Community Update: Dispose of outdated/unwanted medications at Drug Take-Back Event, Healthy Family Fun Night, Dispatch Center telecommunication on front line of keeping citizens safe

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Dispose of outdated/unwanted medications at Drug Take-Back Event

Do you have prescription drugs that are outdated, no longer needed and/or could be abused by someone in your home?

Bag up your unneeded medications, and bring them to the Prescription Drug Take-Back Event, this Friday, April 20, at the Wisconsin Rapids Copps, 900 E. Riverview Expressway.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can dispose of a wide variety of controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, creams, inhalers, liquids, non-aerosol sprays, ointments, patches, pet medications and vials.

For more information, call the Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8923.

And, don’t forget to join thousands of other Wisconsinites next week in the battle against substance abuse, during Dose of Reality Week, April 22-29. Together, as a community, let’s learn how we help to prevent opioid, narcotic, and prescription painkiller abuse and addiction.

Healthy Family Fun Night

Recognizing and encouraging our local efforts to improve overall community health and well-being is very important for our community to prosper.  Please join the Healthy People Wood County, the Boys and Girls Club of Wisconsin Rapids, and UW-Stevens Point who are hosting a community “Healthy Family Night” Thursday, April 19 from 5-6:30pm held at the former Pitsch Elementary School site.

There is no cost to attend the event and a free meal is provided to families who attend the event along with fun activities and a raffle to win a prize!

The night will include activities such as:

  • Family Fun Boot Camp
  • Mushroom Tag
  • Family Fun Yoga
  • Healthy Family Dinners on a Budget
  • How to Read a Nutrition Label

In addition to offering a fun night of programming, the group is looking for input through a short survey questions

Please help spread the word about this  event to parents, organizational staff, and other stakeholders, it would be much appreciated.   For more information visit their Facebook Event Page.

Dispatch Center telecommunication on front line of keeping citizens safe

Photo submitted – Wood County Dispatch Center workers take calls.

This past week has been highlighted by the observance of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. The City of Wisconsin Rapids recognizes all the highly skilled professionals who provide life-saving assistance to citizens and emergency responders 24/7, and throughout the year.

Our law enforcement and other emergency dispatchers work behind the scenes to help police, firefighters and medical professionals coordinate timely responses to an array of urgent – and sometimes, life-threatening  – situations. Employing advanced training and cutting-edge technologies, these dedicated individuals help to alleviate injuries, minimize property damage and save lives.

Since last August, the Wood County Dispatch Center has operated out of renovated facilities on the second floor of the County Courthouse here in Wisconsin Rapids. Twenty employees rotate on two-hour shifts across six terminals, taking calls from all over Wood County. Calls from residents of Wisconsin Rapids total some 25,000 per year – a number that indicates the crucial role safety telecommunicators play in our daily lives.

Dispatch Center Supervisor Lori Heideman invites the public to come in to see the new, upgraded facility. For more information about how Wood County Dispatch works for you, contact Lori at 715-421-8668.

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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

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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 ategen@wirapids.org. Or visit http://www.wisconsin-rapids-zoning.civitekprojects.com/ for more information on the process!

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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

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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 jclark@wirapids.org.

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 angie@uwiw.org.

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

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

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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

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Community Update: Residents invited to proposed Triangle-site concept follow-up with developer, City workers checking off list of winter preparation projects

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Entrepreneurs, Investors invited to proposed Triangle concept follow-up with developer

The City is hosting a follow-up meeting with Gorman representatives at Karen’s Wines and Steins, Wednesday, November 15, from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm.

I was excited to see the number of area residents and business owners who turned out at Karen’s Wines and Steins on October 23, to learn about and discuss redevelopment opportunities for the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc., joined City officials to lead a productive conversation. We currently are exploring a concept that incorporates a market space featuring an anchor tenant, such as one that would feature craft brewers and distillers along with vendors who would rent kiosks to sell goods such as food, art or other creations.

To further the dialogue, the City is hosting a follow-up meeting with Gorman representatives, targeted toward individuals and entities that have a solid interest in this commercial market, or in other types of commercial or office space. This event takes place at Karen’s Wines and Steins, Wednesday evening, November 15, from 4:30 to 6:00, with brief remarks at 5:00. Light appetizers will be provided. If you’re interested but unable to attend, please contact me.

The Triangle Area overlooks the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces, and is ideally suited for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses. The City is committed to negotiating with Gorman & Company to determine how best to move this project forward. The Madison-area-based company has a proven track record of success partnering with Wisconsin municipalities on downtown revitalization projects. Our hope is to have a development agreement in place that would allow construction as early as 2018.

I am excited by this partnership opportunity, and we welcome your ongoing presence and input as we pursue our shared vision of sustainable Downtown redevelopment.

City workers checking off list of winter preparation projects

The Wisconsin Rapids Parks & Recreation Department and the Department of Public Works have been checking off a list of projects to help keep our public spaces well maintained throughout the winter season.

The Skate Park along with public bathrooms in parks around the city are now closed for the season and the final mowing of green areas are done until spring. The Witter Field ice skating pond/warming house and the low board hockey pond at Robinson Park will open as weather permits.

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM – Leaves must be bagged and placed at the curb by Sunday, November 12 for the last leaf collection by City crews.

Next week, November 13-17 is the last leaf pickup by the Department of Public Works.  Leaves must be bagged and placed at the curb by Sunday prior to the scheduled pick-up. City crews will make one trip through the city and will not go back once they have gone through an area. Leaves and brush can still be brought to one of the two City compost sites at the intersection of highways 54 and W, or at 17th Avenue North, just past Engel Road. 

Also, with freezing weather now, residents should check their recycle carts to ensure lids remain closed, and dump out water that may have accumulated inside the carts. Frozen liquid accumulation can cause cart to expand and crack, increasing the risk of damage during the recycle truck dumping process.

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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

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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

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Community Update: Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment, AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs

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Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – The State Senate budget transportation plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Recently I had the privilege of joining State Senator Patrick Testin to announce a proposal that could very well usher in an era of renewed prosperity in our local community: The State Senate budget plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Airport expansion would establish Alexander Field as a reliable transportation hub with convenient access to anywhere!. The accompanying increased traffic offers more opportunities for:

  • Potential investors to view our assets of natural beauty, affordable living and highly skilled labor force as solid reasons to build in the area;
  • Existing businesses to expand their operations;
  • Event planners to value our area as a prime venue for meetings and special activities; and
  • Stay-over tourists to visit for special events – such as the State Water Ski Show Championships, among many other opportunities.

Making a positive and lasting first impression on these visitors will help to ensure they want to continue to visit the area and patronize regional businesses, resulting in a considerable contribution to the regional economy.

Indeed, Sand Valley Golf Resort General Manager Glen Murray noted, “This is great news that our state officials see the significant value in continued infrastructure investment in Central Wisconsin and the airport. We are grateful for the partnership with Alexander Field and all those that are involved in this community asset.”

As chairman of the South Wood County Airport Commission, I have worked with fellow Commission members Arne Nystrom (Grand Rapids), Katie Martinson (Port Edwards) and Brad Hamilton (Nekoosa) for some time to seek funding for the airport. In the funding request submitted to the State in December of 2016, we emphasized the increased volume and size of aircraft we could expect in the near future and for some time to come from Sand Valley clients choosing private air travel as their means of access to central Wisconsin.

We also pointed out that, through thick and through thin, our community has made substantial investment over the years to support operation, maintenance and development of Alexander Field, viewing the airport as an essential feature for regional tourism, industry, public relations and economic development. The inclusion in the Senate’s budget plan of four million dollars for infrastructure improvements and expansion is a most positive step.

As Senator Testin observed, “This funding will help improve our infrastructure here in Wisconsin Rapids, and will be helpful for businesses and individuals in the region.”

I have enjoyed working with Senator Testin and Representative Scott Krug on this proposal. This project holds a lot of potential for central Wisconsin, and I am confident that the State Legislature and Governor Walker understand the importance of Alexander Field to our region and to the State’s economy as a whole.

AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs

AmeriCorps is seeking a very special person to improve the overall health of her/his community … while also gaining valuable work experience, developing sought-after job skills and enjoying career-building networking relationships.

As an AmeriCorps member, this individual will receive volunteer management training to recruit, train and supervise volunteers for Wood County Community Health Improvement Plan initiatives. Plan priorities include mental health, alcohol and other drugs, food systems, and achieving optimal health for youth and families.

The successful applicant will also create volunteer handbooks, application forms, and brochures; write position descriptions; and update website content and coordinate social media. The service period for this position extends from September 11, 2017 to August 31, 2018.

This is an opening for a person of college age, in particular, to create a record of community service and a vocational background coveted by potential employers.

Often viewed as a domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps places individuals with a wide range of local service programs that meet critical community needs. Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach is a national service grantee, through which individuals are placed with nonprofits across Wisconsin. Nationwide, the program is supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations and other donors.

Find more application information here. You can also e-mail krauter-egge@co.wood.wi.us or anormington@co.wood.wi.us, or call 715-421-8911.

Check out this opportunity today!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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