For many families in the area, 2012 will be remembered as the year the Waupaca Comets went to state after an undefeated football season.
What may be signs of an economic thaw in the Waupaca area were seen as several new businesses opened while others relocated into larger facilities.
In 2012, a 2007 homicide case went before a jury, drunken driving homicide charges were filed against the driver in the 2010 double fatality, and three suspects were charged for a 2006 home invasion and armed robbery.
Iola built its River Walk, Waupaca rebuilt South Main Street, and Weyauwega announced plans to renovate and expand City Hall.
Following is the first part in a two-part series of highlights from 2012.
• The Waupaca Area Food Pantry began relocating to its new building at 800 Churchill St. After years of working out of the basement of Bethany Home, the Waupaca Area Food Pantry rented a house on South Main Street from June 2007 until January 2012. The food pantry’s new site was a former grocery store that provided more space.
• The Iola Winter Sports Club reported the theft of Ivar, the seven-foot wooden carving of a Norwegian in Viking horns. It turned up at the art studio of Buzzsaw Bob Halverson, who had taken the statue over the weekend to add a coat of varnish and mount it to skis. “My belly hit the ground when I heard the news,” Halverson said regarding the reported theft. He attributed the misunderstanding to poor communications.
• A Green Bay con man who swindled $30,000 from an elderly Waupaca woman was sentenced to three years in prison in Brown County Circuit Court. Janice Lytie met Matthew J. Lawrence while playing the slots at a Green Bay casino. What the widow believed was the beginning of a friendship developed into an ongoing series of lies and exploitation.
• A program to serve the health care needs of farm families was launched in Waupaca County in January 2012. Nurses with the Rural Health initiative are now visiting farmers and their families, performing basic health risk assessments, providing information about healthier lifestyles and referrals.
• On Feb. 1, Gov, Scott Walker signed a bill that expanded the period for students to open enroll into other school districts from three weeks to three months. The County Post reported that some area school districts experienced a net loss in enrollment in the 2011-12 school year. New London gained 44 students who enrolled into the district but lost 94 who enrolled out of the district. Manawa, Clintonville and Weyauwega-Fremont each experienced a net loss of at least 20 students to open enrollment, while Waupaca had a net gain of 13 and Iola-Scandinavia had a net gain of nine students due to open enrollment in 2011-12.
• A gym at the Waupaca Recreation Center was renamed after Augie Austin at a dedication ceremony on Feb. 11. Austin played for the Waupaca’s Lakemen baseball team from the 1970s to the 1990s, eventually serving as the team’s president, He was also a member of the Waupaca Parks and Rec Board for more than 20 years, played city league basketball and coached high school and youth basketball.
• The Weyauwega-Fremont School Board voted 3-2, with two members absent, to continue paying teachers $15 an hour to sub during their prep time. During the schol day, teachers usually have one 45-minute period to grade papers and prepare for classes. If they are required to substitute for another teacher during their prep time, they are paid for it.
• The city of Waupaca announced that it would receive $212,214 insurance settlement from Liberty Mutual in its claim against Jim Ash, the former director of the Parks and Rec Department. Ash had admitted to stealing from the city between 2005 and 2010. He was sentenced to three years in prison in June 2011.
• Waupaca Common Council approved the sale of Waupaca Online for $225,000, but the sale later fell through.
• The Iola Village Board approved the River Walk project, which provided a walkway along the South Branch of the Little Wolf River between North Main Street and Town Line Road. Grants and fundraising covered the project’s $700,000 cost.
• Loud booming noises in Clintonville sparked more than 60 calls from local residents and drew national media attention. The mysterious sounds were subsequently attributed to a 1.5 earthquake after the U.S. Geological Survey installed seismic meters.
• Chad Magolski, 35, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide after a four-day trial in late March 2012. On Dec. 15, 2007, the body of 77-year-old James Park was discovered in his apartment directly across the street from the New London Police Department. An autopsy revealed that Park had died six to eight days before he was found. The killer had brutally stabbed Park 11 times.
Although none of Magolski’s DNA was found at the murder scene and there were no witnesses to the actual slaying, Magolski had made statements to neighbors that someone could kill Park “and he would lay there and rot and no one would find him.”
“When hubris and self-absorption coalesce at their apogee, you have a sociopath,” Judge Philip Kirk said when sentencing Magolski to life in prison in April. “You are a remorseless killer beyond redemption.”
• The University of Wisconsin-Madison marching band performed at Iola-Scandinavia High School on March 25. A 2009 I-S High School graduate, Josh Sether, performed with the UW band.
• Waupaca Mayor Brian Smith was re-elected to serve a sixth term. In the April 3 election, Smith defeated challenger Deb Fenske by a vote of 622 to 432.
• Construction began on South Main Street from Badger Street to South Park in Waupaca The water main, sewer lines, sidewalks and curbs were replaced and the road resurfaced. The $260,000 project was completed and the road reopened on July 31.
• Torborgs Waupaca Lumber moved across town to Royalton Street on Waupaca’s east side. That same week, Shopko announced it would open a store on West Fulton Street in the building then occupied by Torborgs.
• A 16-year-old girl brought a handgun to Waupaca High School and was subsequently charged with a felony offense in juvenile court.
• At the town’s annual meeting, Dayton residents approved paying $15 per hour to elected officials when they work as town employees, clearing brush and cutting down trees after storms.
• The U.S. Department of Justice announced April 26 that it had reached a consent degree with Waupaca County regarding Deputy Julie Thobaben’s discrimination suit. Under the terms of the decree, the county was required to promote Thobaben to detective sergeant within three years, increase her current pay rate to that of a sergeant and pay her $141,640 in back pay, interest and attorney’s fees.
• Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider filed vehicular homicide charges against Christopher L. Royer, 23, Mukwego. Royer was involved in an Oct. 23, 2010, crash that led to two fatalities on State Highway 54 near Royalton.
A year after the crash, family and friends of the victims – Milton “Red” Barnhart and Danielle Belanger – had been protesting outside the courthouse, demanding justice.
Royer is scheduled for a four-day jury trial, beginning March 3, 2013.
• The first of three suspects in a 2006 home invasion and robbery, Ben Trauger, 28, Appleton, was charged in Waupaca County Circuit Court with armed robbery, armed burglary, false imprisonment and reckless endangerment. Trauger, along with Joshua B. Detterbeck, 30, Addison, Ill., and Daniel J. Frausto, 36, Waupun Correctional Institute, allegedly entered the town of Dayton home of a retired couple, threatened them at knife point, stole less than $200 from the victims, then left them on the floor of their home bound in duct tape.
• Waupaca police, assisted by a canine, searched vehicles in the parking lot of Waupaca High School and found residual amounts of marijuana and some drug paraphernalia in vehicles belong to six students. Five of the students were seniors who were prohibited from participating in commencement and from finishing their classes on campus, but they were allowed to graduate.
• Spine and Sport Physical therapy began construction of its new 4,000-square-foot building in the Business and Technology Park on Waupaca’s east side.
• Neuville Motors completed work on a major remodeling project at its dealership on West Fulton Street in Waupaca.
• KPS Capital Partners LP, a New York-based private equity firm, purchased Waupaca Foundry from ThyssenKrupp AG, based in Essen, Germany. With three plants in Waupaca, as well as plants in Marinette, Tell City, Ind., and Etowah, Ten., Waupaca Foundry is the largest independent foundry in the world. Employing nearly 3,500 people at all six plants, Waupaca Foundry had sales of $1.48 billion in 2011.
• Joe Price announced that he would resign as administrator of the Iola-Scandinavia School District, effective June 30.
• Gov. Scott Walker, who won a June 5, 2012, recall election statewide, carried Waupaca County by a larger margin than he did in the 2010 general election. In 2012, Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret in the recall by 14,093 to 7,560 votes. Two years earlier, Walker defeated Barrett by 10,596 to 7,072.
• The city of Waupaca announced plans for a four-phase $1.5 million renovation project for South Park. More than $500,000 has been raised through private donors and another $500,000 is expected in grants, while the city will cover the remaining costs.
• The Iola-Scandinavia School District raised funds from the community to provide a laptop computer for every I-S High School student.
• Kraft Foods announced that it will close its Churney cheese plant in Waupaca as a cost-cutting move. About 120 local employees are expected to lose their jobs by the end of the second quarter of 2013.
• The Weyauwega Common Council voted to purchase two parcels adjacent to City Hall for $100,000. The purchase is the first step in a plan to expand and remodel City Hall.
• Baylake Bank sold four branch offices in Waupaca, King, Manawa and Fremont to Premier Community Bank.