Senator Baldwin Tours Waterfront, Still time to “Stuff the School Bus”, Come together for the Community Picnic



Senator Baldwin Waterfront Tour Builds on Passage of Waterfront Development Bill

I had the honor last Wednesday of joining U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin when she toured our Wisconsin Rapids waterfront and the Tribune Community Accelerator Project.0720Baldwinvisittribune

During her close-up look at our waterfront potential, the Tribune Community Accelerator Project site and Lowell Center, Sen. Baldwin discussed with us her Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act, which passed the Senate on July 14. The bill calls on the Secretary of Commerce to support community efforts to attract water-dependent industries and investments that leverage water sustainably, revitalize neighborhoods, and enhance recreation and tourism. The bill is now in the U.S. House of Representatives for final consideration.

DSC_6654Sen. Baldwin’s waterfront legislation could help our $9.5 million riverfront redevelopment plan move closer to reality. As the senator pointed out, government agencies can provide resources that many small communities cannot generate by themselves.  This viewpoint aligns with that of our local civic leaders, who have recognized that our redevelopment must include multiple funding sources.

For example, $672,000 has been awarded by the DNR to the riverfront enhancement project and our Downtown redevelopment initiatives have twice within the past year been recognized by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation with more than $600,000 in grant funding.

Sen. Baldwin’s support of our efforts to make the most of our waterfront shined through in her praise for the special assets our community provides in terms of people and natural resources. She noted how inspired she was by the Tribune Building project, from the perspectives of the breadth and depth of the vision for this downtown site, and the degree of public engagement that has helped to shape and accelerate the realization of that vision.

We look forward to following the progress of Sen. Baldwin’s bill as it now makes its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, with a view to making access to grant money a major part of the final legislation.

UnknownVideo of Tammy Baldwin’s visit.

Still Time to Join in “Stuff the School Bus” Drive to Help Area Students

2015-08-06 12.06.08The United Way of Inner Wisconsin’s “Stuff the School Bus” event is just a week away … but there is still time and opportunities for individuals and organizations to do their share to help ensure that children have the tools to pursue the precious gift of education. Volunteers make it happen!

Bring your donations to the annual “Stuff the School Bus” event  during Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch by the River on Thursday, August 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. During that time, a parked bus will be “stuffed” with donations of school supplies. Monetary donations are also accepted.

Through August 4, you can also purchase school supplies and bring them to organizations throughout the area that have been maintaining collection sites in lobbies, entryways or break rooms.

This annual drive provides much-needed school supplies for south Wood County students whose families who are in financial need. Eligible students will be able to pick up their school supplies at “Stuff the Desk,” which will be held Saturday, August 13, at Lincoln High School.

For more information on how you can help area youths get a leg up on a successful future, please contact Amy Fluno at United Way of Inner Wisconsin at 715-421-0390 or

Celebrate the Unity of Community Next WednesdayScreen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.43.50 PM

Everyone is invited to join family, neighbors and friends along the Riverfront next week, for the 5th Annual Community Picnic.  You and yours can enjoy food offerings from local restaurants, beverages and family entertainment – including live music, kids’ inflatables and a petting zoo – on Wednesday, August 3, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.

We thank Incourage Community Foundation for conceiving and investing in this great event, to help realize its vision of a community that works well for all people. Deep gratitude also goes out to individual residents, nonprofits and businesses, who generously donate time and material resources to help to make the Community Picnic an opportunity for our residents to come together as one.

So, bring your lawn chairs or picnic blankets Downtown next Wednesday evening. For more information, call: 715-423-3863.

I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Aquatics Presentation, Verso, Wisconsin Rapids Ranked for Teachers, 50th Annual Water Ski Show and Housing Study Survey Winners Announced



Aquatics Presentation

Next Tuesday, July 26th @ 6pm in the Library Auditorium, a presentation will be made on the aquatics options from which the City will consider to invest in. This is an important moment in our present-day discussions related to public aquatics for our residents. Mark your calendar!!

Aquatics Presentation NoticeThe community has long been faced with the imminent end-of-life reality of public pools serving our region. When the we met with the State agency that issues pool licenses  (DSPS) after the season ended last year, we were notified that a much more thorough review was going to be done on Mead Pool due to imminent health and safety concerns. Their analysis concluded a major overhaul to the pool deck, underground piping and others would be necessary to have a conditional pool permit issued for 2016 operation. At this time City Staff and the Council opted to pursue a long term solution- a new facility. At the same time, the city had been discussing possible partnership opportunities with the YMCA on an indoor aquatic option through their Wisconsin Rapids expansion. In recent months, the city has contracted with Burbach Aquatics to consider general scoping of an outdoor aquatic facility. I am pleased to share both of these options are now ready for public presentation. In the time following next week’s public presentation, the City- its Council Members and myself will be listening to your options as it weighs an option to head. Following a period of public comment, the council may consider a direction at it’s August 16th Council Meeting. This isn’t a meeting where a final design or concept will be made, but merely a general direction. I hope to see you Tuesday night!

Verso Emerges from Bankruptcy

VersoIn a welcome dose of news last Friday: Verso Corporation, North America’s producer of printing and specialty papers and pulp, announced that it has emerged from bankruptcy following a successful financial restructuring. This restructuring substantially reduced the company’s debt, and includes financing to support ongoing operations and capital investment. Verso news release, here.

What is so significant about this turnaround is how relatively quickly it came about – less than six months after Verso’s Chapter 11 filings. The willingness of the company’s lenders to continue investing in its operations demonstrates their confidence in Verso’s long-term growth potential, and should serve as a source of optimism for an industry that remains very challenged.

The success of the restructuring also is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our community’s workforce, who continued to demonstrate our area’s enduring work ethic throughout the process. Verso has nearly 1000 team-members in the Wisconsin Rapids area.

Verso is now in a position to capitalize on previous operational improvements, pursue new strategic initiatives and effectively compete on a worldwide basis. As Mayor, I am excited about the opportunities our City has to work with Verso to help to ensure its continued success.

Wisconsin Rapids Ranked in Top 60 of 900+ Communities Among “Best Cities for Teachers to Live and Work

As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, it gave me great pride to hear about a report that ranks the Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield area 57th out of more than 900 U.S. communities on the job and lifestyle opportunities they provide for K-12 teachers.

wr-arial-001.jpgData analysts from college and careers website GoodCall evaluated these U.S. metro and micro areas on the basis of four criteria:

  • Affordability – Local teacher salaries weighed with local housing costs
  • Job Competition – Current open teacher job positions weighed with the number of resumés 
posted for hire
  • School Ratings – Ratings for school districts within each metro area
  • Lifestyle – The number of local restaurant, arts and entertainment amenities per capita is a website designed to help families and their children make educated financial decisions by providing objective information on everything from college rankings to financial aid. Carrie Wiley, who contributed to the report, said, “We set out to identify which parts of the U.S. are particularly teacher-friendly so that new teachers entering the field and those who are looking to relocate know which cities offer them the best backdrop for their career.”

Overall, the results suggest a smaller metro area such as Wisconsin Rapids may be the ideal environment for K-12 teachers who desire a strong community and an affordable lifestyle.

While teaching is recognized as one of the most demanding professions, it is also, according to teachers, one of the most rewarding, due to its effect on students’ lives. Competitive salaries, great schools, an active social-recreational scene and affordable housing can make the difference in attracting such dedicated professionals. Our recently completed Housing Study and Needs Assessment Report reinforces our need to explore and act upon solutions to increase or adapt more quality and affordable single-, two- and multi-family housing options, to retain our status as an appealing choice for educational professionals.

50th Annual Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships Start Thursday

I heartily invite everyone this week to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Championships. This fun and exciting sporting event takes place July 21-24, at South Wood County Park’s Red Sands Beach on Lake Wazeecha.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.06.31 AMThe Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers Waterski Show Team has hosted this tourney since 1967. The competition is well known in the show skiing world and draws performers statewide who are attracted by the scenic atmosphere and excellent facilities.

Because we do expect many out-of-town visitors during this week, I ask that all residents do what they can to maintain and display our best “warm and welcoming” hospitality.

Housing Study Survey Winners Announced

When the City of Wisconsin Rapids conducted its Housing Study and Needs Assessment late last year, we offered an incentive for residents to provide their feedback: Automatic entry into a drawing to win a Visa gift card from the City of Wisconsin Rapids and Paper City Savings Bank.

It is my pleasure to announce that, out of more than 700 survey respondents, the selection of three winners, all from Wisconsin Rapids: $100 winner Leah Kramer; and $50 winners Candis Challoner and Ronald Rasmussen. Congratulations!

We thank Leah, Candis, Ronald and all other respondents for helping us to identify issues, opportunities and recommendations that can guide our City in developing affordable and comfortable housing options. The full report can be found here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Aquatics Presentation, Aspirus Riverview Invests in Future, Kwik Trip Development Update



Aspirus Riverview Invests in Healthier Future for Our Community

During my 2015 State of the City address, I shared a view on a “healthy” community – healthy from economic, governmental and citizen engagement points of view. On June 30 of this year, I was excited by the announcement of a literal display of community health: One of our community’s most visible institutions, Aspirus Riverview Hospital and Clinics, revealed investments it will make over the next two years to meet the growing health care needs of the community and ensure that patients continue to benefit from state-of-the-art care.

The organization will spend $25 million to pay for a new and larger emergency department and a new family birthplace center, with groundbreaking expected by early 2017. Aspirus Riverview will also remodel its facility to house a new cardiovascular institute by the end of this year, and to provide extra clinic space for more specialists by next year.

Aspirus’ announcement is great news for our community on many fronts. The most obvious benefit, of course, will be expanded access to quality health care for area residents. This also means that more health care spending will remain in our immediate area and people will receive care closer to home. In addition, we expect to see an increase in direct construction jobs, as well as new, long-term permanent employment.

This investment is a testament to Aspirus’ commitment to our community. As Mayor, I thank the organization and its leadership for demonstrating its confidence in the strides Wisconsin Rapids is taking to become recognized as a vibrant and prosperous city.

Kwik Trip Development Moves Forward with Permit Approval

In what I would call a classic example of balancing community and commercial interests, plans moved forward on June 21 for a new Kwik Trip development project. The Wisconsin Rapids City Council approved a revised Planning Commission conditional use permit proposal that added 18 new conditions designed to address health, safety and welfare concerns of neighborhood residents. The convenience store-gas station-car wash complex will be located along East Riverview Expressway, between Lincoln Street and Sixth Street South. City of Wisconsin Rapids Planning Commission meeting video from June 13, here.

 Changes incorporated into the permit proposal included the construction of a six-foot fence along 6th Street, rather than the installation of landscaping and berm; and a City staff recommendation to move the proposed car wash away from 6th Street and closer to the store itself, to mitigate potential traffic and noise issue.

Recognizing also that intersection safety is of primary importance to the community, City staff and elected officials required Kwik Trip to hire a professional engineering firm to conduct a traffic impact analysis. This analysis then had to be reviewed by the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), City staff and an outside engineering firm contracted by the City.

Review of the traffic impact analysis by the City Engineering Department and WisDOT, along with meetings with necessary stakeholders and officials, were completed over the last several weeks.

A final draft of the traffic analysis review and resulting development agreement for any necessary intersection improvements was considered at Public Works Committee Tuesday and will be considered at next week’s Council meeting. Given the input of engineers who possess years of experience permitting, planning and overseeing such projects, I am pleased that the impact analysis and each party’s respective review has done much to clarify specific concerns and issues about safety. With that said, the city remains concerned and will continue to analyze the traffic issues south of the Expressway- at Lincoln & Daly.

It should be noted that, even though it has approved a development that is appropriate for the area, the plans must comply with the conditions established. Any further impacts will need to be worked out before a permit issued.

I thank everyone who weighed in on the proposal by Kwik Trip and for their interest in our community. Their willingness to agree to a variety of conditions demonstrates their desire to be a positive development partner with the City of Wisconsin Rapids, to expand its business profile while injecting jobs and dollars into the area.

Mark your calendar!!

The City is pleased to share options to invest in aquatics for generations to come! Tuesday, July 26 at 6pm in the Library Fine Arts Center (Theatre). The event will also be recorded and replayed on Wisconsin Rapids Community Media. (formerly RCCA)

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Recycling Process Brings “Green” Convenience, National Guard and Reserve Black Hawk “Bosslift” Lifts Spirits



Updated Recycling Process Brings “Green” Convenience

The City of Wisconsin Rapids City Council recently approved updating our recycling program to a single-stream, automated process that is more convenient for property owners, efficient, cost effective and sustainable.

photo 2Expected to begin January 3, 2017, recycling trucks will directly pick up recycling carts with a mechanical arm. Based upon the experience of many other cities and counties that for years have successfully employed automated recycling collection. This service should be prevent accidental littering from recyclable materials blowing out of bins and/or the recycling truck; and result in more materials being recycled. In addition, residents will no longer need to separate paper from other types of recyclables.

Automated collection also is much safer for collection workers and provides a cleaner “look” in neighborhoods when compared to manual collection.

Recycle binsThis fall, the City will deliver – at no direct cost to residents – a 96-gallon recycling cart on wheels with an attached lid to developed residential properties. The 96-gallon roll cart is very easy to maneuver and will allow you to load large amounts of recyclables without having to break items down into a more compact size. A 96-gallon cart holds approximately five times as much as a single 18-gallon recycling container and takes up about the same floor space as two 18-gallon recycling bins.

The City also offers an option, by resident request, to deliver a 48-gallon cart for residents who have a specific need for a smaller cart.

Carts loaded with recyclables are on display in the lobby of City Hall, allowing you to take a look and move the carts around before making your decision.

Director of Public Works Joe Terry recently mailed to City residents a letter announcing the new process, along with a Frequently Asked Questions flyer to address handling and storage concerns.

We are pleased to move to single-stream recyclable collection. This process represents the latest of City government efforts to deliver services in a manner that enhances the lives of our citizens and the livability of our community. See answers to FAQ here.

Employer Support of the National Guard and Reserves “Bosslift” Lifts Patriotic Spirits

As our City celebrated another 4th of July observance in spectacular fashion, the occasion too, serves as a reminder of the sacrifices and hard work of the uniformed men and women who protect our freedoms.

Thanks to Street Department employee and active National Guard service member First Sergeant (1SG) Sean Ringer, I recently was honored to experience the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of riding in a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, during the June 14 “Bosslift” to Fort McCoy. This event thanks Wisconsin employers who go the “extra mile” to support employees who remain on call for duty with the National Guard and National Reserve.

First Sergeant Ringer nominated the City through the U.S. Defense Department’s Employees Supporting the Guard and Reserves (ESGR) program to represent our support of military service members. ESGR promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers, and helps to resolve conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.

Fellow employers and I boarded at Appleton, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee or Wausau, and then shared the thrilling privilege of traveling aboard the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. This four-bladed, twin-engine utility helicopter boasts a proud history of service, dating from its 1979 introduction as the U.S. Army’s tactical transport helicopter. Advanced variants have since been deployed for Army electronic warfare and special operations; in U.S. Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard missions; and during action in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan and a variety of sites in the Middle East.

After arriving at Fort McCoy, I had the opportunity to observe firsthand what 1SG Ringer does while fulfilling his training obligations. During a day when 1SG Ringer was conducting collective training, we had time to get together and share the occasion.

Bosslift is an experience I will long remember – not only as a personal honor, but also as a vivid reminder of the character, courage and intelligence embodied by our military. As a City and employer, we salute and will always support the service of individuals such as 1SG Ringer and other city employees past and present, who contribute to the betterment of our community and our nation with dedication and pride.

For more, see this article from Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office, here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Housing Study and Needs Assessment Final Report, Fourth of July Fireworks info



Housing Study and Needs Assessment Final Report Pinpoints Priorities for our City

As your Mayor, I was gratified that the City of Wisconsin Rapids on June 21 marked an important milestone toward our goal of understanding and ultimately meeting immediate and future housing needs. That evening, planning and community development consultant Vierbicher Associates presented the final report of the Housing Study and Needs Assessment to both the public and to the City Common Council at City Hall.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.21.40 AM

This study was conducted late last year to evaluate how this community’s existing housing stock meets current housing demand, and what changes may be necessary to meet future needs by filling housing gaps and establishing priorities for project funding.

Based upon input provided by more than 700 survey respondents out of some 900 contacted – an exceptional response rate – the report outlines issues, opportunities and recommendations that can guide our City in developing adequate, affordable and comfortable housing options.

For me, the major survey findings spotlighted the following community needs:
Increasing or adapting more quality and affordable single, two-family and multifamily housing options for owners and renters;
Emphasizing housing options for millennial job seekers, young families and empty-nesters; and
Developing a communications strategy to combat misconceptions about the need and quality of senior citizen housing.

The summary conclusion that more affordable housing options should be a priority issue is borne out by responses from renters. These residents stated that their largest barriers to purchasing a home are the inability to afford a down payment and existing debts.

The report also reinforced our drive for Downtown revitalization. As Vierbacher pointed out in response to questions from Alderman Dolan and me, empty-nesters and millennials would be prime candidates for condominium and townhouse dwellings in our Riverfront area. Fulfilling these needs, in turn, would inspire residents to stay longer, helping to create a community ”identity” that would spur even more residential demand.

Overall, the findings demonstrate that much work remains to be done to achieve a housing environment that is truly comprehensive and appealing for current residents, and for future generations to come. Collaboration among government, businesses, non-profit organizations and community members is crucial to our success.

Because our city is situated among similar-sized municipalities, the Housing Study and Needs Assessment compared housing supply and demand in Wisconsin Rapids with Marshfield, Plover and Stevens Point. This comparative analysis considered, among other data, age and employment, family size and income, residency/vacancy trends, sales figures, and single- and multi-family residence availability. The researchers incorporated data derived from sources such as the City of Wisconsin Rapids, Wood County, the State of Wisconsin, the U.S. Census Bureau and multiple listing services.

City Director of Planning and Economic Development Adam Tegen, who oversaw this project, specifically noted the widespread response to survey interviewers. He also recognized Vierbacher for the degree of detail presented in its final report – the culmination of nine months of work.

Using this report as a guide, we can move forward together, as a city, to address these issues and transform them into opportunities for a more prosperous community.

Complete results of the City of Wisconsin Rapids Housing Study and Needs Assessment, can be found here and a video presentation.

Independence Day Celebration

This Monday, July 4, marks the return of the popular City of Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July Independence Day Fireworks Display – widely recognized as one of the most unique, colorful and explosive shows in the entire State. The show begins at approximately 9:30 p.m., along the shores of the beautiful Wisconsin River, in Downtown Rapids.

Members of the Teen Fireworks Committee, who diligently work to raise all the money to put on this event, have the richly deserved honor of launching the show with the ceremonial lighting of the first shot.

The show may be viewed along most of the riverbank, except for the launch zone on the western bank of the river, from the foot of the Grand Avenue Bridge to south of the Moravian Church.IMG_7266 Combined with other activities that bring our City to life during the July Fourth holiday period, the Fireworks Display brings our community together and helps pull in many out-of-town visitors each year – so it’s important to plan ahead.

For more information on logistics and safety reminders, visit:

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day celebration!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink