Community Update: 17 for ’17 – Highlights of Our City’s Progress, Community Survey is open – share your opinion



17 for ’17 – Highlights of Our City’s Change, Progress

The year 2017 saw the City of Wisconsin Rapids, its citizens, and its business and philanthropic communities take strides forward, closer to our vision of a diverse, thriving and welcoming area that offers people of all ages the a more impressive place to call ‘home’. These achievements top the list of the many that our City realized last year.

Check out the video below to find see the top 17 achievements in 2017 along with a more in-depth look into the projects available to read, here.

Community Survey is open – share your opinion

What’s important to you? What are your hopes and concerns for our community?

Share your opinion to help shape our future.

In 2012, Incourage led the first ever Community Survey to help better understand the hopes and concerns of our residents, and to identify priorities for our community. Now, with citizen engagement and active interest in community revitalization on the upswing, Incourage has partnered with nationally recognized researchers to again conduct the survey to see what has changed.

Take the survey here. Paper copies are also available at Incourage’s office at 478 East Grand Avenue, or by calling 715-423-3863.

I encourage residents of all ages throughout the south Wood County area to take 10 minutes to express their thoughts by completing the Community Survey. Survey deadline is Monday, January 15.

Share your opinion … and help shape our future.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Holiday Greetings; Share favorite Holiday light displays



Holiday Greetings

Once again, we approach that time of year when we strengthen and renew cherished ties with family, neighbors and friends. As we share the joy of glad tidings, we also experience the sense of fulfillment that comes from heartfelt generosity.

Click on the image to learn more about the plans for an Aquatic Center in Wisconsin Rapids.

Click on the image above to make your donation for a new Aquatic Center in Wisconsin Rapids.

 Our appreciation for the season grows when we consider the many voluntary gifts of time, caring and support that selfless individuals render to build and strengthen our community throughout the year.After a year in which the active engagement of local residents has helped us to make tremendous strides in revitalizing our community, I urge you to remain involved. One outstanding way to contribute to the ongoing spirit of support is by making a tax-deductible investment in your community – namely, the Wisconsin Rapids Aquatic Center. Buoyed by the impact of each and every donation, we can make the dream of a world-class, regional facility a reality in 2019.

I am proud of the culture of giving that the City of Wisconsin Rapids has always reflected. As we nurture and sustain that tradition, I wish for each one of you a festive and cheerful holiday season.

Mark and find your favorite holiday lighting displays around the area with our SeeClickFix App. Click on the image to download the App, or use this link:

And if you’re looking for holiday lighting displays around town this holiday season, download the SeeClickFix app and check out the Rapids Pride section to locate and share your favorite holiday light displays.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Zoning Code rewrite progressing toward council consideration; Youth Council Kicks off it’s year with Zoo Project



Youth Council kicks off school year with focus on Zoo Master Plan

The Mayor’s Youth Council kicked off its 2017-18 year by welcoming new members, and by learning about the Municipal Zoo Master Plan project and what they can do to get involved.

This fall, Youth Council members toured the zoo, gathering information and discussed master plan details with the Community Development Department, leading the project. Youth Council members will work with parents and area youth to develop a specific project with the zoo, and/or choose one of the master plan improvement ideas as the focal point for their efforts.

The goal for the Zoo Master Plan is to provide a long-term vision for the facility, complete with objectives related to design, budgeting and implementation phases.

Community Development began by performing an analysis to identify the zoo’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Issues included some dated features and deficiencies in walking path flow and some water features.

Encouragingly, this analysis also pinpointed enhancement opportunities to increase use of the Oak Grove picnic area, seek a signature/feature exhibit, activate the entrance area (promenade idea, food carts, etc.), and add to the “silo” exhibit where the lemurs typically are.

We plan to continue gathering information from various age groups, particularly our youth, over the next couple of months. That input will then be incorporated into the final master plan.

On a personal note, I look forward to the Mayor’s Youth Council bringing the same energy and creativity to this effort as they have to such initiatives as neighborhood beautification and Aquatic Center fundraising.

Zoning Code rewrite progressing toward council consideration

The City of Wisconsin Rapids initiative continues apace to draft a new code to guide growth and development in a manner that reflects zoning and planning best practices. After two years of dialogue and valuable input among members of the Planning Commission and residents, we have developed consensus on the concerns and needs of our citizens that need to be addressed in the rewrite.

The initial draft of the zoning map has been presented to the Plan Commission for review and comment. The Planning & Zoning Commission is expected to continue reviewing key parts of the draft code throughout this month.

When completed, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable. It will be integrated into other land-use regulations as outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and be internally consistent, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Graphics and drawings will be used to increase reader comprehension.

Adding to our momentum is the fact that the City’s Comprehensive Plan update is moving in lockstep with the zoning rewrite. The draft, a Long-range Plan Map was also submitted for initial review by the Commission and will come back in November. If all goes according to plan, the draft would be presented to the Common Council for initial feedback sometime during January 2018, with public hearings to follow.

The purpose of the comprehensive plan is to provide a 20-year vision and rational basis for local land use and economic development decisions. This incorporates such priorities as housing; transportation; utilities and community facilities; and agricultural, natural and cultural resources.

As we continue along the path to a zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan that meet the needs of a growing and dynamic community, we encourage you to stay informed, by contacting Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or at Or visit for more information on the process!

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Celebrate the spirit of the season at City Hall, Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer



Celebrate the spirit of the season with us at City Hall

Glad tidings and cheer will mark the evening of Thursday, December 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. That’s when we’ll welcome local residents to join us in celebrating the season, and the work of our City officials and staff, at our annual City Hall Holiday Open House, in our Lobby at 444 W. Grand Avenue.

You’ll experience “season’s greetings”-style entertainment from the Lincoln High School Chamber Singers. And for younger ones, Santa Claus will be on hand to help keep spirits bright.

Bring a cash, food or toy donation, and your young ones will be able to have a free photo with Santa. All donations will benefit the food pantry, The Family Center, Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club and the Firefighters Toy Drive.

In addition, you can tour City Hall, visit City departments, and learn more about how we serve you and fellow citizens throughout the year.

For more information, call 715-421-8216, or email

I look forward to seeing you!

2018 Winter Recreation Guide now available

The 2018 Winter Parks and Recreation Guide is now available! Registration opens December 15th. Check out the guide here!

Spread holiday cheer as a volunteer

Local citizens looking for ways to “give back” to their community this holiday season can find golden opportunities through the United Way of Inner Wisconsin Volunteer Center.

Graphic submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin – Please click on the photo to see the Holiday volunteer opportunities.

The Volunteer Center offers a varied selection of seasonal volunteer opportunities – from serving meals or caring for homeless pets, to making crafts for shut-ins or visiting seniors who would welcome a friendly face.

Photo submitted by United Way of Inner Wisconsin

I strongly encourage you to take time right now to browse the Center’s online database of holiday volunteer needs. You can also call 715-421-0390 or email

And, don’t forget there are other ways to spread cheer to your fellow residents. You can also help support the work of the Volunteer Center with a year-end financial donation to United Way of Inner Wisconsin, here

Let us do our share to help ensure “Happy Holidays” for all!

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season; A time to be thankful



Rekindle the Spirit brings joy and color to the holiday season

I invite all residents to gather Downtown on Wednesday, November 22. That is when the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce gets everyone into the holiday spirit, with its annual Rekindle the Spirit Holiday Parade and Celebration.

The festivities begin at 5:45 p.m., with the lighting of decorations in Veteran’s Park, and then rolls into high gear with a colorful, musical parade that starts at the Rapids Mall parking lot and makes its way across Grand Avenue Bridge to 4th Street. After the parade, we invite all to make their way to Hotel Mead for a visit with Santa, live music, and hot chocolate and cookies.

Rekindle the Spirit offers fun for the entire family, so make plans to be on hand.

A time to be thankful

I want to personally thank all the volunteers and public servants throughout our community who have graciously devoted their time, expertise and generosity throughout the year to make Wisconsin Rapids a special place. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and share compassion for all the little things in life that truly make a difference.  I am personally grateful.

For those who don’t have a thanksgiving meal, St Luke’s Lutheran Church will be serving a Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 1:00 pm on Thursday, November 23rd in its fellowship hall. The meal will be served at no charge to anyone in the community who is alone or who is not able to prepare the traditional meal for themselves.

Thanks for reading my blog,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner, Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games



All invited to discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner

Area residents and business owners are invited to learn about and discuss the residential/commercial space redevelopment opportunities at the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc.  will join City officials to lead the conversation.

The event takes place today, Monday, October 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Karen’s Wines and Steins, 160 1st Street North.

Headquartered in the Madison-area Village of Oregon, Gorman & Company has worked since 1984 to specialize in downtown revitalization, the preservation of affordable housing, workforce housing and the adaptive reuse of significant historic buildings. Gorman redevelopment projects include partnerships with Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Portage, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Janesville and Wisconsin Dells.

The Triangle Area – located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east) – serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown Riverfront area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces. The initiative to redevelop this area was jumpstarted when the City purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar, and cleared the buildings. The resulting space is ideally suited for a mixed-use development with underground parking. The potential exists for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses.

We are excited by this partnership opportunity with an experienced community revitalization partner. We welcome your presence and input regarding our shared vision of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games

I encourage individuals, businesses and organizations to enjoy an evening of family fun, while also engaging with our local law enforcement community.

Wisconsin Rapids Police Department’s (WRPD) first “Trunk or Treat” event takes place on Tuesday, October 31, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Rapids Mall Parking Lot (Farmers Market location).

Trunk or Treat is a way for “kids” of all ages to celebrate a safe Halloween, with games, contests and assorted treats handed out by participants who fill the trunks of their vehicles, decorated in fall splendor.

All are invited to show up in costume to share in the festive gathering, and there will be free hot dogs and chips for kids in costume. Awards will be given for best decorated car and best costume.

We also advise citizens to check out helpful tips for safe trick-or-treating from the WRPD Facebook page  and watch this video from Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM).

Halloween is a colorful and enjoyable occasion. Let’s work together to keep it safe.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Refurbished Bell Tower Clock a “Timely” Symbol of our History and Future, Capture the Police Experience – Join the Citizens Police Academy



Refurbished Bell Tower Clock a “Timely” Symbol of our History and Future

On behalf of the City of Wisconsin Rapids, I extend a warm invitation for area residents to experience the restoration of a special part of our City’s proud history. 

Tomorrow, Thursday, September 28, the City will host a Rededication Ceremony the refurbished Wisconsin Rapids Memorial Clock and Bell Tower. We will mark the occasion with a reception from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Triangle Area site across the street from the Bell Tower, with remarks acknowledging involved citizens, vendors and donors at 5:30 p.m.

This large brass mechanism is a clock. In 1892, it was installed in the tower of the Grand Rapids City Hall, which was also home to the T.B. Scott Free Library.

All who share this occasion with us will appreciate that the clock mechanism has undergone a complete renovation, funded by the Mead Witter Foundation. This restoration project enables more operation of the dials and the installation of remote electronic controls to allow repairs during the winter months. The hands of the clock are virtually identical in design to the original hands, but will be easier to read.

This large brass mechanism first was installed in 1892, in the tower of the Grand Rapids City Hall, which was then located on the corner of First Street North and Baker Street. Just before the old building was demolished in 1957, the clock mechanism was saved when longtime business leader Paul Gross, along with some friends, helped to move the clock to the city garage, where it was stored for many years.

During the 1980s, jeweler and historian Paul Gross led a group of volunteers to raise money to restore the Memorial

File Photo – During the 1980’s, a group of civic-minded citizens organized a campaign to build the Memorial Clock and Bell Tower, located on the east bank of the river upstream of the Jackson Street bridge.

Clock, as well as construct the Mead Rapids View Park Bell Tower. Historian Phil Brown joined architect Jerry Feith of Wisconsin Rapids, who drew up the plans, and work began in 1990, with a dedication in 1991 to the early settlers and the Mead families for their commitment to the beautification of local riverbanks and parks.

In 2014, a committee was formed to address restoring the tower and clock to their original condition. After almost two years of work, the exterior and interior of the tower have been extensively reconditioned. Now, on September 28, the Memorial Clock will re-assume its place as a part of this distinctive 55-foot-tall structure.

During the ceremony, the tower and clock will be rededicated in honor of Paul Gross. This is fitting recognition, not only for Paul’s immeasurable guidance and perseverance in jumpstarting and overseeing these projects, but also for his devotion to telling our City’s history in so many ways.

The Mead Rapids View Park Bell Tower is a symbol of where we started and where we’ve been. But the tower also symbolizes the future our citizens visualize as we enter another chapter to revitalize our riverfront district. It is easy to envision this landmark becoming an iconic gathering place for both residents and tourists, while they enjoy our City’s natural beauty and the recreational trail that courses through the park.  

I am proud to see the Memorial Clock and Bell Tower and make an energetic reappearance on our City’s riverfront, and I look forward to seeing all of you next Thursday evening.

Capture the Police Experience – Join the Citizens Police Academy

File photo- A tactical shield is displayed during the 2013 academy.

Experiencing local government – the level that is closest to our residents – is why I offer Mayor’s Councils in areas such as Youth, Beautification and Sustainability. Other City Departments offer ways, as well.

For example, the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department (WRPD) has long committed itself to building positive relationships with the citizens of our community.

That is why the WRPD invites eligible residents to experience life in the shoes of a law enforcement officer, as part of its Citizens Police Academy. The program runs for 10 weeks on consecutive Mondays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., beginning on October 9.

Selected participants have the opportunity to drive squad cars, fire police-issued weapons, observe a demonstration from the WRPD Special Response Team, learn about sensitive crimes and drug investigations, and more.

City residents 21 years of age or older can obtain an application by going to the City website], or by calling Detective Andy Dewitt at 715-421-6217.

More than 300 participants have graduated from the Citizens Police Academy. Now, you can share in this unique opportunity. Apply today!

Thank you for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink