2016 in review
Part 2 of County Post series
By Robert Cloud
Voters in two school districts supported referendums last year, several businesses expanded their facilities, a restaurant and a township sued the county and, for the first time in decades, Democrats contested four seats in Waupaca County.
• Greg Nyen began his first day as the Waupaca school district administrator on July 1.
For the past nine years, Nyen had been director of student services for the Stevens Point Area Public School District. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English. In 1998, Nyen earned a master’s degree in school psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
• Residents toured the expanded Weyauwega municipal building and wastewater treatment plant during July 9 open houses at both facilities. After nearly eight years of planning, the Weyauwega Common Council decided to keep city hall downtown and purchased the two buildings next to city hall in preparation for the expansion project.
The former taxidermy building next to city hall was razed, while the structure of city hall and the old mall building were retained. That allowed the three lots to be connected after a two-story building was constructed between city hall and the old mall building.
• The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees nationally chartered banks, posted a notice of charges against Archie Overby on Friday, July 15. Federal regulators are seeking $1.6 million in restitution from Overby, former president and CEO of First National Bank in Waupaca.
• Two men sustained severe burns after a propane gas explosion inside a home at E1566 Erickson Road, in Farmington. The blast lifted part of the home off its foundation and caused substantial damage shortly before 12:30 p.m. Friday, July 22.
• State Highway 110 at County Trunk X in Weyauwega was closed for much of the day after two semis collided at the tracks operated by the Canadian National Railway Co. shortly before 5:30 a.m. July 25.
• Area students worked on a film to teach their peers how to make choices and be leaders. “Heroes Rising: A New Hope” is a story about superheroes who help solve the heroin/opioid epidemic and build hope in communities. Wega Arts and Helios Addiction Recovery Services, of Neenah, worked together to produce the narrative.
• After hearing neighbors complaine during an Aug. 3 meeting, the Little Wolf Town Board filed a lawsuit against the Waupaca County Board of Adjustment in order to restrict operations at a sand mine operated by American Asphalt of Wisconsin. The case is still pending.
• Carl Eggebrecht became the principal of Waupaca Middle School on Aug. 9, following the resignation of Ben Rayome. Eggebrecht has more than 30 years of experience with the Waupaca School District. He has served as one of two principals at Waupaca High School, as well as the athletic director. Eggebrecht received his teaching certification from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and his master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
• Jill Lodewegen won the Republican nomination for Waupaca County clerk. In a four-way race, she garnered 1,659 votes. She faced Colleen McCoy in the November general election. In the Republican primary for county treasurer, Mark Sether received 2,598 votes, defeating his challenger Sheri Wieters who got 2,070. Sether did not face opposition in the general election.
• The explosion that severely injured two men in July resulted in an 11-count criminal case. Jonathan N. Reiher, 27, was charged on Aug. 9 with three counts of reckless endangerment, one count of stalking, one count of aggravated battery, two counts of battery, one felony count of damage to property, one misdemeanor count of battery and two counts of disorderly conduct.
He is accused of damaging the propane gas furnace in the Farmington home by breaking off the pipe to its regulator and causing the gas leak that led to the explosion.
• Jeff Maiman, owner of the Wheelhouse Restaurant, sued Waupaca County in federal court. Maiman is asking the U.S. Eastern District Court of Wisconsin to rule that the restaurant’s offsite parking constitutes a legal, non-conforming use.
• Little Wolf Automotive broke ground on a 5,100-square-foot repair shop at 323 S. Western Ave., in Waupaca.
• The Wisconsin Veterans Home in King emerged as a major issue in the state Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Olsen and Waupaca Mayor Brian Smith, the Democratic challenger.
According to an Aug. 19 memo from the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs transferred $12 million from the veterans homes to the Veterans Trust Fund in 2016. The memo also reported that Gov. Scott Walker plans to transfer an additional $18.5 million from veterans homes’ operating revenues to the trust fund over the next two years,
• Waupaca Mayor Brian Smith accused Republicans in Madison of play-for-pay politics. Leaked documents from the John Doe investigation into election campaign violations linked a last-minute provision in the 2013-15 budget to political contributions to the Wisconsin Club for Growth. That nonprofit group spent heavily in the 2011 recall elections against six Republican senators and the 2012 recall against Gov. Scott Walker.
The Guardian reported that Harold Simmons, owner of one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of lead used in paint, donated $750,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth between April 2011 and January 2012.
In 2013, the final “999 motion” of the state budget included a provision to grant the lead industry retroactive immunity from legal liability. Families had filed 171 lawsuits against the lead industry seeking compensation for children harmed by lead paint.
• Bethany Home held an open house at The Springs on Sept. 29. A wellness center designed specifically for geriatric use, The Springs is now open to community members age 55 and older. It represents the completion of the first part of Bethany Home’s construction and remodeling project.
• The Waupaca County Post learned on Oct. 3 that Gannett planned to close its Waupaca printing plant, Print ‘N Press, in two months. Multi Media Channels LLC, the parent company of the Waupaca County Post, shared the facility and had a printing contract with Print ‘N Press. MMC has since moved its offices from 600 Industrial Drive to the ABC Computers facility at 1990 Godfrey Drive.
• Simon Baumgart, a Waupaca High School senior whose hair had not been cut since sixth grade, helped raise money for the American Cancer Society by allowing other students and faculty to cut his hair in front of the entire school on Oct. 7. He raised more than $2,000.
• The Police and Fire Commission selected Interim Chief Brian Hoelzel as Waupaca’s new police chief when it met on Oct. 11.
• Judge Vicki Clussman sentenced a man convicted of reckless endangerment to 10 years in prison on Oct. 19. John Brush, 37, was living in New London on June 14, 2015, when a 3-year-old boy in his care suffered severe head trauma. The boy, Michael Ziegler Jr., died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay on June 29, 2015.
• Emergency, towing and cleanup crews remained on the scene nearly four hours Thursday, Oct. 20, following a two-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 10 involving a semitrailer hauling salvage. The truck’s contents spilled onto the highway between Morgan Drive and County Trunk Q, about four miles west of Waupaca in the town of Farmington, shortly before 7 a.m.
• In 2016, Waupaca County Democrats challenged Republicans for the state Senate, state Assembly, district attorney and county clerk. Republicans swept the election, winning every seat.
Sen. Luther Olsen defeated Mayor Brian Smith, Rep. Kevin Petersen won against challenger Dmitri Martin, Veronica Isherwood was elected district attorney against Robert Forseth, and Jill Lodewegen received 17,129 votes against Colleen McCoy, who received 7,630.
• An Italian bronze sculpture named Nina found a new home in front of the Waupaca Area Public Library. She was donated by Don and Donna Jorgenson.
• Voters in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District approved spending up to $21 million on a building and improvement program by a vote of 1,999 to 1,716.
• Voters supported two referendum questions presented in the Nov. 8 election by the Iola-Scandinavia School District. For Question 1, seeking approval for $2 million in debt, the vote was 1,844 yes and 697 no. For Question 2, seeking approval for a five-year nonrecurring referendum, the vote was 1,552 yes and 948 no.
• The Waupaca School Board is reviewing options to either renovate or close Haberkorn Field. It would cost the district about $2.32 million to relocate the outdoor athletic facility to the high school or an estimated $730,950 to repair and upgrade the existing field.
After three days of examining and recounting the ballots, Waupaca County tabulators found a total of 71 uncounted ballots. Waupaca County was part of a statewide recount of the 2016 presidential election.
• ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca unveiled its new hospice suite on Dec. 15. The suite provides a comfortable space for the family and a kitchenette.
• Heather Frosch, a kindergarten teacher in Waupaca, was named Big Sister of the Year for 2016.
• The Farmington Town Board appointed a new chairman and new clerk/treasurer after Kevin Will and Sandy Grenlie stepped down. Farmington’s new chair is Caroline Murphy, and the clerk/treasurer is now Julie Leaf. Phillip E. Durrant replaces Murphy as a town supervisor.