Community Update: Enhanced Downtown Facade Improvement Initiative Moves Forward, New Signage to Reduce Truck Traffic Along Baker Street, Learn How We Can Help Drug Endangered Children



Enhanced Downtown Facade Improvement Initiative Moves Forward

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-2-46-38-pmSometimes, a good idea can benefit from a little rethinking and fine-tuning – and, in the bargain, bring the promise of exciting benefits to the Wisconsin Rapids area.

This was exactly the case during the Finance & Property Committee meeting this past Tuesday evening. Planning & Economic Development Director Adam Tegen presented details of a revamped Downtown Façade Improvement Program that is now approved and ready to go before the Common Council.  Watch the Finance and Property Committee discuss the facade program in this video, here.

The Downtown Façade Improvement Program is designed to stimulate private investment in high-quality building improvements that contribute to the overall strength of our Downtown area as a shopping and dining destination.

revisedwrdowntownfacadeprogramfinal1Under the original proposal in 2014, the City set aside $10,000 for a pilot program to support the enhancements of facades within the Downtown area. This effort ultimately ran into two limitations: restrictive covenants that capped the City participation in any given project to $1,000, and the lack of a consistent funding stream.

After reviewing the previous program with the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce and other City staff, and identifying best practices from other communities throughout the region, we crafted a Façade Improvement Program proposal that is enhanced in several ways:

  • Consistent funding – The yearly allocation of $23,250 will come from the portion of the City room tax that supports economic development. This fund has previously supported such initiatives as last year’s housing study and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative (REGI).
  • Increased flexibility – Instead of being restricted by a dollar amount cap, the City will be allowed to invest up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, up to the yearly allocation, or whatever remains in the program at the time of request.
  • Lower overhead cost – In contrast to the initial program, this program will focus on fewer, but larger projects. By following this guideline, administration costs will be reduced from approximately 37 percent of the annual budget to just 14 percent. 
  • Simplified application form – To encourage participation in the program, the application form has been reduced to two pages, which each applicant will supplement with supporting information to clarify the project.

I was pleased by the positive reception the Finance & Property Committee gave to this new proposal, and I am genuinely excited by the opportunities we may have to put an appealing new “face” on our Downtown area. Thanks to all Chamber of Commerce and City staff who worked as a team to make possible this potential boost to our local economy and quality of life.

New Signage to Reduce Truck Traffic Along Baker Street

01-17-17truckstreetsignsIn an effort to reduce the number of trucks traveling along Baker Street, the Wisconsin Rapids Department of Public Works, in collaboration with the Police Department and elected officials implemented new truck signage along Baker Street, State Highway 54, Spring Street and 1st Street North.

Baker Street is not a truck route, but residents and City officials have reported many trucks using this thoroughfare. The City currently has a truck access route identified along 1st Street North between Jackson and Spring streets for trucks making deliveries to businesses. The updated truck signage is designed to draw attention to the proper routes for truck traffic and clarify any confusion truck drivers may have, by keeping trucks on the state trunk highway and truck access route, instead of wandering onto Baker Street, which is limited to five tons.

01-11-17gis-map-of-truck-routesThis clarification also allows for more consistent enforcement of truck traffic ordinances, when necessary.  The proposed signage is expected to be in place by Friday, January 13.

City officials request that residents notify their family and friends of this updated signage and the weight limit restriction on Baker Street. A copy of the City’s Truck Route Ordinance can be found at: under ordinances.

Learn How We Can Help Drug Endangered Children

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “A drug endangered child is a person, under the age of 18, who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are illegally used, possessed, trafficked, diverted, and/or manufactured and … is at risk of experiencing, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse … medical, educational, emotional, or physical harm … or … is forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs.”

That definition dramatically describes how the upsurge in criminal drug activity puts into harm’s way the most vulnerable members of our community. Now, concerned citizens can take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn how we can protect our youth.

