right.

With the fall season upon us, one can’t help but notice the changing of colors in our area.  In fact, according to Travel Wisconsin’s Fall Color Report, last week and this week mark peak times for fall color in central Wisconsin.   The colorful landscape of our area presents the perfect opportunity to showcase your photos on our City’s Facebook page, my Twitter or Facebook pages.  I invite you to upload some of your fall photos, and look forward to seeing (and sharing) the beautiful landscape that our area provides this time of year!

Beautification Council Meeting

Earlier this month, I represented our city at the America In Bloom Symposium.  The symposium was a celebration of efforts that communities had achieved in preserving local heritage, enhancing environmental aspects of their spaces, and, of course, beautifying their surroundings.  Our community also received feedback from our visiting judges on successes and potential improvements in the way of an evaluation and recommendation document..

This Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 4:30PM in the 1st Floor Conference Room at City Hall, the Mayor’s Council on Beautification (MCB) will hold its next meeting. Now that we’ve received the AIB judge feedback report and are entering into the fall season, members of the MCB have the opportunity to review the report, discuss alternatives and feasibility of implementation to prioritize new and existing project ideas.  Thursday’s Beautification Council meeting will be an excellent chance to learn about planned projects and voice your ideas for potential ones.  If you have an interest in participating in Thursday’s Beautification Council meeting, feel free to attend the meeting or contact me.  Whether through implementing 4th quarter projects before winter, or planning our 2015 projects, the Mayor’s Council on Beautification is hard at work planning and carrying out projects that help in making Wisconsin Rapids a more welcoming and vibrant place to live and visit.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Tribune Building, Neighborhood Clean-Up, and Final Alarm Ceremony



Tribune Building Project

Last month officially wrapped up the facilitated, resident-led meetings for the Tribune Building Project, marking the collective work of over 700 residents and more than 4,400 hours over 10 meetings.  At that meeting, accomplishments were shared, and updates were given to the group for moving forward.

10653348_739279782806657_2300626559641749664_nDevelopments often impact areas beyond the specific parcel. The Tribune Building redevelopment is no exception.  With this site surrounded by vacant and underutilized parking lots both city and non-city owned, the area has much redevelopment potential. Our City’s fathers and past administrations worked to develop a foresight to the future use of downtown property, with plans dating back to the 1990s (1996 Plan, 2007 Plan, 2009 Plan). By way of timing, over the past few years, we’ve seen pieces pulled out of these plans and brought to fruition. There are also steps we can take to ensure additional elements of these plans, invested in and adopted by residents through Council approval, see the light of day.

As we’ve now hit a milestone as a community with the Tribune Building Project, the time has come to bring residents together for another meeting around options and alternatives for future development around the Tribune Building.  The next meeting will be this Tuesday, October 14 at 5:30PM at the Centralia Center.  The meeting will continue the generating of ideas and dialogue that build on previous meetings, but also begins a discussion around future development choices. If you missed last month’s meeting, I highly encourage you to attend Tuesdays, and make your mark on this unique redevelopment on our riverfront.  Cannot make the meeting? I welcome your feedback.

Final Alarm Ceremony and Procession

Last weekend, over 250 residents and visitors gathered at the Wisconsin State Firefighter’s Memorial to 5810612_f1024attend the annual Final Alarm and Roll Call Ceremony.  The event featured a memorial service to honor the firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the State of Wisconsin.  The names of all fallen firefighters listed on the Memorial Wall were read along with ringing of the Memorial Bell for each.  Additionally, two names of firefighters who died in the line of duty over the past year were recognized and added to the 280 names already etched in the memorial wall.  Governor Scott Walker joined Saturday’s event and issued an Executive Order instructing all Wisconsin flags be flown at half-staff in memory of firefighters who died in the line on duty.

In addition to the Final Alarm and Roll Call Ceremony, Saturday evening, a Final Alarm Procession was held to honor firefighters who gave their lives in line-of-duty deaths.  Each year, it’s a tremendous honor for Wisconsin Rapids to be the permanent host of the Wisconsin state memorial.  The Final Alarm Ceremony and Procession are a great opportunity for residents to experience and be reminded of how special it is to us and remember those who have given their lives to keep our communities safe.  A video of the Ceremony, captured by RCCA, can be viewed here.  A video of the procession captured by members of WRPD can be seen here.

Witter Field Planned Changes/Improvements

IMG_7931With the Rafter’s season concluded, City staff have been meeting with representatives from the Wisconsin Rapids Rafter’s organization to plan for structural maintenance and improvements to Witter Field during the off season.  The grandstand is an asset and therefore requires ongoing maintenance. Exposure to the elements necessitates treatment of rust and other issues. As a result, the grandstand will receive some new color. While the cranberry color will remain on the stairs, a darker grey will cover the floor. The benches and ceiling will remain the same.

As the proud home of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, we have an IMG_7936interest in investing in Witter Field, as an asset that increasingly plays an important role in our community and with the residents and visitors of Wisconsin Rapids.  The painting of the grandstand is just one of several important investments taking place in the off season to ensure the vibrancy and historic part of our community remains for generations to come.

Ward 1 Fall Cleanup Event

This Saturday, volunteers and members of the Ward 1 Neighborhood Group will get together for Ward 1’s Fall Cleanup Event.  Slated to be a “maintenance event,” Saturday will see volunteers and property owners assist their neighbors with raking, leaf pick-up and general upkeep to properties in the area.

