Community Update – Celebrating Safe Routes to School and Wisconsin Rapids: a Smart Rural Community

Community Update

Celebrating Safe Routes to School 

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Washington Elementary School to celebrate successful implementation of a multi-year federal grant for the Safe Routes to School program.  IMG_20150918_120919559_HDR

Officer Kasie Borchardt, who led the grant application effort more recently, along with WRPD Chief Kurt Heuer, now retired Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation official Patti Nelles, Washington School Principal Kelly Schaeffer, and I highlighted the importance of sustained community involvement to bringing a valuable safety program to our city’s school children.  Among the grant’s deliverables- sidewalks on Washington Street, a new pedestrian island and crossing lights at 8th and Grove Streets, new ladder-style pedestrian crossings, among other programmatic features.

And now, with a new school year in progress, I invite you join me in volunteering for our local Safe Routes to School program. This is a proven way to help guide our young students through a successful year of safe travel to school.

A vital feature of Safe Routes to School is the Walking School Bus, where adult volunteers pick up small groups of students in front of their homes. The boys and girls hold onto a rope, walking along a designed route to school. Some days the students are surprised to see “guest” volunteers, such as members of the National Guard … or even myself, their Mayor!

If kids follow the routine of safely crossing streets and getting to school, I believe they will be more apt to practice safety outside the school day, in the summer and throughout the year.

Safe Routes to School goes into December, weather permitting, then starts up again with the arrival of warmer spring weather. To register your child, or to apply to be an adult volunteer, contact program coordinator Bev Ghiloni at 715-459-5599 or

Ribbon cutting video:

Wisconsin Rapids creates opportunity with smart technology

During my State of the City address back in February, I was pleased to talk in detail about high-technology initiatives such as City Viewer, Get Your Business Online and SeeClickFix. As I pointed out then, such innovations would not be possible without a solid infrastructure in place for accessing and delivering them.

With broadband high-speed Internet now an expectation in cities, our local provider Solarus has invested in laying new fiber to homes and businesses across our city. As a result, our local provider offers gigabit Internet service to our community – a service that just two short years ago was available in less than 20 cities in all of the United States that offered residential gigabit service.Smart Rural Community

These resources enable Wisconsin Rapids to promote itself to established companies and budding entrepreneurs as being on the leading edge in hosting business parks and open spaces served by broadband gigabit Internet. Our area possesses the infrastructure and capabilities for ultra-high-seed digital connectivity that can help businesses compete globally by unlocking access to new services, while enabling our residents to enrich their quality of life through access to significantly improved broadband services. Having a world-class broadband network in Wisconsin Rapids fosters job and economic growth, dramatically improves access to educational opportunities, impacts health care delivery and improves our quality of life, bolstering our city’s overall competitiveness.

Our local efforts have received national attention, including our area’s recognition as a Smart Rural Community by The Rural Broadband Association. In presenting Solarus with a Showcase Award, the Association cited the company’s advanced communications services and collaboration with local leaders. We are proud to acknowledge this honor with signs posted at all highway entrances to Wisconsin Rapids.  Solarus Tour2Just last week, Congressman Ron Kind and State Senator Julie Lassa stopped by for a tour of Solarus. These individuals understand the importance of broadband fiber infrastructure and connectivity to be competitive as a community and region. I am grateful they took the time to visit the city and learn more about this asset!

Earlier this year, I committed to working with our local providers to identify businesses or residences that do not have a broadband connection and challenged the providers to fulfill any unmet needs. Broadband is a vital way to ensure our residents and businesses have the tools to improve their economic success.

smart rural sign

From left to right: Kelly Wadsworth, Dawn Zellner, Deb Tellekson, Zach Vruwink, Lisa Stannis and Jennifer Weber.

And, I continue to invite the private sector and residents to weigh in with their own thoughts on how to better make our broadband competitive edge known to the world. Together, we can leverage our broadband advantage, improve connection rates and expand access to our great public spaces.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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