Members of the staff at the County Post West reviewed 2010 and selected several stories that topped the news for the year.
Kuenzi homicide trial
On Nov. 18, a jury convicted Rory Kuenzi of hit-and-run involving death and homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
They reached their verdict after four days of testimony and less than two hours of deliberation.
Kuenzi, 26, Weyauwega, had been accused of driving a pickup truck from an underage drinking party at approximately 3:45 a.m. Oct. 23, 2004, then hitting and killing the 20-year-old Kevin McCoy, who was walking along Butts Road north of State Highway 54 in the town of Farmington.
Jurors heard Adam Klotzbuecher testify that he helped Kuenzi carry McCoy’s body off the road and into a ditch the night of the incident. He was driving a vehicle behind Kuenzi’s truck at the time of the incident.
State Trooper Mark Andraschko testified that McCoy’s body was carried on the brush guard and hood of Kuenzi’s Chevy S-10 for more than 100 feet after he was hit.
Andraschko showed how a damaged vertical support on Kuenzi’s truck lined up with a straight line of bruising on McCoy’s left leg. His scale model drawings also depicted how McCoy’s body was bent back over the hood on impact and as it was carried by momentum until the truck stopped.
The jury also watched Kenneth Olson, a forensic scientist at the State Crime Lab in Madison, fit together pieces of debris from the crash scene with broken pieces from Kuenzi’s truck.
In his closing arguments to the jury, Assistant Attorney General Dennis Krueger said part of the meaning of justice is “speaking for someone who is unable to speak for himself.
“Speak for Kevin McCoy and say that man hit him and when he hit him he was drunk,” Krueger said, pointing to Kuenzi. “And when he hit him, he threw Kevin into the ditch and left him there.”
Race for sheriff
Waupaca County Sheriff Brad Hardel defeated challenger Manawa Police Chief Dave Walker in the most contested local race of the year.
In the Sept. 14 Republican primary, Hardel garnered 3,956 votes to Walker’s 3,416 votes.
Walker criticized Hardel’s pay raise and promised to donate a portion of the raise to a women’s shelter if he was elected.
The Waupaca County Board had voted to raise the sheriff’s 2010 salary of $68,737 up to $80,000 by 2012.
The two candidates also had different perspectives on the results of an investigation of the sheriff’s department that took place in January 2009.
Hardel, who was first elected in 2006, said the investigator’s report exonerated his department. He also noted that most of the problems investigated occurred prior to his administration.
Walker said the report indicates a need for written policies and procedures.
“The department just went through that investigation and the attorney recommended they adopt written policies. Why they would choose to ignore that advice, I don’t know,” Walker said. “They’re just leaving themselves open for the same problems to occur.”
Walker said some members of the sheriff’s department felt there has been ongoing favoritism in the department.
Hardel responded, “I believe 85 percent of the staff are happy to be here, but there’s 10 to 15 percent who are disgruntled employees. I have a real passion for this department and the people who work here. I’m trying very hard to bring the people in this department together to work as a team. I’m concerned that somebody else could come in here and create a divisive environment.”
In 2010, Waupaca saw one of its oldest companies close and two build new facilities.
Bowlby’s Candy Co. closed shop on May 21. Started in Appleton by Bumps Bowlby in 1931, Bowlby’s Candy Co. moved to a 20,000-square-foot facility on the corner of Western Avenue and West Fulton Street in Waupaca in 1968.
At one point, Bowlby’s was shipping products worldwide and employed 15 people. By the time the business closed, it was down to six employees.
One of the company’s product lines, Bowlby’s Bits and Pieces, was acquired by De-lish-us Popcorn and Potato Chips, a 78-year-old family business in Waupaca.
Due to its rapid growth, Centerline Machine built a new manufacturing facility in the Business and Technology Park on Waupaca’s east side.
Centerline specializes in rapid turnaround of small-run production parts. The company welds, cuts, mills, drills and taps the parts that other companies use to make products.
In less than 15 years, the company has grown from a one-man operation in Charlie Leiby’s garage to employ more than 30 people.
The new plant is 45,000 square feet and opened in October. In addition to the building, the Centerline Machine invested in 3-D laser cutting capabilities, multiaccess waterjet cutting, five-axis machining, wire electro-discharge machining and heat treating for steel parts.
Leiby estimated that Centerline’s total investment at $6.2 million for both the plant and equipment.
On Nov. 8, 2010, Sunny Day Child Care opened the doors to its new facility on Godfrey Drive in Waupaca’s Business and Technology Park.
Ground was broken last June 14 for the $1.1 million project. Sunny Day went from having 4,500 square feet to more than 11,000 square feet at its new site.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in August, Sunny Day is a nonprofit organization run by a board of directors. It had always occupied the upper half of First United Methodist Church.
State licensing codes do not allow children under age 2 to be located on the second floor of a day care. As a result, Sunny Day had not been able to care for children under that age.
Today, Sunny Day is licensed for 128 children at the site and that license covers children from 6 weeks of age to 12 years old. It had been licensed for 64 children ages 2 to 12.
There are currently a total of 108 children under age 5 enrolled at the site, with another 38 children enrolled there in its after-school program.
In addition, 25 children are enrolled in Sunny Day’s after-school program at Waupaca Learning Center.
Waupaca Book Festival
Downtown Waupaca was a book lover’s dream the first weekend in October 2010.
The Waupaca Book Festival, which brought a dozen authors to the city from as far away as Hawaii and Canada, attracted readers young and old. It was the culmination of a year of planning and organizing by library staff and members of the Student Library Advisory Group.
In addition to events at the library, writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal met with Waupaca elementary and middle school students. Authors John Green and Patrick Jones visited Waupaca High School.
Jim Zitzelsberger, who served two tours in the Vietnam War and wrote a novel, Cry for the Water Buffalo, about his experiences, talked at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the best-selling, critically acclaimed novel The Deep End of the Ocean, told her Waupaca audience, “I’m delighted to be in this town of readers.”
W-F School Board
The year 2010 saw a number of changes in the makeup of the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board.
Elected to the school board in April were Jim Stuebs and Randal Yorkson.
Stuebs defeated incumbent Mike Haak to represent the towns of Bloomfield and Wolf River.
Yorkson was unopposed for the seat that represents the towns of Lind, Saxeville and Waupaca. Craig Smith had held the seat and did not seek re-election.
In May, two people were appointed to fill vacancies on the school board after Bill Brace resigned March 26 from his seat on the board, and Mike Abraham resigned April 22 from his seat on the school board.
Sandra Smith was appointed to fill the seat Brace had held, representing the towns of Royalton and Mukwa.
Charles Burgess was appointed to fill the village of Fremont seat – the seat that Abraham had just been re-elected to in the April 6 election.
An attempt by school board members to negotiate an early retirement package for district Administrator F. James Harlan just prior to the spring election was stopped by a lawsuit.
On March 22, Neal Loehrke filed a civil action against former school board members Craig Smith, Bill Brace, Mike Haak and Mike Abraham, alleging that they violated the state open meetings law when they voted for the board to go into closed session on March 1 and voted for the Personnel and Negotiations Committee to go into closed session on March 8.
Loehrke’s third allegation was that Harlan violated the open records law in March.
Judge John Hoffmann issued a preliminary injunction that restrained the board from going into closed session on March 22 to discuss a retirement package for Harlan.
The restraining order remained in effect until an April 15 court hearing. However, the issue became moot after April 6 when the newly elected school board decided not to place the proposal on the agenda for a vote.
Tom Maroney, Loehrke’s attorney, argued in a hearing before Hoffmann on July 21 that the board had violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law in an effort to camouflage its intent to give Harlan a “golden parachute.”
Lori Lubinsky, counsel for the four board members and the district administrator, argued that the open meetings law allows government bodies to go into closed session to discuss employee issues and that the wording of the board’s public notice was reasonable and met the law’s requirements.
In October, Hoffmann ruled that the board had not violated the open meetings act when it went into closed session. By that time, none of the four board members named in Loehrke’s suit were still on the board. And Harlan had since resigned as the district administrator.
In other school district news, Scott Bleck was appointed district administrator on Sept. 15 following the Sept. 9 resignation of F. James Harlan as district administrator.
He had been the district’s middle school principal and high school principal. His promotion to district administrator was part of a succession plan adopted by the board in the summer of 2008.
That plan called for Bleck to fill that role in the 2011-12 school year. He moved into the role a year earlier after Harlan’s resignation.
Vidar of Iola
A landmark was added to Iola during 2010. Dubbed “Vidar of Iola,” the Nordic Viking was carved from a cottonwood tree stump on East State Street by “Buzz Saw” Bob Halverson, of Barraboo. It was completed in time for the annual Iola Old Car Show.
A naming contest was held to help raise money to finance the carving. Vidar (vee-dar) is “tree warrior” or “lumberjack” in Nordic, according to contest winner Maggie Jones.
The name was chosen by the Iola-Scandinavia Area Chamber of Commerce and the Iola Hometown Program Committee. “Buzz Saw” Bob was present for the official naming announcement made by Iola village President Joel Edler at the chamber’s annual meeting Nov. 2 at Silver Lake Lanes in Scandinavia.
Thursday Night on Main
Free summertime entertainment was offered on Thursday nights in downtown Iola. Sponsored by the Iola-Scandinavia Area Chamber of Commerce and the Iola Hometown Program, the events were held the second and fourth Thursdays in June, July and August. Entertainment included local talent, such as Tom Pease, Ron Reynolds, Hatley and the Ryan Tomski Trio, and a talent contest. Plans are to continue the events in 2011.