Ward 1 CleanupThe event will begin at 8:00AM and participants should meet at the shelter at the newly renovated St. Lawrence Playground (10th Ave. N. and Fremont St.).  Volunteers are encouraged to bring gloves (if they would like to have them), and a rake if they have one.  For further details or clarification on questions about Saturday’s event, please contact Kathy Rash, Ward 1 Volunteer Coordinator.  I am proud to see the ongoing resident-led work being done to help beautify our neighborhoods.  I plan to be there, and hope to see you Saturday!  


Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – America In Bloom Symposium, Tree Planting Recap and Final Alarm Ceremony



America in Bloom and Judge Feedback

America in Bloom envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play – benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.

America in Bloom envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play – benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.

As part of our effort to make our city more welcoming to businesses, visitors and residents alike, in 2014 Wisconsin Rapids joined the America In Bloom (AIB) program.  Last July, we hosted two judges for three days to evaluate and assist in helping identify and rank potential image improvement and beautification projects within the City. A look in the mirror of sorts.  After much anticipation by residents and members of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification, last Friday I had the opportunity to meet with our judges to receive their feedback at the America in Bloom Symposium.

The AIB Symposium has three focuses; the first being celebrating communities by learning what they are currently implementing for beautification efforts and best practices associated with them.  These conversations with other communities present at the symposium were very valuable for gaining insight into current and future projects in our City.  With the Mayor’s Council on Beautification planning our 2015 projects through idea generation, discussing similar projects with other communities assists in gaining a better understanding of the resources and potential pitfalls associated with each potential project.

Wisconsin Rapids was asked to present at the symposium as well.  The presentation included an overview of our community and recent beautification efforts.  This was an exciting opportunity for us, and I took the opportunity to highlight initiatives like the flowering basket program, and similar accomplishments (and struggles) we’ve had with our various beautification efforts.  The second focus of the AIB Symposium is that of educational sessions and special programs.  This included panel presentations on involving youth with beautification efforts, the value of public gardens in communities and tree planting strategies for our communities.  Partaking in these sessions and associated conversations proved to be both useful and eye-opening.  At our next Mayor’s Council on Beautification meeting this month, I will be sharing the feedback and recommendations received at these sessions and discussing how the ideas can be utilized in our 2015 project planning.

A final focus of the AIB symposium, and a cornerstone of the AIB program, was meeting with our judges toIMG_0021 receive their impressions, feedback and project recommendations.  Accompanied by this meeting was our receipt of the judge evaluation and recommendation document.  A review of the evaluation and recommendation document shows that our participation in the program has its benefits-it will be an instrumental resource for the Mayor’s Council on Beautification to incorporate ideas into our 2015 planning and beyond.  It was encouraging to see the judge’s overall feedback of 2014 projects such as the flowering basket program, and the planters at City entrances as signs that beautification is beginning to root and spread.  I would share the following excerpt from the judge’s evaluation:

“Wisconsin Rapids is a city with rich heritage and a bright future. The heavily used river and the extensive park system combine to give a strong recreational use to this area. Active community members have begun to take the initiative to revitalize this beautiful setting along the Wisconsin River. Both neighborhood cleanup projects and downtown beautification efforts are well underway. The Mayor’s Council on Beautification is a strong, hard-working group that is making a difference in the community and the economy.  They meet regularly and represent a good cross-section of the city. Residents, business owners, and service organizations are becoming united in their interest and initiatives to make Wisconsin Rapids a more vibrant community.“

Now that we’ve received the AIB report and are entering into the fall season, members of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification have the opportunity to review the report, discuss alternatives and feasibility of implementation and prioritize new and existing project ideas.  October’s Beautification Council meeting will be an excellent chance to learn about planned projects and voice your ideas for potential ones.  If you have an interest in participating in this month’s Beautification Council meeting, feel free to contact me to be added to the communication list.  Whether through implementing 4th quarter projects before winter, or planning our 2015 projects, the Mayor’s Council on Beautification is hard at work planning and carrying out projects that help in making Wisconsin Rapids a welcoming and vibrant place to live and visit.

Tree Planting Event at Legion Park

IMG_0009Last Saturday, Alderperson Scott Kellogg and young residents from the community held a “Tree Planting Event” aimed at planting trees at Legion park, and along the 1st Avenue South Riverbank including areas that previously featured them.  Saturday’s event kicked off what will be a total of 28 street and park trees planted in that area.

Last weekend’s event was not only significant for the City’s efforts to continue its commitment as a Tree City USA, but was also the “seeds” of a Mayor’s Youth Council.  With a goal of IMG_0011generating interest in volunteering and making a difference in our community, we put out the invite to students at both Lincoln and Assumption high schools for volunteers.  I’m excited to report that we had eleven students helping plant trees!

I am proud of the resident-led work being done by the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and volunteers of
all ages in our community!  If you’re interested in participating in future volunteer events with the City, please contact me to be added to the contact list and watch for opportunities announced in future Community Updates.

2014 Final Alarm Ceremony

As the permanent (and proud) host city of the Wisconsin State Firefighter’s Memorial, this Saturday, October 11, 2014, the annual Final Alarm and Roll Call Ceremony will be held.  The event is set to begin at 3:33PM, with a memorial service to honor the firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the State of Wisconsin.  The names of all fallen firefighters listed on the Memorial Wall will be read along with ringing of the Memorial Bell for each.

Events like Saturday’s Final Alarm Ceremony serve as a way to honor and show appreciation for those emergency service providers and responders who have given their lives protecting the lives and property of others.  More information can be found here. If you are looking for a reason to visit the memorial, this is the time! I hope to see you there.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink