Year in the news, part 1
By Scott Bellile
Business expansions, state-qualifying high school athletes and high-profile criminal convictions and sentencings made local headlines in town during the first half of 2016.
This is part one of a look at the New London and Hortonville areas in 2016.
New London firefighters battled two New Year’s weekend fires. One destroyed the home of Brett and Janalea Romberg on Larry Road, and the other damaged the interior of Euhardy Sales and Service on U.S. Highway 45.
New London High School sophomore Jack Noffke won the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick National Finals in Indianapolis on Jan. 2.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation awarded New London a $384,000 rail grant on Jan. 4 that would allow for improvements on 1 mile of track and reactivate rail access to Granite Valley Forest Products.
Hortonville-Hortonia Fire District’s newly purchased $474,000 Pierce Impel Pumper arrived to the station on Jan. 4.
Lance S. Vandenbusch, 37, of New London, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Jan. 7 for killing his 2-year-old son back in 2013.
A retirement party honored former Wisconsin State Trooper Jim Binder of rural New London on Jan. 10. Binder served Waupaca County for over 30 years.
A charging limo ignited and caused extensive fire damage to a Hortonia house home to Prestige Executive Limousines Ltd. on Jan. 18.
Mark Wilfuer was sworn in as New London’s fire chief on Jan. 22. He succeeds Bart Roloff, who resigned in September.
Hortonville High School Athletic Director Andy Kolosso stepped down as head football coach on Jan. 25. He was head coach at Hortonville since 2010 and had put in 15 years as assistant coach at New London. His son Tom Kolosso was appointed head coach.
Hortonville established one of the area’s first internet exchange safe zones on Jan. 21. People can park outside the Hortonville Police Department when meeting strangers to complete online transactions. A surveillance camera monitors the area 24 hours a day.
New London City Council authorized donating 3.6 acres of land to Northland Electrical Services so the company can build a new facility next door to its current one. The company will relocate to the larger building. Northland Electrical hopes the added space will help it grow its staff size.
New London reported a $400,000 savings in its 2015 spending, with 14 of 18 city departments spending less than they budgeted.
A renovation of Akin Field at Hortonville High School won’t begin in summer 2016 as envisioned. The project encountered fundraising obstacles and has yet to get a start date.
A fight among more than 20 people broke out at the VFW Post 2732 in New London during a Valentine’s party Feb. 14.
Wisconsin’s first 24-hour tanning salon began taking customers Feb. 15 with the opening of Touch-n-Tan in New London.
Hortonville High School basketball player Kyle Witthuhn surpassed 1,000 career points during a win over Appleton East on Feb. 16.
The Hortonville High School wrestling team qualified for team state for the first time on Feb. 20. Seven boys also qualified as individuals: Eric and Jacob Barnett, Nathan Lichtfuss, Joe Cliver, Elliott Luker, Jack Huebner and Jacob Stein.
New London High School wrestler Scott Cook set a school record by becoming the first three-time qualifier for the individual state meet after going 3-0 at the Ashwaubenon sectional on Feb.20.
The New London High School cheer team took its fifth consecutive trip to state on Feb. 27.
The Press Star earned 15 awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.
The University of Wisconsin Varsity Band performed at New London High School March 6 to help raise funds for the veterans memorial in the works at Taft Park.
Hortonville’s girls and boys basketball teams were both defeated at their respective sectional championship games.
Demolition of the 203 W. Main St. building in Hortonville began March 7. A November 2015 apartment fire rendered it a total loss. Lu Visocky said she plans to build a flower shop there.
Pat Moriarity and Irene Kraske shared the title of Irish Rose during the Shamrock Club’s 2016 New Dublin festivities over St. Patrick’s week. Don Murphy assumed Irish Man and Dick Johnson served as grand marshal.
A town of Mukwa barn belonging to Rick and Roxy Sweetalla on County Highway X burned down during a late-night thunderstorm on March 15.
The Wolf River rose above 9.5 feet and nearby streets saw some flooding. The Waupaca County Emergency Management office issued a slow-no-wake on the river March 16.
New London High School Spanish class students set off for a nine-day trip to Belize and Guatemala on March 16.
Anthony J. Trentlage of Hortonville was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on March 18 after he was convicted of robbing Jernegan’s Health Mart in New London at gunpoint in May 2015.
Jesse McLamarrah of New London was sentenced to five years in prison March 25 after he was convicted of arson. In May 2014, he threw a homemade firebomb into an apartment above the Copper Shot bar in New London. Two residents were seriously injured while jumping out of the burning building.
A fire caused extensive damage to Karen Hackfort’s home on Bean City Road on March 28.
The New London Planning Commission on March 31 recommended reaching out to developers to determine how to bring tiny houses into the city.
New London Intermediate School student Will Hoover competed in the state geography bee in Madison on April 1.
Rafael Cruz visited New London April 1 to endorse his son Ted Cruz for president.
Jeanne Bellile, Julie Vanden Heuvel and Jack Kuhnke joined the Hortonville Village Board after defeating incumbents Al Habeck and Dawn Vollbrecht were defeated in the April 5 election.
Incumbent Virginia Schlais and newcomer Chris Martinson won seats on the New London School Board after a three-way race with Mary Swifka. Swifka would later earn her seat in June after Jeremy Gorges stepped down.
In an April 8 letter, Arul Joseph Irudamoney updated Most Precious Blood Catholic Church that “personal problems” caused him to leave his priest job with little notice back in November 2015.
The New London City Council denied a liquor license to the Sociables bar on April 12. A couple days later, bar owner Michael B. Fahser was charged in Waupaca and Winnebago counties with second-degree sexual assault.
GLK Foods in Bear Creek faced $143,000 in OSHA fines after an employee fell 17 feet into an empty sauerkraut vat and broke multiple bones.
Robin’s Nest Learning Center won the New London Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year award at the annual chamber awards.
The former Hortonville Public Library building on Main Street was demolished April 23-24.
Hortonville High School’s robotics team competed in the world championship in St. Louis April 27-30. The team won the state championship back in February and took second at a regional championship in Iowa in March.
A barn was destroyed in a fire on State Highway 96 in Dale on April 30.
Former Wolf River Community Bank President James K. Olson was identified as a person of interest in the 2006 homicide of Connie Boelter, a Hortonville bank employee. A suspect has yet to be arrested and charged in connection with the murder.
Builders broke ground on New London’s new city garage on May 2.
The village of Hortonville dedicated its new canoe and kayak launch along Black Otter Lake on May 7.
Steel King selected its New London facility for a 135,000 square-foot expansion after considering its other locations. It remains unclear whether the add-on will mean more jobs.
The New London City Council on May 10 voted to use $20,000 originally budgeted for a billboard upgrade to instead produce online tourism videos.
New London High School band director Adam Hardt led his last concerts in New London after 20 years at NLHS. He accepted a teaching job in Cedarburg.
After waiting a month for the results, New London High School’s DECA chapter learned its Percy’s Pro Shop school store took 10th at the DECA National Competition in California, held April 23-26.
Connect Communities and Forward New London merged on May 18 to take on beautifying New London’s downtown riverfront.
The Diocese of Green Bay appointed John Kleinschmidt as priest at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in New London.
New London High School graduated 197 seniors on May 27.
New London High School forensics team members Logan Sommer, Callie Dorsey, Liam Fitzgerald, Dorea Lauer and Emelia Roberts competed at the national tournament in California May 28-29.
Hortonville High School’s class of 2016 graduated on June 1.
Hortonville High School athletes who competed in the WIAA State Track and Field Championships June 3-4 were Cody Lohrenz, Trevor Coenen, Hannah Lohrenz, Stephanie Jarvis, Alyssa Rafuse and Claire Van Beek.
A Chicago area family bought New London’s former Half Nelson’s Lounge & Restaurant. Val’s Family Diner opened later in the summer.
An elevator reopened at Franklin Park Apartments in New London after a month of maintenance. Some residents temporarily moved out during the project. After the reopening, the elevator had several incidents of users getting stuck inside, prompting further repairs.
The Hortonville Vision 2020 event on June 8 gave residents a peek at what a revitalized downtown could look like after the State Highway 15 bypass is completed. College architecture students designed the renderings.
Hortonville’s baseball and softball teams lost their sectional championship games, missing trips to state.
New London lost to New Berlin West 4-3 at the opening game of the WIAA Division 2 State Softball Tournament on June 10.
The Hortonville Fire Department celebrated its 100th anniversary with a parade and fireworks show on June 11.
The New London City Council approved raising sewer rates on June 14.
Hortonville Police Chief Mike Sullivan told the village board June 16 that police officers will begin carrying Narcan to aid in reversing drug overdoses.
New London Parks and Recreation attracted a full seasonal summer workforce after raising its starting pay to $11 an hour. Under the old pay of $7.95, the department wasn’t competitive enough with other area employers.
Parents accused Hortonville Middle School administration of bullying its teachers at a heated school board meeting June 27.
Familiar Grounds Coffee Shop in New London went up for sale because the business couldn’t find successors for after Beth and Jeremy Hutchison retire. The shop remains in business but has scaled back its hours.