Please consider attending “Drug Endangered Children: Who they are and how we can help them,” Monday, January 23, from 6:00-7:30 p.m., at Woodlands Church, 1000 East Riverview Expressway.

This Wood County Drug Task Force presentation is designed to help parents and guardians, extended family members, and community members gain more knowledge about the plight of drug endangered children; resources that are available to aid these young ones; and what we as individuals and as a community can do to help.

Complimentary dinner will be served beforehand at 5:30 p.m. Children of any age are welcome to participate in supervised activities.

In his role as chair of the Healthy People Wood County Drug Task Force, outgoing Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief Kurt Heuer will be joined by narcotics detective Nate Reblin of the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, and by Wood County Human Services Department personnel Rebecca Porter and Sarah Arendt.

Guest speaker is Cindy Giese, special agent in charge for the Wausau office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation.

This event is made possible by the generous support of Aspirus Riverview Foundation. Registration is required; deadline is Tuesday, January 17. Call Megan Larson at Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8949 or email

Do your part, to become part of the solution!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Single-Stream Recycling, Christmas Tree and Brush Pickup begin Monday, Honor Crossing Guards During Recognition Week January 16-20



Single-Stream Recycling Begins in Most Neighborhoods on Monday

img_0228The anticipated changes to our recycling program go into effect in most City neighborhoods next Monday, January 9! Now, residents will be able to conveniently co-mingle all recyclable items inside the new, single-stream recycling carts. The recycling collection will remain on a bi-weekly schedule with collection day remaining the same. We will analyze our efficiency as the service launches before any further changes come into effect. See Tribune article here.

Due to challenges in arriving at an accurate count of img_0235carts, implementation of the program will be delayed for the Tuesday Westside recycling route. We anticipate that the carts will be delivered within the next two months. Until then, residents along this route should leave their recyclables at the curb, where they will be picked up the present, traditional way. The recycling collection will remain on a bi-weekly schedule on your normal day.

For additional information, please access the City’s website at, call the Garage at 715-421-8218 or watch this video, here or clicking on the image below.


The new single-stream recycling program will greatly aid in our City’s effort to collect recyclables in a safer, efficient, cost effective manner, and help to ensure greater diversion from landfills, a sustainable and greener future for our community.

Christmas Tree and Brush Pickup

treepickupIn order to maintain quality of life in our City’s neighborhoods & valued service, Street Department crews will be picking up Christmas Trees and brush during the week of January 9-13.

  • Christmas tree pickup: You can place your tree out on the curb starting this Sunday, January 8. Trees should not be bagged, and the cut end must be facing toward the street. Please make sure your tree is clean of decoration, lighting and skirts.
  • Brush pickup: To assist crews, neatly pile your brush by Monday morning, to a size of four feet high, six feet wide and 10 feet long. Piles that exceed size and chipping time limits will be left as a property owner responsibility and expense.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-20-02-amPlease note: Crews will make only one trip through the city during the scheduled week and will not repeat brush collection until February. Brush piles left by the City following next week’s collection schedule will be considered in violation of City ordinance and may result in enforcement action.

Let’s work together with City Street Department crews to make this process as safe and efficient as possible!

Honor Crossing Guards During Recognition Week January 16-20

CrossingguardEach day, dedicated adult crossing guards across Wisconsin show up at their assigned crossings to assist students in their journeys to or from school. I invite and encourage you to show your appreciation for these selfless individuals, during Wisconsin Adult Crossing Guard Recognition Week, January 16-20.

In addition to simply saying “Thank you,” as a parent, teacher and/or school administrator, you can more actively celebrate this observance by drawing from a number of special-activity ideas, here.

These ideas can help stimulate your creativity in determining how your school, students, parent organizations and community might show your recognition of, and appreciation for, the adults who serve as crossing guards in your area. Electronic versions of the 2017 Crossing Guard Recognition poster also are available for local printing.

Please take this opportunity to recognize the contributions adult school crossing guards make to the safety of our young ones as they travel to and from school.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink