Community Update – December’s Council Meeting, Social Hosting Ordinance, and Holiday Greetings

Standard

Image

Social Hosting Ordinance Signing

At November’s City Council meeting, Council held a second reading and formally adopted a Social Hosting Ordinance in the City of Wisconsin Rapids.  In doing this, Wisconsin Rapids joined various Central Wisconsin communities including Marshfield, Nekoosa, and Wausau, to penalize those who knowingly host parties where underage drinking occurs.  Just as important, the ordinance opens the door for those conversations around underage drinking and how to deter it -creating a community that prioritizes safety of our area’s young people.

The Social Hosting Ordinance was brought about by the suggestion of area youth, in collaboration with WRPD and the Wood County Health Department.  Students pushed for the law to help deter underage drinking in our community.  Last Friday, I invited students involved with generating the SocialHost Ordinanceordinance to come to City Hall and participate in the formal signing of the ordinance.  I am proud of the youth in our community and hope that this is just the first example of engagement with our local government.  It is my goal to help give our area’s youth these opportunities through the formation of a Mayor’s Youth Council in the near future.  I look forward to sharing details on the upcoming Youth Council in the near future!

Notable Action from December’s City Council Meeting

December’s City Council meeting brought several notable actions that will set the stage for future discussions around City Staffing and ensuring services are delivered in a more efficient and effective way- at the same time aligned with resident expectations.

Dave Laspa CouncilAlong with the Council recognizing our outgoing City Engineer for 36 years of service to the City of Wisconsin Rapids and acting on my appointment of our interim City Engineer, Council also took action on an expected vacancy in the City Treasurer position. The decision is a result of a previous discussion by the Council of how the Finance and Treasurer departments might be restructured to promote greater efficiencies to better serve residents.  Recognizing that the transition of City Treasurer would present an opportunity to potentially restructure both departments, Council unanimously voted to approve a charter ordinance removing the Treasurer as an elected officer and naming the Finance Director to perform those duties otherwise performed by the Treasurer.  Revised position descriptions for the Finance department will be brought forward to Council in the upcoming months.

In addition to discussing reorganization in city operations, Council also took action in the area of our service offerings- public aquatics- with an update and recommendation by the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee.  The Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee has met over the last couple months to discuss resident’s desires in public aquatics and to produce a summary of its findings with a recommendation for full City Council consideration.  Meetings included discussions around how access or usage could be defined with a facility that could have multiple access options (YMCA Membership, public citizens, swim teams, etc.).  Ultimately, the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee made a unanimous recommendation to City Council that the Mayor and City Staff continue to pursue a partnership with the SWC YMCA to offer public access to the aquatics facility.  Council unanimously voted to follow the Ad-Hoc Committee’s recommendation with the added point that public access and financing would need to further be explored, with updates brought back for consideration once determined.  I look forward to continued discussions with SWC YMCA, City Staff, and residents about what access (and financing) might look like for a shared aquatics facility, and the potential of Wisconsin Rapids having a exemplary facility that helps improve the health and well-being of our community!  To view the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee recommendation, and Council’s subsequent aquatics discussion and vote, please visit this link.

Holiday Message

Happy-holidaysAs the 2014 year draws to a close, I thank you for your hard work and caring commitment to the betterment of our community throughout this busy and progressive year.  Teamwork is a key ingredient behind our success; whether it’s taking care of your own property, helping a neighbor take care of his or her yard, reaching out to help a stranger in need, or donating your time and energy with one of the many opportunities for community improvement, YOUR involvement is what makes Wisconsin Rapids so great!

I am very appreciative of the countless hours of volunteer time so many of you have contributed to our various efforts. Through your suggestions, questions and voiced concerns, we work to improve our City every day. Your input is crucial to our work, and I look forward to working with you again next year as we move forward to make our beloved community an even more wonderful place to live, work and play.

On behalf of the City of Wisconsin Rapids, please accept my best wishes to you and your families for a very Merry Christmas and a safe start to a brand new year. May God bless you and your loved ones in 2015.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Image

Community Update – Holiday Open House & The Season of Giving

Standard

Image

Holiday Open House Invite

HolidayOpenHouse2014

This Thursday, December 18, members of the public are invited to join in celebrating the holidays at our first City Hall Holiday Open House from 4:30-6:30PM.  The open house is meant to serve multiple purposes- to celebrate and recognize those who have served on various Boards, Commissions, Committees and Councils, and to meet and get to know City Staff and various members of our community.

To prepare City Hall for the event, area students have worked on decorating ornaments that will be placed on garland trees located throughout the first floor of City Hall.  There will be holiday music performed by a local choir.  Holiday cookies from local businesses and refreshments will be served  Finally, donations of nonperishable, canned goods will be accepted, to support our local food bank.  The invitation can be viewed here.  I hope to see you Thursday!

Supporting Local Organizations

During this time of year, I would like to offer my profound gratitude to those who volunteer to ensure that those in need are provided for.  In our community, there are numerous opportunities for those interested in helping support local organizations and individuals in need.  I will outline a few below:

The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department is holding its 48th Annual Toy and Gift Drive to provide toydrive
assistance to the many children in need in our community.  Through Wednesday, December 17, new/gently used unwrapped toys or monetary donations are being collected for distribution by social workers and counselors at Wisconsin Rapids Schools to our community’s children in need over the holidays.  Donations for the program can be dropped off at either fire station (1511 12th S. S. or 1641 W. Grand Ave.).  More information about the program can be found by visiting this link.

giftofgivingIn the weeks leading up to Christmas, various local businesses are offering the opportunity to positively influence and impact the youth of our community this holiday season, supporting the Boys & Girls Club through “Giving the Gift of a Great Future.”  Through Friday, December 19, a portion of purchases at several local businesses will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club in supporting programming for our community’s youth.  To learn more about the “Giving the Gift of a Great Future” campaign and participating businesses, visit this link.

Wisconsin Rapids area schools are helping keep kids warm through the “Caring Closet” program- collecting coats, boots, winter gloves and hats for distribution to students who need outer clothing during the cold months.  Originally opened several years in the basement of the Family Center as an effort to provide new and gently used essentials and clothing to WRPS students, the Caring Closet is now located on site at East Junior High School.  With 47% of school age children in our community now qualifying for free and reduced lunch meals, it is very clear that many children need assistance in order to enjoy a happy holiday season.  A small gift can go a long way in the life of a child and make their Christmas enjoyable and memorable.  Donations for the Caring Closet can be dropped off at either fire station (1511 12th S. S. or 1641 W. Grand Ave.) or at our local area schools.  For more information on Caring Closet or to make a donation directly, call 715-424-6730, ext. 3174.

I am thankful to live in a community where we have so many residents who volunteer their time to make wonderful things happen in our City. The impact that your help makes on those in need and our community is immeasurable.  To all our volunteers- thank you for your time and commitment- you make our city great!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Image

Community Update – Train Delays in Wisconsin Rapids

Standard

Image

Train Delays in Wisconsin Rapids

WR TrainOver the past couple months, residents of Wisconsin Rapids have taken notice- and experienced- an upswing in train delays at a number of our City’s 4+ crossings.  These delays, ranging from minutes to (infrequently) over an hour, have the potential to create an unanticipated impact on people’s travel, human capital for employment, and potentially emergency response activity through the isolation of the City, West of the tracks.

Railroad activity (specifically freight) has been a cost-effective means of moving materials throughoutRailroad map Wisconsin (and the country) since the late 1800s.  Today, freight railroads continue to play an important role in our local and regional economy through use of container shipments.   As you can see from this map, rail interconnectedness makes moving large shipments anywhere within and out of the state possible through use of trains.  For Wisconsin Rapids, our roots in paper and manufacturing, coupled with our central location, make rail a critical part of our local infrastructure and movement of goods throughout into and out of our region.

Given rail use will continue to be an significant mode of transportation in Wisconsin’s economy, it necessitates a focus on what actions might be needed to keep freight and people moving as efficiently and safely as possible.  The recent upswing of train delays and related safety concerns has warranted the need to reach out to the railroad for possible solutions and ongoing work to quantify the issues caused by trains in our City and surrounding municipalities.  Due to being federally regulated, local control and enforcement of long delays through use of citations is vastly limited, further necessitating an increased dialogue with the railroad companies to work toward a solution.

To help quantify the impact that train delays have on queuing at intersections, our City’s Engineering Department has been undergoing a study, looking at movements blocking tracks, as well as investigating what external factors may be causing the upswing in delays.  Coupled with our internal study, over the past weeks, I’ve been in contact with national representatives from CN about the blockages occurring at City crossings, primarily related to switching resulting in back and forth movements blocking tracks.  From my conversations with CN, I have been informed that my messages- and those from residents- have been received and elevated to their Government Affairs and Operations staff.  Short of building an overpass or rerouting, I affirm my commitment to working together to remedy this situation in a way that is satisfactory for residents while still ensuring the continued operations of the railroads.

I encourage continued sharing of thoughts and concerns with City Staff as well as CN as we move forward.  It is my hope- and expectation- that we find a solution that affords residents and visitors to our City the means to travel our streets in an efficient and safe manner. I will share information as it becomes available. Comments may be sent to CN here.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Image