COMMUNITY UPDATE – Streamlining Development, Wisconsin Rapids to host a Veterans Stand Down and an online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community

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Another effort to streamline future development and land-use.

How we position ourselves to support development can mean the difference between a successful project in our city and no project. This is the reason why we have continuously focused on the way we interact with developers, investors, and business people. Cumbersome or outdated rules and regulations often times found in our city’s Ordinances can be an impediment to development resulting in lost time or worse, lost projects/opportunities. Our present zoning code- the document that sets forth what development and use of land is appropriate hasn’t seen a substantial update since the early 1980s. As we all know, a lot has changed in the world and our city since then. TO this end, the City of Wisconsin Rapids is setting forth with a major project to rewrite its zoning code to make it more modern and user friendly. In order to gather valuable input that reflects the concerns and needs of our residents, we have invited selected citizen shareholders to be part of this important project and encourage anyone else interested in participating to join us during a two-hour workshop at City Hall on Tuesday, November 3, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.55.01 PMOur consultant, Civi Tek Consulting, will facilitate a dialogue among members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and invited residents designed to identify general and specific major policy issues the new zoning code should address in new or different ways. We’ll be seeking feedback regarding the current code and its administration, and we will then collaborate with workshop participants to identify and evaluate alternative solutions to the key issues. Our ultimate goal is to develop consensus on what needs to be addressed in the rewrite and gain sufficient direction to begin drafting the updated zoning ordinance.

We are look forward to workshop participants taking full advantage to engage in this unique opportunity. When completed, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable. It will be integrated into other land-use regulations and be internally consistent, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Graphics and drawings will be used to increase reader comprehension to be more user-friendly.

Of course, we want this process to be transparent to all our citizens. As we continue along the path to a zoning ordinance that meets the needs of a growing and progressive community, we will post updates at the City website www.wisconsin-rapids-zoning.civitekprojects.com. We also encourage you to call Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or email ategen@wirapids.org to RSVP for this important project.

Wisconsin Rapids Veterans Stand Down

I am pleased that Wisconsin Rapids will again host an event to provide support to our nation’s military people. This year’s Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down will be held on Thursday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Centralia Center.Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.26.51 AM During the Stand Down, veterans will be able to learn about resources offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) and a host of other community agencies: VA benefits and enrollment, employment programs, credit counseling, Social Security, health screenings, post-traumatic stress syndrome, drug and alcohol treatment, financial counseling, housing and shelter information/referrals, and legal aid through community partnerships. Homeless and at-risk Veterans will have the opportunity to receive food, clothing and other resource assistance.

I urge you to encourage military family and acquaintances to attend. You can also help by personally donating items for attendees. For additional information, contact Wood County Veterans Service Officer Rock Larson at 715-421-8420; or the Tomah VA at 800-872-8662, ext. 64201.  To learn more what a Stand Down event is about, visit Wisconsin Rapids 2014 Stand Down event video from RCCA Media: https://youtu.be/re8_MyBXEvg.

Online survey offers a chance to display our sense of community

In my 2015 State of the City address I focused on citizen engagement as a key to building a healthy community. Having continued to emphasize this theme throughout the year, I acknowledge that personal feelings about families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and local government can influence the degree to which our residents are willing to become more involved in the well being of their community.

So, how do south Wood County residents feel about their community? What ‘attaches’ you to living here? You can help to answer this question, while helping a native of our community. Kristi Anderson, a 2007 graduate of Lincoln High School and current graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is working on a research project designed to measure the feelings of community attachment in the south Wood County area.

All current residents of the south Wood County area who are at least 18 years of age are invited to share their thoughts by completing a short 15-minute survey. To take the survey, click on the link here: https://goo.gl/YeiIjE.

In order to provide Kristi with as much feedback as possible, I am also requesting that you please share this survey with others in your work and social networks.

Once the data has been collected and analyzed, Kristi looks forward to sharing her findings with local residents and community organizations. For more information, contact Kristi directly here.

Many thanks for participating in and sharing this opportunity!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown coming to Wisconsin Rapids and volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

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Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Rapids to host Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown and New, Innovative STEM Scouts program launches here

Celebrating Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for State downtown redevelopment program

I continue to be inspired and energized with our progress. To celebrate the latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, citizens and local public officials gathered this past Wednesday at Wood County Courthouse for a formal announcement and information-sharing session on Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Connect Communities program.

IMG_2157Naleeta Burr, our community account manager for Economic and Community Development for the State of Wisconsin, discussed how Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown district, by providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance our revitalization efforts. Program services include: on-site assistance to identify needs and offer assistance; multiple online and face-to-face training and networking opportunities; and access to resources and materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities.

Following the brief presentation, Burr joined us for a walking tour that highlighted recent private investments in our Downtown, featuring stops at Whiskey Rapids, the Flat Iron Building, 340 West Grand’s new residential lofts and Karen’s Wine & Stein.IMG_2197

During her presentation, Burr pointed out that while the State can assist communities in their revitalization efforts, the local communities themselves must take the lead. She listed eight guiding principles for successful downtown redevelopment:
• Comprehensive – an ongoing series of initiatives is vital;
• Incremental – small projects make a big difference;
IMG_2191• Self-Help – only local leadership can breed long-term success;
• Public-Private Partnership;
• Identify and Capitalize on Existing Assets;
• Quality – from storefront design, to promotion, to special events;
• Change – in community attitudes and habits; and
• Action Oriented – frequent, visible changes in the downtown’s “look” and “feel.”

Recognizing that a vibrant Downtown area is key to reigniting the Wisconsin Rapids community, local residents, government leaders, business people and nonprofit organizations have all helped to drive a strategic plan of action that acknowledges decades of past business and residential planning and redevelopment efforts, while incorporating current private investments and City property sales transactions in the waterfront district. I am pleased and proud that our community’s collaborative efforts have been recognized by the State of Wisconsin.

By acknowledging how downtown’s and historic commercial districts play an important role in community prosperity, the Connect Communities program reinforces our own local vision of how the Downtown waterfront district can serve as a commercial-residential-recreational-historical centerpiece.

Wisconsin Rapids to host State summit on downtown revitalization

Our community’s progress toward achieving our vision of a vibrant and prosperous Downtown district will be on full display, Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22. That’s when Wisconsin Rapids has the honor of hosting the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown, the 2015 Summit on Downtown Revitalization, at Hotel Mead.

“Destination Downtown” celebrates innovative ways to strengthen and grow downtown areas – many of which we have incorporated right here in Wisconsin Rapids, including: quality-of-life initiatives (Supermass Redesign), collaborative action (Tribune Building)  and entrepreneurship / private investment.

150701_WRB_Public_Meeting_1_Boards_Page_8The summit will feature inspiring speakers; enlightening panel and public engagement on topics such as master planning, public arts, tourism and market expansion; and best practices and resources from Wisconsin and beyond. Economic development professionals; local and state elected officials; small business owners; and arts, business and civic leaders will be on hand.

The Summit kicks off on Wednesday night with a special tour of Glacial Lake Cranberries, one of central Wisconsin’s oldest cranberry marshes; and a reception at Karen’s Wine and Stein in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.

I encourage everyone who is interested in the health and well being of our Downtown district to attend. Not often do we get to play host and this opportunity is sure not be missed! For more information and to register, go to www.wisconsindowntown.org.

Volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

I am thrilled to share exciting news about an innovative program from the Boy Scouts of America that will be available to youth in our community, beginning now.

STEM Scouts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a new coed pilot program designed to focus on the exciting opportunities for youth in science, technology, engineering and math. Through weekly meetings and four-to six-week modules covering a variety of disciplines, STEM Scouts will show youth how to apply STEM in their everyday lives and encourage them to develop these experiences into future careers.

After a resounding response to the original pilot program by Scouts, leaders, parents and school officials in Knoxville, Tennessee, STEM Scouts selected the Samoset Council, our local Council as one of just 12 more councils in the nation to participate in the expanded program.

I strongly urge adults who have a STEM background to sign up as volunteers to help mentor STEM Scouts, lead special labs and host field trips. Plenty of volunteer positions are available for adults without STEM experience, as well. To make your mark, please email stemscouts@samoset.org, or give Amanda Flannery a call at 715-409-6690.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available for local clubs, parent organizations, businesses and other organizations. Some of the Wisconsin Rapids organizations already involved include Verso Corporation, Renaissance Learning, Mead Charter School, Lincoln High School and Woodside Elementary School. For more information, check out the STEM Scouts website at www.stemscouts.org/Weston.

Let us, as a community, give our utmost support to this unique program and help our area’s youth expand their interests and career potential!

Have a great day and thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – The rest of the Mead Pool story

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Community Update – The rest of the Mead Pool story

During my 2014 State of the City Address, I discussed our community’s need to explore sustainable approaches to upgrading our local aquatics offerings. That need became more apparent last week, when Inspectors from the Wood County Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services examined Mead Pool and found a number of health and safety hazards stemming from frost and high groundwater levels that lifted the pool basin out of the ground. Following their on-site inspection of the pool, these agencies moved the pool operational permit to a “Conditional” status.

The good news is that “Conditional” status provides us the opportunity to evaluate the hazards, formulate a plan to address them for a potential opening of Mead Pool for 2016.

To begin the process of potentially reactivating our pool permit, City staff has contacted various suggested contractors to perform a required engineering review that would cover currently identified areas of concern, as well as problems that may not have not yet have been detected. This review will provide the information we will need to identify the likely cost of making the necessary repairs that would allow us to re-open the pool for one more year in 2016. Following a review of the findings and associated costs, the City will consider making the improvements to satisfy the ‘Conditions’ placed by the inspectors.

Of course, this review-and-repair process represents is a short-term fix to our community’s aquatics issues. For some time, I have advocated that we as a community invest in our collective quality of life, through the creation of a place to nurture the potential of children and families through youth development, while helping to improve the health and well-being of all our citizens, both now and in the future. City Commits to Public Aquatics Last December, the City Council reaffirmed it’s commitment to providing public access to aquatics.

In 2014, the John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA announced plans to construct and operate a new facility in Wisconsin Rapids. While the original site is no longer under consideration, I was thrilled that, after its acquisition earlier this year of Riverview Hospital, Aspirus continued its commitment to the proposed partnership with the YMCA. The City, with the approval and support of the City Council and the Park & Recreation Commission, continues to pursue a partnership with the YMCA on public access to the aquatics portion of a facility under consideration.

As your Mayor, I pledge to continue leading our City’s pursuit of other creative collaborations to provide a long-term solution to our aquatics needs.  We will share more as information becomes available as well as opportunities to participate in any public meetings on the subject.

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Kick-off Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin Connect Communities program; Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday; Mayor’s Youth and Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

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Community Update

Save the Date: Celebrate Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin economic development program

In July I shared Wisconsin Rapids had been selected to participate in the Connect Communities program. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp’s (WEDC) selection is a result of the collaborative contributions of local residents, business people, government leaders, and nonprofit organizations to our Downtown revitalization effort.

wedcConnect Communities helps local stakeholders leverage the unique assets of their downtown and commercial districts, providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance downtown district revitalization efforts.

To celebrate this latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, I invite you to join us for a formal announcement and participation session on Wednesday, October 14, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., at Wood County Courthouse, 400 Market Street. More details to follow

Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday

This weekend, local households, businesses and farms can dispose of hazardous wastes in a safe, convenient and legal manner – at the annual Wood County Agricultural and Household Clean Sweep, Saturday, October 3, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the Saratoga Town Hall, 1116 State Highway 73.Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.28.03 PM

Each household and farm may bring up to a combination of five gallons of liquid or 50 pounds of solid waste at no charge; or make special arrangements for larger quantities with the Wood County Health Department. Businesses and schools can get no-obligation estimates on low-cost chemical disposal by calling 715-295-2623.

You’ll also have the opportunity to exchange your mercury thermometer for a mercury-free digital thermometer.

Take time to rid your residence or business of potentially hazardous wastes. For more information, call the Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8911 or 715-387-8646

Mayor’s Youth & Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

This past February, I announced during my State of the City address the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Council. This council gives area youth an opportunity to be engaged and participate in IMG_6743meaningful, change-making efforts such as policy development, service and recreation.

This past week, members of the Youth Council along with the Mayor’s Council on Beautification planted new shrubbery near the Hwy. 54 Wisconsin Rapids/Biron boundary. Their active participation gives real hope for what we can accomplish when our younger citizens are involved. This project will greet our many visitors upon their entrance from the east. Please join me in thanking these young and dedicated citizens for doing their share to help ensure a healthier, more attractive community, both now and for future generations.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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