Waupaca County Post reviews its top stories in 2015
By Robert Cloud
The past year brought changes to government in the town of Dayton and the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board, a new sledding hill in Swan Park and a new park on South Main Street in Waupaca, a record number of heroin arrests in the county and the conviction of a town treasurer for embezzlement.
This is the first in a two-part series that looks back on the top local stories of 2015.
South Park won the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Grand Facelift Award in recognition of a $1.5 million renovation project that secured more than a third of its costs from private donations.
Farmers State Bank won the chamber’s Large Business of the Year Award, and Simpson’s Restaurant was named the Small Business of the Year.
More than 200 citizens attended Dayton’s caucus on Jan. 27 and nominated competing candidates for all five town offices.
Dave Armstrong was nominated to challenge incumbent Chris Klein for town chair, while Town Clerk Judy Suhs was challenged by Sue Popham and Town Treasurer Brenda Hewitt would have to face Tom Van Veen in the April 7 spring election.
John Miller, Mike Halpin, Jane Haasch and Jim Peglow were nominated to be on the ballot as candidates for supervisor.
A robbery spree hit convenience stores and gas stations in Waupaca and Northport in late January. Police arrested a 41-year-old Fremont man, Matthew J. Otto. He was charged with three counts of armed robbery in February, convicted on two counts of robbery by threat of force as part of a plea deal in April, and sentenced to five years in prison with four years of extended supervision in June.
Manawa Community Nursing Center announced plans to convert half of its facility to a Community Based Residential Facility.
Waupaca Parks and Rec celebrated the completion of a new sledding hill in Swan Park with its first ever Winter Rec Fest on Feb. 7. The event included sledding, snowshoe hikes, winter activities, a campfire, fireworks and refreshments.
The first of many heroin-related criminal charges in 2015 were filed against Christina Gain, 29, and Daniel Wetzel, 28, both of Waupaca.
Gain was convicted of two counts of delivery of heroin, drug trafficking and possession of narcotics. She was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of extended supervision in June.
Wetzel was subsequently convicted of two counts of delivery of heroin, two counts of possession of heroin with intent to delivery and felony bail jumping. He was sentenced to three years in prison and four years of extended supervision.
On a frigid Saturday, Feb. 14, Menominee marched through Waupaca County with stops in Manawa and Waupaca to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to reject the tribe’s proposed casino project in Kenosha.
On Feb. 26, a state appeals court overturned the 2012 homicide conviction of Chad Magolski. A jury had found the then 36-year-old Magolski guilty of the murder of his 77-year-old neighbor, James Park, in December 2007. The appeals court ruled the circuit court judge should not have allowed testimony regarding a burglary Magolski committed seven years prior to Park’s murder.
Iola Living Assistance Inc. announced plans to build a new 50-bed nursing facility to replace the current ILA building.
Thomas Smith resigned his position as treasurer for the town of Little Wolf.
An investigative report in the Waupaca County Post disclosed that First National Bank was under federal scrutiny and had to comply with orders issued by the U.S. Office of the Controller of the Currency.
A loaded handgun was found in a parked pickup truck at Waupaca High School on March 9.
Three days later, 17-year-old Brandon D. Bellile was charged with felony possession of a firearm on school grounds, possession of a weapon by a minor, and carrying a concealed weapon. He would be convicted of the two misdemeanor counts in May and placed on two years of probation. His record would have been expunged had he successfully completed probation.
In November, Bellile’s probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to five months in jail. He had been arrested and charged with theft twice since July.
Prosecutors charged Alison C. Roe, then 43, with first-degree intentional homicide on March 10. She was accused of killing her boyfriend, Craig P. Dake, 43, of Fremont, after stabbing him with a knife. Roe is scheduled for a jury trial on March 14-18, 2016.
St. Mark’s Episcopal tore down a house next to the church on South Main Street and began work on creating a public green space for quiet reflection.
The Waupaca Common Council approved a special use permit for Foundations for Living to open a warming shelter on Churchill Street.
Assistant District Attorney Veronica Isherwood filed felony charges against the driver accused of killing Matthew J. Egerer, 35, Weyauwega.
Allen D. Guse, 41. Marion, was charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and with hit and run causing death. The criminal case against Guse remains open.
The former town treasurer of Little Wolf was charged with embezzlement and misconduct in office.
The 57-year-old Thomas Smith was accused of stealing $200,000 in township property taxes over 15 years and from the Little Wolf Cemetery.
Little Wolf Town Clerk Jackie Beyer uncovered that Smith had been stealing during her investigation into missing funds.
Smith entered pleas of no contest to embezzlement and misdemeanor theft. He was placed on two years of probation, sentenced to six months in jail, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
Smith sold his family farm to pay full restitution.
After years of controversy, a state administrative law judge ordered on March 26 that the Little Hope dam on the Crystal River in Dayton be removed.
The judge found that the dam was “unsafe and dangerous to life, health and property.”
Dave Armstrong became the new town chairman after defeating Chris Klein by 720-126 votes in the April 7 election in Dayton.
Incumbents Judy Suhs and Brenda Hewitt were re-elected as Dayton’s clerk and treasurer, respectively.
Dayton also chose two new supervisors, Jane Haasch and John Miller.
Weyauwega voters elected Jack Spierings as their new mayor. He defeated Nick Gunderson 202-135.
Timothy Baehnman defeated incumbent Neal Loehrke in the April election for the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board. He won by a vote of 792-483 against Loehrke, who was seeking his third term on the board.
Pat Fee, a Weyauwega-Fremont High School teacher, was one of 101 teachers in Wisconsin to be recognized with a Herb Kohl Educational Foundational Fellowship.
John Edlebeck left his position as Waupaca’s director of public works after almost 19 years of service to the city. He took a similar position in Whitefish Bay, a Milwaukee suburb of about 14,000.
A heroin overdose in Waupaca led to felony charges against four people. A 2-year-old girl was in the house when police found her mother, Kayla Smith, 21, lying on the bathroom floor with a syringe on the vanity. Smith was convicted of possession of narcotics and a charge of child neglect was dismissed but read into the record. she was placed on three years of probation and ordered to get counseling.
Sixteen authors participated in the 2015 Waupaca BookFest April 16-18, and the Expo Center was filled with hundreds of paintings, photographs and three-dimensional works at the Waupaca Art Show April 27-May 1.
The Lake Iola Lake District began reviewing options for controlling its goose population.
Mike Jones, from the USDA Wildlife Service, said the main problem with the geese is they produce about one pound of feces per day, which may cause water quality problems.
Deb Fenske resigned abruptly from the Waupaca Common Council on April 30 in the middle of her term. She said she was frustrated by what she called “rubber-stamping” by other members of the council.
After 25 years as Waupaca’s senior center coordinator, Teri Moe retired to work in her family’s insurance business.
A SWAT team seized more than $5,000 of heroin during a raid on a rural Waupaca home.
The couple who lived there were Cyril Franz, 32, and Racheal Clumpner, 27.
Franz was charged with three counts of delivery of heroin, drug trafficking and felony possession of marijuana. Clumpner was charged with drug trafficking, possession of heroin with intent to deliver and misdemeanor pot possession.
Clumpner was convicted of drug trafficking and possession of narcotics. She was placed on three years of probation with 90 days in jail to be used at her agent’s discretion. Franz is scheduled for a plea hearing on Jan. 11, 2016.
Another heroin overdose in Waupaca led to four more people being arrested and charged with felonies.
Joshua Parker was among the four people charged. The subject of an ongoing investigation, Parker made more than 500 heroin deals between April and October 2014, and sold heroin to local users up to six or seven times a day, according to police. He has remained in custody on a $25,000 cash bond since his arrest in May. His case remains open.
Waupaca County supervisors voted 23-3 on May 19 to amend the county’s non-metallic mining ordinance. The ordinance sets requirements for companies and individuals seeking permits to establish sand mines.
A century-old trolley was uncovered while an old shed was being dismantled in the Weyauwega backyard of Bill and Sharon Krapil. The old electric streetcar had been used in Chicago before making its way to Weyauwega.
Dave Kropilnicki retired after 28 years as a custodian for Waupaca schools. Students and staff at Waupaca Learning Center held a special assembly June 15 to help him celebrate his final day at work. The Waupaca County Post was there to videotape highlights of the assembly and an interview with Kropilnicki. www.waupacanow.com/2015/06/19/farewell-mr-kropilnicki/
Dayton citizens voted 22-7 to increase the town’s transportation budget at a special meeting June 16.
The budget added $136,109 to the town’s $940,000 transportation budget for 2015.
At the annual budget hearing in November 2014, Dayton citizens voted to cut $345,000 from the town’s proposed $1.28 million transportation budget for this year. Town Chairman Dave Armstrong found that Dayton was on course to spend more than $1 million on transportation expenses for this year, leaving the town with a $136,000 deficit.
A dedication ceremony was held for the new Gold Star Recipients Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park in Iola.
Lori Chesnut was selected to fill the remainder of Deb Fenske’s unexpired term on the Waupaca Common Council.
The Northwest First Responders celebrated 30 years of service in Ogdensburg and Iola.
The Manawa Common Council announced it will discontinue the shared chief agreement with the city of Marion at the end of the year.